Starlin: Marvel and I are now talking

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201209070302 Starlin: Marvel and I are now talking

One of the topics we’ve all had our eyes on here at Creator Watch 2012 is the Jim Starlin Thanos Situation. In brief, as you all know, Thanos was teased as a villain at the end of THE AVENGERS, and the announced Guardians of the Galaxy seems to be setting up some kind of cosmic menace for Marvel’s movie universe. And it just so happens that Thanos–and Gamora, who is a member of the GotG–were both created by Starlin as part of his run on Warlock.

In the case of Thanos, Starlin has posted evidence showing that he created the character prior to working at Marvel. And when asked about the character’s appearance in the third highest grossing movie of all time, it turned out that he had been in the dark about it. As if that wasn’t ominous enough, a Thanos miniseries to be written by Joe Keatinge was announced with great fanfare and then very hastily canceled, with no reason given, leaving room for all kinds of speculation that the character might be in some kind of ownership tussle.Well, Starlin attended Dragon*Con and spoke with Comic Book Therapy, and he reveals some of the behind the scenes, although in necessarily oblique fashion:

I know you’ve talked about your relationship, or lack thereof, with Marvel when you see these characters and things you’ve helped bring to life is that kind of a mixed feeling as you’re watching?

I didn’t know Thanos was going to be in the movie until a couple weeks before and so there were some mixed feelings on that. Marvel and I are now talking. I can’t say anything more than that at this point about it. As far as the books go, I stopped reading Thanos when I stopped writing it, so I have no feelings about anything anyone’s done with it because I don’t know what they are. [snip] I promised David Bogart I would say he was the best thing since sliced bread in my next interview. Things are doing much better, but you know we’re not done yet and will be eventually.


Starlin also professes no knowledge of why the Keatinge project fell apart:

I did talk to the author of it and he told me that they were going to go through and pretty much stick with what I had put down and he was going to do some time things with his mother that I didn’t quite understand what he was talking about. It sounded like he had a good recap, which I’m not quite sure why you would need that these days because you have all the books in print.
 
That was one of the things many people were worried about as fans when that was announced, that they would be touching that.

That may have had something to do with why they decided to do it. I know they got a really good job right afterwards, you know, a replacement job so they’re not unhappy about it. I know the author was very hot to do it and I was really sorry to see it fall apart like that.


Why is Starlin and Thanos an issue anyway? Well, DC/WB’s policy is to pay original creators some money when their comics characters are used in film or TV. For instance, writer Chuck Dixon co-created the Bane character nearly 20 years ago (with Graham Nolan), and received some money for the character’s mumbly but memorable appearance in DARK KNIGHT RISES:

“Graham and I both signed participation agreements, which are good in perpetuity. So it’s not up to them whether they take care of us. We’re taken care of. We’ve seen money from Bane all along – the Lego games and the little Bane-shaped piece in the Spaghettios. We always get a piece of what Bane makes. We’ll see money from this movie. They have graphs and charts to figure out how much based on how many lines of dialogue he has and how much he’s in the movie and how much impact he has on the story. We were part of it the last time when Bane was in the last [Joel] Schumacher film really briefly. We participated in that.”


DC’s policy on this is very scrupulous, and no matter what else you may hear about the company, creators have had few complaints about getting paid for the use of their characters in other mediums, even under work for hire and no matter how small the role.

By contrast, Marvel has no such policy, more muddled policies, doesn’t pay movie royalties and has been very active in defending themselves against lawsuits, including one filed by Marv Wolfman over the Blade character, and of course Gary Friedrich’s Ghost Rider suit. Marvel prevailed in both suits, but nowadays the idea of a creator taking to Twitter, Facebook and online media to complain about how they’ve been treated is something a company would prefer not to deal with.

As we’ve mentioned when discussing this story before, a very much alive and kicking Jim Starlin is far more of a potential thorn in the side to Marvel/Disney than a dead and buried Jack Kirby, but it’s good to know that the situation is being discussed.

Comments

  1. Travis says:

    They’re are only talking because I passed Starlin a note in study hall.

  2. Ed Brubaker says:

    That’s incorrect, that Marvel doesn’t have such a policy.

  3. WorseHorse says:

    Can you elaborate, Ed? DC has a pretty clear policy, with a cutoff somewhere before 1980 with a few exceptions (Kirby’s NEW GODS, for instance). Given the statement from Len Wein that he’s made more from Lucius Fox’s appearances in other media than Wolverine, and Dave Cockrum’s X-MEN movie payments only coming *after* he entered a VA hospital, it certainly seems as if DC has a superior record in this area.

  4. Snikt Snakt says:

    It would be awesome if one day Starlin would return to Marvel to do some more THANOS work. Or any work for that matter!!!

  5. Torsten Adair says:

    Does Marvel even list creator credits on their titles?

    In Fantastic Four #610:
    “Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
    behind the curtain”

    X-Men#35
    No creator credit

    The Incredible Hulk #13
    No creator credit

    Captain America #17
    Captain America & Black Widow #636
    “Captain America created by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby”

    X-Treme X-Men #2
    No creator credit for Dazzler, no credit for the alternate universe team members.

    Avengers Assemble #7 (Nice Thanos cover)
    No creator credits

    Journey Into Mystery #643
    No creator credits

    Scarlet Spider #9
    No creator credit

    Winter Soldier #10
    No creator credit

  6. Dixon points out in the interview that you quoted that while he does get money for his creations appearing in the films, he does have to remind them of that on occasion. He mentions a couple of cases where he called Paul Levitz to point out some missed uses, which Paul agreed on completely.

    And ask Tony Isabella how well DC handles (and pays for) uses of Black Lightning.

    There are systems in place; they do not work perfectly, but they are a good start.

  7. Talmidge says:

    Also hasn’t Mark Waid been pretty vocal about the use of Bart Allen and not getting anything for Justice League Doom, and then there is the tragedy with the creator of Static Shock, a character that had a long running cartoon while the creator was homeless.

    I like the way Starlin is conducting himself here. Some other creators could learn a thing or two. He’s been a gentleman the entire time without taking any unnecessary shots at anybody. Good man.

  8. John Warren says:

    I’m having a hard time making sense of your speculation as to why the Thanos mini was cancelled. The character is currently appearing in AVENGERS ASSEMBLE, so Marvel doesn’t seem to have suspended use of him in monthly books.

  9. Blade X says:

    IIRC, Marvel pays royalties to creators who created characters for them after 1977.

  10. Ed Brubaker says:

    Both companies have issues around this stuff, obviously, but everyone is so quick to condemn Marvel – who were the first mainstream comics company to start paying royalties and give creator-ownership, in the Shooter era. But when Gene Colan was ill, I was very touched to see Marvel helping him and his family through it all.

    I wish these companies did more for their older creators, and I’m glad that Marvel and Starlin are talking, because that’s the right thing to do. But both companies have current policies for new characters. It’s the characters created during previous eras, sometimes when the company was owned by someone else entirely, where they have issues.

  11. Ed Brubaker says:

    And by older creators, I just mean the ones working there before the new policies were put in place.

  12. Capt. Easier says:

    @Talmidge

    I don’t think Static was a DC character when The cartoon was airing. (If he even is now. Were the Milestone characters bought by DC a few years ago or only licensed by them?)

    And I am sure Static wasn’t owned by DC when he was created. Milestone made a deal to publish their books through DC but were a separate company with their own creator ownership, royalty, and participation agreements.

    At least that is what I always thought.

  13. @Ed Brubaker

    I was wondering how does Marvel deal with royalties to creators that have added new facets to old characters. To be more precise, the case of Bucky and The Winter Soldier. What happens in this case in which you didn’t create the character but definitely tailored it to create a new version which is now (apparently) going to be used in the new Captain America movie?

  14. PiptheinternetTroll says:

    Possible myriad of realities…

  15. “who were the first mainstream comics company to start paying royalties and give creator-ownership, in the Shooter era”

    I understand that Jenette Kahn instituted a royalties plan at DC first, and Shooter followed her lead. Marvel, on the other hand, started publishing creator-owned titles before DC (including Starlin’s “Metamorphosis Odyssey” and “Dreadstar”).

  16. patrick ford says:

    Gene Colan tells what happened when he requested help from Marvel:
    http://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/new-york/nysdce/1:2010cv00141/356975/99/
    Pages 4-5 of Colan’s sworn declaration show he was paid 5% of what he requested, and to get that he had to sign yet another in a series of lengthy waivers.

  17. patrick ford says:

    BTW the copy of the letter from Marvel which Colan attached to his declaration can be seen here:
    http://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/new-york/nysdce/1:2010cv00141/356975/99/4.html
    Well actually it can’t be seen, because the protective order granted Marvel by the judge placed the letter under seal.

  18. DC was indeed the first to pay royalties, and Marvel followed soon after (though they wouldn’t call them “royalties,” but rather “incentives,” and made it clear they were a gift, not an obligation, in the early years).

    DC and Marvel both published creator-owned comics before the 1980s — DC published TOR, for instance, owned by Joe Kubert, and at least some of the early SAVAGE TALES stories at Marvel were creator-owned — but Marvel did start doing it as a regular thing before DC did.

    I’ll always remember a DC exec explaining to me that it was actually illegal for a private individual to own a trademark, at a time when Epic was already up and running. How times have changed…!

  19. Ed Brubaker says:

    Kurt – I heard Shooter saying he was first to institute royalties at some talk way back when, and I always just assumed it was true.

  20. They were pretty close together. It may well be they both had plans in the works, and DC simply beat Marvel to the punch. They were both responding to Eclipse, more than to each other, I think.

  21. Ed Brubaker says:

    So did Epic come before royalties?

  22. Richard H says:

    Weird aside… but Guardians of the Galaxy, the to-be-film incarnation… Obviously, based on the Dan Abnett/Andy Lanning version from 2008. Although DnA never created the individual members of this GotG but set up this new concept, together with the editor and artist at the time – do they receive any money? Acknowledgement? You know, for creating the story and concept?

    … Okay, there was that Starlord mini during Annihilation Conquest, that first put Starlord together with Groot, Gamora and Rocket Raccoon, before the 2008 GotG was published – – so do the “story creators” of this mini get anything either?

    I’m just curious if the “story creators” get anything. After all, without that Starlord mini and later DnA and their editor creating this version of GotG, there’d be no upcoming 2014 film based on this incarnation.

    Am I making any sense? Marvel’s not just about characters, right, but the stories.

  23. Shane Davis says:

    I think giving creators incentives to give you good ideas is smart to say the least.

  24. On TV they call all that creative work fleshing out a concept into an actual show “developed by”. A lot of those “developed by” credits are very large on the screen and I presume come with money attached.

  25. >> So did Epic come before royalties? >>

    Royalties started around 1981. Before Epic Comics, after EPIC ILLUSTRATED.

    >>On TV they call all that creative work fleshing out a concept into an actual show “developed by”. A lot of those “developed by” credits are very large on the screen and I presume come with money attached.>>

    On TV, yes. In comics, not so much. Development money isn’t unheard of, but it’s not common, either.

    kdb

  26. horatio Weisfeld says:

    Back @ ED:

    OK -Since we’ve now had papers presented here that show that Colan, apparently when desperately ill, was begging Marvel for a few bucks – and they weren’t given it up … what exactly was the basis for your earlier statement:
    “..when Gene Colan was ill, I was very touched to see Marvel helping him and his family through it all..” –??
    — none of the Colan family “made it threw it”..the pressure got to Gene’s wife and she killed herself (or so I’ve been told) just before he died. Maybe if they had a few buck more then they could have maybe gotten along alright — but that’s not the Marvel way– – AT LEAST WITH CREATORS!

  27. Ed Brubaker says:

    I’m not going to talk about Gene’s family in a public forum. I knew him and his wife, although not well, but well enough to show respect. You should too, instead of speculating about the reasons behind a person’s death.

    Until reading that depo from Gene, all I knew was that Marvel had helped him. Apparently not as much as Gene asked them to, which is sad. They also published a book and gave its profits to Gene, I believe, to which I contributed, and that’s what I was referring to. I got a call from someone at Marvel asking me to be part of this book, because they were trying to help Gene.

    But as I said, both companies have issues with this stuff. The guy who co-created Jonah Hex died without health insurance, even. All I was saying was don’t automatically assume one is better in their treatment of older creators than the other.

  28. horatio Weisfeld says:

    I’m not going to talk about Gene’s family in a public forum.

    >>
    @Ed Brubaker

    You are the guy who claimed they helped him out in a “public forum” – I was just wondering EXACTLY WHAT led you say that (?) because I knew a number of people who knew Gene, and they didn’t say stuff like that, or ever tell me he said stuff like that — and it appears that, through history, Marvel has made no effort to aid any of the artists who built the company — accept, perhaps by throwing them pennies when as they are on their death bed– not that I think people should get handout.. but I think what the people at Marvel should have / could have done was to have figured out some way to make the old timers a living – while promoting Marvel – I think if they had done that, then they would have some class, dignity and grace — of course that’s just my opinion.

    ..and It’s too late now.

  29. horatio Weisfeld says:

    ( “I knew a number of people who knew Gene, and they didn’t say stuff like that, or ever tell me he said stuff like that” )

    >>
    Oh yeah — got so caught up in what I think I do or don’t know about Gene Colan, uh … there are those LEGAL DOCUMENTS (!!!) from the other poster.

  30. Ed Brubaker says:

    I answered your question. What I meant was I’m not going to publicly debate or speculate on how Adrienne Colan came to end her days.

  31. Ed Brubaker says:

    And please stop acting like I’m defending Marvel here, or am some representative. Read what I actually wrote:

    “I wish these companies did more for their older creators, and I’m glad that Marvel and Starlin are talking, because that’s the right thing to do. But both companies have current policies for new characters. It’s the characters created during previous eras, sometimes when the company was owned by someone else entirely, where they have issues.”

  32. h2world says:

    …came to end her days.

    >>

    Debate what — I made a passing reference to a very bad situation — guess what: I have a few very bad situations in my own family — most of my pals have bad situations somewhere in their lives, and the banker across the hall from me has some also…. and of course it doesn’t help anybody when people work for companies who’s game plan is to strip mine human beings.

    I look forward to reading all of Ed Brubaker’s post Marvel work.

  33. horatio Weisfeld says:

    horatio Weisfeld: Last (h2world) / me.

  34. Okay time for an h2world time-out.

  35. Snikt Snakt says:

    ya think?!?

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