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Jack Kirby Vs. Disney (or The King Goes After The Magic Kingdom)

Discussion in 'Marvel Comics and Collectibles' started by Jeff Harris, Sep 20, 2009.

  1. Shawn Hopkins

    Shawn Hopkins TZ Member of the Year 2013

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    They already do that. That's part of why Marvel hasn't had a significantly successful new character, a completely original character that can carry a book, since the 1970s. Well, I guess Deadpool is maybe the sole exception, although he's a parody of Deathstroke.
     
  2. wonderfly

    wonderfly Shaking things up a bit
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    From that link is this quote:

    Wha-HUH?!? So because Kirby came back to Marvel in '72 and '75, that applies retroactively to his work for Marvel in the 60's?!? That...doesn't make sense to me.

    If we were arguing over whether Jack Kirby has rights to the Eternals, his mid-70's Marvel creation, that'd be one thing, but his 60's work is a different matter altogether...

    On the other hand, from that same link above:

    That's...a bit too much of an overreaction. Brian K. Vaughan knew perfectly well what he was getting into when he created the Runaways for Marvel a few years back. I'd hate to have been denied the pleasure of reading Runaways if no one can create new characters for Marvel or DC.
     
  3. Shawn Hopkins

    Shawn Hopkins TZ Member of the Year 2013

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    It's not an overreaction, it's just logic. Why give a good idea to a company that doesn't care about you or it except in terms of profit? You'll note that Marvel screwed up Runaways after Vaughn left by jamming them in miniseries and crossovers. At least for me, I stopped reading because the Civil War stuff was so bad.
     
  4. wonderfly

    wonderfly Shaking things up a bit
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    Yes, Runaways really went ka-blooey after Vaughn left, but that's other creators fault. Vaughn got to to tell the story he wanted to tell with them: his own take on superhero teens set in the confines of the Marvel Universe. Part of the fun of the series was seeing the Runaways interact with other Marvel characters (like Captain America and Cloak & Dagger) and Vaughn couldn't have written those encounters if he had kept Runaways for himself.
     
  5. Shawn Hopkins

    Shawn Hopkins TZ Member of the Year 2013

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    He could have. There have been cases where a creator has ownership of the characters but uses them in a given superhero universe. Sovereign Seven is a good example, they interacted with Darkseid in their first issue. It wasn't a good series for other reasons, but that was on Claremont kind of losing it as a writer about that time, not the creator-owned arrangement.
     
  6. Ed Liu

    Ed Liu That's 'Cause I ATE IT!!!
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    The other difference for Runaways specifically is that BKV understood exactly what he was doing when he signed the contract saying that Runaways was work-for-hire and that he was giving complete control of them over to Marvel once he was done writing their comic. He says so in the intro to one of the big hardcover editions, and it boiled down to, "This is my way of giving back to Marvel for all they've done to inspire my imagination over the years." Pretty generous gift, but something where he knew exactly what he was doing and why.

    Heidi's advice over at the Beat is directed at the a number of exceptionally shady studios out there that aren't even bothering to disguise their intent to leverage any property to the hilt in Hollywood and make the real money in the movies and TV shows and such. Those guys are perfectly willing to exploit young, anxious talent that wants to be published and will sign away their rights without being aware that what they're really doing is signing a document that says, "You are hereby granting me the right to drain as much cash from your creative work as I can without sharing any with you ever." It doesn't apply as much to Marvel or DC because neither company seems to have the stomach to create any major new characters nowadays anyway. They'd much rather rehash all the ones they already have and don't need to pay for.
     
  7. TheVileOne

    TheVileOne Peace Loving Shinobi
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    That's the give and take of it. They are the ones financing and promoting your characters and work.

    If you write a script for a studio or the studio buys it, it is their intellectual property. You might have created all of it, but it is now the intellectual property of another entity.

    If you don't like it, self-publish or start your own company. It can be done. Don't make an excuse for a corporate entity to absorb your creations.

    Kirby's still don't deserve ownership of Spider-Man though. The character that Kirby worked on is not the Spider-Man that is the icon we know today.
     
  8. John Pannozzi

    John Pannozzi Still Gritty after all these years

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  9. Shawn Hopkins

    Shawn Hopkins TZ Member of the Year 2013

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  10. Shawn Hopkins

    Shawn Hopkins TZ Member of the Year 2013

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    Wish I could go to this event:

    http://www.cartoonstudies.org/index.php/2011/10/13/marvel-vs-jack-kirby-legal-rights-ethical-might/

    Join The Center for Cartoon Studies’ Steve Bissette and Vermont Law School’s Oliver Goodenough as they discuss the legal, ethical, and moral issues of the Kirby decision for both Marvel/Disney, the consumers of superhero stories, and the talent that creates them.



    Jack Kirby was a defining cartoonist of his generation. From the 1940s through the 1960s, Kirby created or co‐created the foundation that is the Marvel universe: Captain America, The X‐Men, The Fantastic Four, Thor, and The Avengers. A billion dollar media empire is built on these superheroes.



    Marvel, now owned by Disney, contends Kirby worked under a work‐for‐hire agreement and his heirs have no right to the revenue his creations continue to generate for their company. A recent court ruling agreed with Marvel but appeals will surely follow.
     
  11. Ed Liu

    Ed Liu That's 'Cause I ATE IT!!!
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    Reviving the thread to note that Marvel and the Kirby Estate have settled the case.

    I'm hoping the estate got something significant out of it, but given the way the case was going and the way Marvel tends to do business, I wouldn't bet the farm on that. Also not sure that I'm entirely happy with a settlement at all, since Kirby was the tip of the iceberg of creators who didn't get their due for their work. But it's something. Maybe.
     
  12. TheVileOne

    TheVileOne Peace Loving Shinobi
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    Ed Liu, how would you define getting your due though? Is it credit for the work, or is it monetary compensation?

    The Kirby heirs never built a strong case in their favor and their attempt gaining copyright for Spider-Man hurt their case IMHO. I am not sure how money or copyright to characters for his heirs that they did not create or had nothing to do with gives him greater respect.
     
  13. RoryWilliams

    RoryWilliams Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the link, Ed. I too hope they got something out of this and it leads to some more creators or their heirs getting their due.
     
  14. Ed Liu

    Ed Liu That's 'Cause I ATE IT!!!
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    I'm defining it as money.

    The only thing the Kirby estate has left of Jack is his name. The same name that Marvel will slap on hardcovers specifically to sell them. Marvel recognizes that Jack Kirby's name will sell things, but they're not giving the family anything that they reap from those sales. So, in a way, giving him credit in the movies is even worse because the people who read the credits and say, "Oh, look! Jack Kirby created this! I better go buy some comics!" and rush off to buy Marvel products with Jack Kirby's name on them only further line Marvel's pockets and do nothing for Jack or his family.

    Estates of authors still collect royalties from those authors' works, long after the author passed and even if they had nothing to do with the creation of the work. This is as it should be. Setting aside the question of whether the work was "work-for-hire" or the legality of WFH or the WFH agreements that were standard (and grossly unfair to creators) for the bulk of the comic book industry's existence, what did Jack Kirby do exactly that was different from, say, Frank Herbert, so that he and his estate is entitled to nothing while Frank Herbert's estate can still profit off the Dune franchise?

    There is legal and there is right. I would expect fans of superhero comics to be able to understand that distinction even more than the general public.

    EDIT: Mark Evanier, who'd be in as much in a position to know as anyone, notes that he's very, very happy with the deal, and that he thinks Jack and Roz Kirby would also be really happy with the deal. Which is good enough for me, even if the details of the deal never come out publicly. But I have to think that a check with a substantial number of significant digits in it was involved.
     
  15. RoryWilliams

    RoryWilliams Well-Known Member

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    Well said, Liu.
     
  16. wonderfly

    wonderfly Shaking things up a bit
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    Hmm, that article notes that the case was possibly days away from heading to the Supreme Court. I'm left wondering if it would've been better had that occurred. A landmark ruling on comic book creators rights would've been a defining moment for the industry.

    But I guess I can be content with Jack Kirby's family getting a slice of the pie.
     
  17. Ed Liu

    Ed Liu That's 'Cause I ATE IT!!!
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    Kurt Busiek dispenses some comic book history and copyright law behind the case, which provides a lot of counter-argument to the argument that the heirs were just greedy opportunists.

    The other thing worth pointing out in his mammoth post (which is definitely worth reading) is his belief that the legal argument over work-for-hire practices in the comic book industry back in the day is not over, and that it's going to end up in front of SCOTUS eventually. I'm inclined to agree, though I expect it won't be from Kirby or from the likes of the Siegel/Shuster estates. But we'll see.
     
  18. RoryWilliams

    RoryWilliams Well-Known Member

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    I think we're gonna see more and more movement since given how popular comic book films are, we're seeing more and more examples of the guys who created these characters stepping up and talking about their grievances. Cracked just ran a good piece mentioning how Bill Mantlo and his family saw nothing from Guardians of the Galaxy despite him creating Rocket Raccoon, or Gene Colan seeing nothing from the Blade movies or Falcon's usage in The Winter Soldier.

    Especially since I think DC already provides some sort of compensation to creators whose work gets adapted into other media. Specifically, I remember Gerry Conway talking about how he didn't even realize he was owed money from Felicity Smoak's appearances in Arrow until a fan alerted him.
     
  19. Ed Liu

    Ed Liu That's 'Cause I ATE IT!!!
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    Actually, that's not true. From the Facebook page of Bill Mantlo's brother and legal guardian Mike Mantlo:

    There was also something that came out when GotG started ramping up its PR push when Mike stated publicly that he couldn't discuss details, but that if fans cared about Bill and his well being, the best thing they could do for him would be to go see the movie and make sure it was a success. That sure sounds to me like he got a deal that was worth something more than just the private screening Marvel gave Bill of the movie.
     
  20. RoryWilliams

    RoryWilliams Well-Known Member

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    Well that's good to hear.
     

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