A Modest Proposal 2: LOCampaign 2013

Richard Gagnon Initiates Grass Roots Backlash

Today’s guest blog post is from Richard Gagnon:

I’ve decided to help Steve Ditko by taking the time to once a week write a reporter that puts out a story about the upcoming Spider-Man movie. I don’t know if any of them will break the story in a public enough fashion to get the attention of Marvel/Disney, but at least it’s an effort to try to do something. If others can do the same, maybe Marvel/Disney can be shamed into doing something for him. Here is the message I sent Michelle Breidenbach, who wrote the linked article.

I was reading your article, “Next Spider-man movie to be made in New York with state tax breaks” and was wondering if you know much about how Spider-Man‘s creators financially get nothing for the billions of dollars in profits Marvel makes from the character through movies and merchandising.

Spider-Man was created by Stan Lee, who you may be familiar with, and Steve Ditko, who you may not have heard of. Stan wrote Spider-Man while Steve drew the comic. Their creative roles weren’t quite that clear cut because of how Marvel made comics.

At the time Spider-Man was created, Marvel was a second-rate publisher that put out comics that followed trends that were making money for other publishers. Stan Lee was the only salaried editor/writer/art director at Marvel. Instead of full scripts breaking down the comic panel by panel similar to a screenplay, the only way that Stan could keep up with all the comics he was writing was to give the artist a summary of the story. The artist would then break the story down, fill in any gaps, and often create new ideas and characters to fill the pages. Stan would get the art, with stuff he hadn’t even put in the story, and write the script that filled in dialog balloons and captions. That process put the burden on artists to tell much of the story.

As Marvel became more successful, Stan‘s time decreased and his top artists might only get a one-sentence plot idea that they would have to create an entire story from. There were times that Stan had no input to the comic till the artist delivered pages for a story that they created completely on their own. Creative disagreements between Stan and Steve left them not communicating for two years such that Steve Ditko plotted the entire course of that period’s comics, creating villains and supporting characters–all without any input from Stan Lee. Stan was then left with looking at the art and Steve‘s notes and having to create a script on the fly. Steve Ditko quit Marvel when promised royalties were never paid as Spider-Man‘s popularity was starting to show up as merchandised toys in stores and a forthcoming Saturday morning cartoon announced.

The day Steve quit was the last day that he ever earned a penny from his four years of creating and defining the world of Spider-Man. His entire monetary income for all his work on Spider-Man probably earned him less money than the costume designer for the Spider-Man movies made when they slightly tweaked the costume for the character onscreen. Stan Lee‘s long association with Marvel has left him quite well-to-do as the company’s best known spokesman even though he likewise never directly got royalties from his co-creation of Spider-Man.

Steve Ditko, on the other hand, has favored creative freedom over money and consequently has done considerably less well. He is now 85 years old and still works on his own small-press comics. I would imagine that his social security income is unimpressive since he hasn’t worked on any top comics since Spider-Man. When he worked on Spider-Man, Marvel had some of the lowest page rates in the industry, so he didn’t do well there. Meanwhile, Marvel was bought by Disney for $4 billion for its intellectual property and none of the writers and artists that created those properties saw a penny from that massive sale.

I don’t know if this is a story that you would have any interest in following up on, but it does represent a nice human drama of one man being ignored by a giant company that partly owes its fortunes to his creativity. Steve Ditko is a man of very strong morals. He would rather starve than violate the moral code that he lives by. The work-for-hire practice that his art was bought under used the legally shaky practice of granting the publisher all rights to his work on the back of the paycheck that he endorsed. The problem with that business practice is that it represents a secondary contract after the work is completed–meaning that the rights weren’t given away by the original contract, but were to be ceded as an additional concession to be paid even though the original contractual agreement to deliver art was completed. Steve hasn’t pursued legal action against that because he understood that the characters he created and co-created weren’t his. His issue is that he was verbally promised a royalty that he never received. It would be nice if he could see a little of that royalty before he dies. About the only way I can ever imagine that happening is if Marvel/Disney are publicly embarrassed into doing something to help this old man whose ideas profited them so greatly.

As a side note, DC Comics was similarly put in a position to providing a small pension for Superman‘s aging creators before the Christopher Reeve Superman movies were released. I wish companies had the decency to do things like this on their own to reward the people that made them rich. Since they don’t, they have to be shamed into doing the right thing. It’s a pity that they don’t emulate the selfless heroic behavior of the characters they publish.

Wally Wood, illustration for TV Guide, March 23-29, 1968; a statement from the Wally Wood Estate will be posted on Wednesday here at Myrant.
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All images and artwork ©2013 and/or respective original year of publication/creation their respective individual or corporate proprietors; posted for educational and archival purposes only. Fair Use doctrine and laws apply.


Discussion (41) ¬

  1. Dr. Mego

    While I agree that Steve Ditko deserves much more money for Spider-Man than he will ever get, I think he does get paid every time his art is reprinted in TPB, etc. That is standard practice now in the comic book industry. Marvel knows where his office is in Manhattan.

  2. Christopher Woerner

    It’s not clear how New Yorkers’ tax dollars are at work by not charging money to make a movie. Even if they made the movie in Caifornia and paid California taxes, it wouldn’t be Californians’ tax dollars at work.

  3. srbissette

    “Dr. Mego”: BULLSHIT. http://blog.newsarama.com/2012/01/13/charles-vess-it-would-be-nice-if-marvel-actually-paid-creators/ —to quote my pal Charlie Vess, who knows, “It would be nice if they actually paid the creators whose work they are reprinting. A year after their Warrior’s Three collection which featured a cover and over 100 pages of my work I received one (!!) comp copy and no word of any sort of reprint or royalty fee. Of course it might not have sold very well. Now I see that they are cobbling together 3 or 4 Spider-Man GNs into one enormous, hideously produced, hardcover. My long ago GN ‘Spirits of the Earth’ which I wrote/drew/painted is one of them. We’ll see what they do about that one. In contrast, DC provides 25 comp copies and a royalty check sent ever 4 months. Hmmm… now who would you work for?”

    Marvel doesn’t pay reprint rates or royalties after a defined period of time (one year?). I’d welcome more specifics on this from those who’ve contracted with Marvel since the Disney acquisition; I have no reason to believe those policies have changed for the better, or for the benefit of freelancers—much less freelancers from decades past.

  4. srbissette

    Note Charlie’s comment to that newsarama item, too:

    “All my work for Marvel was done in the 1980s. That means there was NO contract signed for any of that work. The only ‘contract’ I ever signed was putting my signature on the back of my check which was needed in order to cash it.

    I only knew about the Warriors Three collection because a French fan saw it in a catalog and e-mailed me about it.

    My Spirits of the Earth hardcover GN sold very well when it was released in 1990. I did initially receive some very nice royalties from it. But about 2/3rds of the way through the print run (with about 10-12,000 copies left) those stopped. Since I was the writer/artist/painter for the entire book I was receiving approx. $1.10 per copy and that would have been a welcome check to put in my bank account.

    My only recourse would have been to sue and then that money would have vanished in a days work to pay a lawyer’s fees.

    I continued to do a little bit of writing for Marvel (a 4 issue Prince Valiant mini-series and the adaptation of the movie Hook) but eventually realized I felt much more at home with the people I was working with at DC.

    And now, from that work at DC Comics, every four months for the last 20 odd years I’ve received a royality check.

    I’m just saying…”

  5. srbissette

    Furthermore, “Dr. Mego,” it is NOT “standard practice in the comicbook industry”—as I have discussed at length on MYRANT concerning the Ditko reprint volumes, and will again shortly, NOTHING is paid to Mr. Ditko for the many handsome, expensive, hardcover and paperback reprint editions of his work from a multitude of publishers, including IDW, Yoe Books, Fantagraphics, Dark Horse, etc. Please realign your statements on such matters to reflect reality in the future.

  6. roberto

    Maybe my lousy English is giving me a misunderstanding of your piece but i don`t understand f you are saying that , when Ditko finished working Spider man he didn`t earn a dime on the character or that he didn`t earn a dime from Marvel. Because i remember seeing some Later Marvel stuff form him.
    Other than that quesiton, i agree at all iwht you: THIS IS SERIOUSLY WRONG

  7. Christianne Benedict

    Roberto: Ditko did work for Marvel in the late 1970s and early 80s (notably on Machine Man and Micronauts), but he never worked on Spider-Man again. This was his choice.

    I would love to see Ditko see some money from Spider-Man and Doctor Strange (soon to be a major motion picture), but I’m not holding my breath.

  8. Richard Caldwell

    But I don’t believe Ditko WANTS any money. In his mind, he did the work a long time ago and that closed book should speak for itself. (Though it felt strange to see a kickstarter from Robin Snyder!)

    If anything were to come from this, I would love to see some extra funding find its way to the Hero Initiative, or even the Sidekick Foundation.

    And as far as Ditko’s refusal to work for any of today’s publishers, complicated obviously by the man’s need to eat, I always wondered if anybody close to him ever pitched him on putting together a mail-order (or now online) art course, strictly of his own devising. There would be no politics to it.

  9. Jim Martin

    Why not help Steve do a kickstarter where we all can back the project for $25 or $50 and the reward be a copy of Mr. A or something else that just needs to be printed and mailed out. We can donate more then the requested amount and the money can all go to Ditko.

  10. srbissette

    Jim: You’ve got till Friday, April 5th, to make good on that suggestion: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1704592942/the-ditko-public-service-package —I donated some time ago, and am posting about this campaign on Wednesday, as a matter of fact.

    Roberto: Yes, you’re right—Richard failed to mention the work Ditko did for Marvel in the 1970s and 1980s, for page rates only (like everyone else—except Stan Lee).

  11. Jim Martin

    Awesome I put up my $25 and posted to FB, Hope to give more.

  12. Jim Martin

    It needs to be clearer that the money is going to help Steve. The way it reads now it is impossible to tell.

  13. Reed Tucker

    I’m a journalist, and I spoke to Ditko when the last Spider-Man movie came out, and he made it pretty clear he doesn’t want anything to do with it. This campaign is a nice idea, but I doubt Steve would cash the check even if Marvel or Sony wrote it. Here’s the article:
    http://bit.ly/11apNsp

  14. Reed Tucker

    Sorry, wrong link in previous post. Correct link is here: http://www.nypost.com/p/entertainment/the_secret_hero_of_spider_man_XHZklFc7QJWuekwj2zDDCM

  15. BobH

    Everything I’ve heard suggests DC is pretty consistent on print royalties, to the point of not pursuing projects that would be sure money-losers under previous contracts unless they can negotiate a revised deal. They seem to have a less exemplary track record on non-print royalties (toys, tv shows), with creators having to bring examples of their characters that should be covered by royalty payments to DC’s attention to get paid.

    Marvel is more inconsistent, as many creators have reported not getting any payments. I have an older copy of their incentive plan (don’t call them royalties), and it includes lines like “regardless of the number of units sold, comic titles must be profitable (as determined by Marvel) to be eligible for incentive payments” and “Marvel shall make the the final determination of which talent, if any, shall be paid pursuant to this Incentive Plan” and “does not include any international publishing”. So we have no idea if Ditko gets paid or not, since he hasn’t chosen to comment on it, and no one at Marvel who is in a position to know has commented on it either. And I see on your facebook page that hasn’t stopped people from repeating the usual unsourced “I heard Ditko turned down the piles of money they offered him” lines.

    I think the financial end is Ditko’s to pursue if he so chooses, and shouldn’t be the focus of a public campaign. The credit should be, and not just for Ditko. Any time a reporter writes about a comic book character, they should include the name of the creator(s). Even if they’re just reproducing a press release, if the company didn’t include the credit the reporter should feel free to edit it in. And I’d like to see that extended to the people who work on the characters. Zack Snyder will no doubt be interviewed dozens of times about Superman this year. He should mention Siegel and Shuster by name at least once in every one of those interviews. I didn’t really follow the Avengers movie publicity, but did Joss Whedon ever even utter Jack Kirby’s name in all the press for that movie? If he did, I missed it. I just searched and found three interviews with Whedon, and Kirby isn’t mentioned once (though of course these are filtered through what the reporter chose to use). And for the public, if you see an article mentioning a character without a creator, as if the character emerged fully formed from the head of the corporation, bring up the name of the creator in the comments if they have public comments, or e-mail the reporter and point out the omission if they don’t.

    Looking forward to your post on the PUBLIC SERVICE PACKAGE Kickstarter. I’ve been kind of amazed by how little attention it’s gotten in the comics “press”, though at the same time kind of glad it quickly made Snyder’s target without any notice from them. And you’d think anyone who’s worked on a Ditko character could take a few seconds to tweet a link to it…

  16. Henry R. Kujawa

    “so, your tax dollars at work, ensuring greater profits for Disney/Marvel, New Yorkers, while not a penny goes to New York’s own Steve Ditko!”

    Someone should determine the exact amount of the “tax breaks”– and GIVE it to Steve Ditko with a big “Thank you” note.

    “That process put the burden on artists to tell much of the story.”

    WRITE the story. WRITE the story. How hard is it for peo-le to get this????? And they weren’t bheing CREDITED OR PAID for the writing! It’s like the music industry when “Producers” were getting writing credit AND PAY instead of the people who actually wrote the songs.

    “Creative disagreements between Stan and Steve left them not communicating for two years such that Steve Ditko plotted the entire course of that period’s comics, creating villains and supporting characters–all without any input from Stan Lee. Stan was then left with looking at the art and Steve‘s notes and having to create a script on the fly.”

    NO. Ditko insisted on being PAID for what he’d already been doing for more than a year already– WRITING. Lee gave in, and Ditko began getting pay and “plot” credit. At which point, Lee stopped talking to Ditko, not the other way around– because that writing money had been going to Lee, and was, he felt, coming out of his own pocket! The following month, Wally Wood insisted on the same thing, and Lee refused, instead teaming him up with Bob Powell and giving him more inking jobs. Before long, Wood accepted an offer to spearhead Tower’s entire new comics line.

    “the legally shaky practice of granting the publisher all rights to his work on the back of the paycheck that he endorsed”

    As I understand it, what was added on the backs of the checks didn’t happen until the mid-1970′s. Before then, there was often NO contracts of any kind.

    That’s a Wally Wood illustration from a 1968 TV GUIDE, by the way.

  17. Thad

    My understanding is that Ditko was offered money prior to the release of the first Spider-Man movie (if not by Marvel then by Sony), but refused on the grounds that he will not accept anything less than what he is owed — royalties all the way back to 1962. (At a guess, they probably would have wanted him to sign a contract stating that Marvel didn’t owe him any money, which he would of course have refused to do.)

    Which is not to say that we SHOULDN’T continue to talk about this subject and to pressure Disney/Marvel/Sony et al to give Ditko his due. That Ditko’s refused the unequitable offers Marvel and/or Sony have made up to this point just means we should pressure them to make better, fairer offers.

    BTW, a correction on “Christopher Reeves”: It’s Reeve, no “S”. George Reeves was TV Superman, Christopher Reeve was movie Superman.

  18. BobH

    Thad, I’ve heard that “Ditko was offered money prior to the release of the first Spider-Man movie” dozens of times, and no one has ever been able to provide a citation. Have you ever heard it from a reliable source, either Ditko himself or someone at Marvel (or Sony) in a position to know (not “some freelancer who heard it from his editor who overheard something in the Marvel men’s room”)?

    I always found it kind of funny how ready people are to believe that with no evidence, given that, as far as we know (and based on public statements from many of them):

    Marv Wolfman wasn’t offered money for the BLADE movies
    Gerry Conway wasn’t offered money for the PUNISHER movies
    Len Wein wasn’t offered money for the WOLVERINE movies
    Gary Friedrich wasn’t offered money for the GHOST RIDER movies
    The Kirby estate wasn’t offered money for the FF, HULK, THOR, IRON MAN, AVENGERS etc movies (and if they get anything from the CAPTAIN AMERICA movies it’s contractually obligated because of the settlement Joe Simon after legal action, not any good will gesture)

    Funny how they apparently only offered money to the one guy who said no.

  19. Rob Imes

    Bob, the closest I’ve seen of “confirmation” of the “offered money” story is Tom Brevoort’s post on the DitkoKirby Yahoo Group last July where he wrote, “Ditko was sent the check, and he did refuse it- – though on what grounds was never articulated.”

    Also, I assumed that Marvel paid creators something for the reprints. I thought that this had come into effect by the 1980s, which accounted for the cancellation of a lot of their old reprint series (like “Marvel’s Greatest Comics,” “Marvel Triple Action,” etc.) In my article in Ditkomania #80, I quoted a letter by Dan Adkins in The Comic Reader #168 (May 1979) where he wrote, “Marvel is now paying $3.00 per page for inks on reprinted work in comics, and $1.00 per page for reprinting comics in paperbacks for inks. I got a big $1.00 check the other day for inks on a HULK cover recently reprinted on a paperback. And no art was returned.”

    In 2010, when a poster on my Ditkomania Yahoo Group wondered if Ditko would receive “any kind of reprint fees” for the reprinting of ASM Annual #2 in a new Spider-Man trade paperback, Tom Brevoort replied, “of course he will.”

    In reply to Tom’s post, former Marvel editor (and current head of Papercutz comics) Jim Salicup wrote: “That’s great to hear! Editors of course don’t get royalties, and I’m totally fine with that, but it would be nice to get a copy of new editions of books I edited. For example, Marvel recently came out with a hardcover of the Todd McFarlane SPIDER-MAN material that I edited — this material hasn’t been out of print since it was first published — and neither Todd nor I have gotten a comp copy of this first hardcover edition.”

    In another thread on the Ditkomania Yahoo Group (see what you are missing by not being on it, Steve?) (just kidding!), Tony Isabella once posted (back in January 2009): “It’s none of our business, but, since the issue has been raised, I’ll ask a question. Does Ditko receive/refuse Marvel reprint/royalty checks when his Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, and other Marvel work is reprinted? That could be a tidy sum of money over the years, especially given how much of his work has been reprinted. The number of stories that I wrote for Marvel is miniscule compared
    to how many stories Ditko drew. Yet I’ve made some decent money when the company reprinted those stories in comic books, trade paperbacks, etc. Even on a royalty basis, Ditko should be receiving some serious money.”

    In reply to Tony’s post, Tom Brevoort wrote: “Ditko does receive reprint money when his Marvel work is reprinted, and as far as I know he does cash the checks.”

    I tried to post this comment with the URLs of the above quotes given, but it said that my comment looked “too spammy” and wouldn’t let me post it. I can provide the URLs via email or some other way if needed.

  20. Wallace Wood Estate

    Nice Ditko article. Not sure why the Wallace Wood illustration is used.

  21. Richard Caldwell

    @BobH-
    Marvel actually even sued Gary Friedrich over his signing GR prints at cons for fans, specifically in response to his trying to claim part ownership (which he really would have a case for, just as with Starlin and Thanos). But you’re right, they tend to be cold and malicious far more often than not.

  22. Richard Caldwell

    @Rob Imes-
    Might it be at all possible that Brevoort was misinformed, or worse- lying through his teeth? He is very much the company man.

  23. Richard Gagnon

    I just sent an email to Laura Kusisto at the Wall Street Journal for a similar article on the next Spider-Man movie being made in New York. I made a few corrections based on the comments here.

    I got the idea to try and bring some visibility to Steve Ditko’s contributions to Spider-Man after seeing Steve Bissette’s plea for moviegoers to not see the last movie. I wasn’t sure how many comic fans would support boycotting that movie or the upcoming Spider-Man and Doctor Strange movies. Even if there were enough to hurt the profits of the movie, it still wouldn’t help the people who created the characters. About all that would happen, if there was a severe drop in profits, is that fewer superhero movies would be made. That wouldn’t do the comics industry any good.

    I didn’t think much more about it till a few weeks later when I decided to try and educate journalists about the people who made these movies possible by creating the characters that were being turned into mega-summer blockbuster movies. I don’t know if any journalist will pick the story up and write an article on Steve Ditko. I hope one does. I figure hitting one up a week won’t take too much of my time. Maybe it will make a difference. I don’t know. It’s my small effort to give a “thank you” to Steve for the joy I had reading Spider-Man and Doctor Strange when I was growing up.

    I’m Steve Bissette’s age, so I grew up when Spider-Man and Marvel comics were new and exciting and something very different from what every other publisher was producing. Even as a kid, I could readily see that Marvel was doing something that was vastly superior to everything else that was out there. Spider-Man was my favorite comic. I could empathize more with Peter Parker’s troubles than I could with those of the Fantastic Four or other heroes because Peter was closer to my age. His concerns were closer to mine. Steve Ditko was the first artist whose work I was able to recognize. I can’t remember if I were able to readily tell that he was no longer doing Spider-Man. It was almost a half century ago when I was reading those comics. I do recall the day seeing the new Creeper comic and instantly knew that the art was something I’d seen before. That’s when I looked at the credits and compared the name I saw on Creeper and older issues of Spider-Man and saw that they were both done by Steve Ditko. That may not be a revelation today with a thriving comics fandom and the internet, but it was a big deal at the time when the internet wasn’t even dreamed of and comic fandom was in its birthing stage. It was the start of paying attention to the talented individuals who were making the comics that I enjoyed. The Ditko Spider-Man issues had such a unique vision of fight scenes that still blows me away.

    This is a small effort on my part to help pay back Steve Ditko for all the fun I had looking at the comics he helped produce. If others can join in, maybe something will happen. Please try to personalize your message so that it’s not a hundred copies that will mean little to the recipient. We all love comics for different reasons. I think I’m going to rewrite the message I’m sending out to better indicate how Steve’s Spider-Man emotionally struck me. This is the kind of effort that costs nothing. The amount of time invested is minimal once the first letter is written.

    I’m seeing posts saying that Steve Ditko is being paid reprint royalties. I wonder if that is all his work or only the later work that was under different contracts that stipulated those royalties. I did a bunch of searches to find out whether Steve or Jack Kirby were paid royalties of any kind on their older work and was unable to find anything. That’s not proof that Marvel didn’t pay Steve for Spider-Man reprints. If Marvel is actually paying Steve for his old Spider-Man work, it would be nice to see a news item that attests to that. It’s an area where I’d like to be wrong. This is the kind of topic where the comics community in general doesn’t seem to have a solid answer–which doesn’t lend confidence that it’s happening.

    Here are a few quotes from Sean Howe’s “Marvel: The Untold Story” that make me doubt that Steve is getting Spider-Man royalties:

    Stan Lee in 1971: “I would say that the comic book market is the worst market that there is on the face of the earth for creative talent and the reasons are numberless and legion,’ says Lee. “I have had many talented people ask me how to get into the comic book business. If they were talented enough the first answer I would give them is, ‘Why would you want to get into the comic book business?’ Because even if you succeed, even if you reach what might be considered the pinnacle of success in comics, you will be less successful, less secure and less effective than if you are just an average practitioner of your art in television, radio, movies or what have you. It is a business in which the creator, as was mentioned before, owns nothing of his creation. The publisher owns it….I would tell any cartoonist who has an idea, think twice before you give it to a publisher.”
    http://seanhowe.tumblr.com/post/33207105340/i-would-tell-any-cartoonist-who-has-an-idea

    Len Wein in 2009: “I have not seen a dime off of any Marvel stuff, nor do I have a credit on the Wolverine film. Hugh Jackman is a lovely man, and at the premiere he told the audience that he owed his career to
me and had me take a bow. It was very gratifying and very nice. I would have preferred a cheque.”
    http://www.itsadansworld.net/2009/10/i-read-it-for-articles-pros-reveal.html

    Avi Arad, then CEO Marvel Studios, in 2012: “When kids were creating comics, they were happy to get their job. A movie is made, it’s successful, and all of a sudden they say, ‘Wait a minute, what’s in it for me?’ It’s human nature. If a creator wants to create a comic book, and self-publish it, and make a big success of it, which is what McFarlane [creator of Spawn and one of the founders of Image comics] did, that’s their prerogative. If they want to work for a company and be guaranteed so many pages a month and so on, that’s a different business. So there are people who feel that they did this, therefore they deserve that, and…I don’t remember any of them on a journey to try and make a movie out of these things. And believe me, it’s far tougher to make a movie than publish a comic book.”

  24. Henry R. Kujawa

    Avi Arad is SCUM.

    A thread at CAPTAIN COMICS has been really rubbing me the wrong way. I finally
    responded yesterday.

    Publishers are in the business to publish. It’s their JOB to take risks.

    I am really sick of reading the view that creators should take the risks. If they did, they would be Publishers. Like I’ve been.

    Comics began with a gangster mentality, because many of the early companies
    were started by those connected to organized crime, as one more way to launder
    illegal money. The attitude never changed with some of them. Interestingly
    enough, in 1968, DC Comics was bought out by a company that got its start in the
    parking lot business– and, in fact, had known established organized crime
    connections.

    By the way, Stan Lee’s comments about the industry may be the most open, HONEST thing I have ever heard him say.

  25. srbissette

    Two notes:

    * This was picked up at BleeingCool.com, and much discussion followed there, too: http://www.bleedingcool.com/2013/03/18/are-you-a-journalist-looking-to-write-about-amazing-spider-man-2/ (read the comments threads as well)

    * The comment, above, from the Wally Wood Estate prompted an email exchange with the Estate, and I will have a statement to share from the Wally Wood Estate rep on Wednesday, here at MYRANT.

  26. Henry R. Kujawa

    Thanks, Steve. There are some really brain-dead types who hang out at tha board. Maybe that’s why I don’t go there very often.

    In a saner, more moral world, creators would OWN their work, publishers would just PUBLISH it. And contracts would be fairly written, so BOTH could profit fairly from the arrangement. PERIOD.

    And there would never be a question of WHO really created and wrote the early stories of all those characters…

  27. Richard Caldwell

    Creative Industry is oxymoronic doublespeak. I think commerce and art are polar opposites, and when art was relegated to the mere role of entertainment was when the world began to end. The number of creative types who have honestly lived very comfortably from their efforts, compared to the vastly more numbers of writers, artists and filmmakers who most certainly have not and will not, is perplexing and offensive all at once.
    But why does that illusion persist, that any creative work can pay the bills while also being aesthetically rewarding?

  28. terry cantor

    Steve, I wanted to buy the new Yoe books reprints of Ditko works, but you claim that IDW/Yoe don’t pay him royalties. Do you have some evidence for this, as I don’t want to add to Ditko’s situation by dealing with publishers who aren’t paying royalties.

    I do find it difficult to believe that enlightened companies like IDW/Yoe wouldn’t have sorted out an arrangement with Ditko.

  29. patrick ford

    I’d have to see copies of the checks before I’d believe anything Breevort says. That of see Ditko confirm the story.

  30. srbissette

    Terry: I am writing about JUST THAT on Friday’s post (upcoming, end of this week), in some detail.

    However, “enlightened companies”—I don’t agree. There’s precious few “enlightened companies” out there publishing, period; and even fewer of them publishing reprint editions; and fewer of them still paying anything to the living creators they reprint.

  31. patrick ford

    Reed, Were there other comments by Ditko that weren’t included in your article? I read it and saw nothing in there which indicated to me Ditko would not accept a check from Sony or Marvel? This is what your article says:

    “No,” he tells The Post, when asked if he was paid anything for the four recent Spider-Man movies.

    “I haven’t been involved with Spider-Man since the ’60s.”

    I don’t see any indication there which would cause me to think he would turn down payment.
    Your article also mentions Ditko is paid a royalty each time his Spider-Man comic book work is reprinted. Is that something Ditko told you?
    I also have a suggestion for you and the POST. Ditko recently wrote an essay where he said one reason he doesn’t cooperate with writers/journalists (fan or professional) is they are asking for his time and he gets nothing in return. The journalist who interviewed Ditko would take Ditko’s words and be paid for an article, and the publisher would sell magazines or books based on Ditko and his words while Ditko would get nothing.
    My suggestion is why not find out if the POST would pay Ditko for writing an article or series of articles on his experiences at Marvel comics? That would not be the same thing as paying for an interview which most publications shy away from (although it does happen). Ditko would be the author of the piece and be paid like any other writer for the paper.

  32. BobH

    Thanks for the citations, Rob. Like Patrick, I’m a bit dubious about accepting Brevoort’s word (he may be an “insider”, but he’s on the editorial side, which doesn’t really have access to that stuff as part of their job, and there are enough examples of “insider information” from Marvel editorial proving to be nothing more than the idle office gossip), but it’s good to know where the story is spreading from, as opposed to the usual “I think I read it somewhere once” I usually get as an answer to that question.

  33. patrick ford

    Perhaps we will get an answer from Ditko? I notice he has an essay coming titled “A Newspaper Article, A Reporter’s Report.” That sure sounds like it’s going to concern the New York Post article.
    http://ditko.blogspot.com/2013/03/upcoming-ditko-four-page-series-2.html?showComment=1363918450775#c5058549740935647205

  34. patrick ford

    As to what Bob Heer says about Breevort being on the editorial side of things. I’ve seen quite a few examples of people like Stan Lee, and Jim Shooter saying something and when it is shown to be false backing off by saying exactly what Bob points out. To give one example Shooter has written that Jack Kirby sued Marvel in the ’80s. He wrote in a fair amount of detail about this, even describing a discovery period where both sides were producing documents. When it was proven Kirby had never sued Marvel, Shooter just said he really had no idea, it was just his understanding, that he was editorial and out of the loop on legal and accounting matters. Another example is Shooter saying he couldn’t do anything about artwork stolen from a break room near his office the week of the July,4 1982 Wonder Con. Shooter said the inventory list of original art was lost during Marvel’s move from Madison to Park Avenue. In TCJ #105 Irene Vartanoff said copies of the inventory would have been easily available from the accounting department, or from Sol Brodsky who had a copy.

  35. Thad

    @Bob: Nope, no primary source; your point is taken. Kurt Busiek seems to think it happened ( http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/2010/01/kirby-family-attorneys-respond-to-marvel-lawsuit/#comment-21966 ) and I consider him a pretty knowledgeable guy, but you’re right, he’s not a primary source.

    I do think it bears adding that, of the movies you listed, only one other (Ghost Rider) was a Sony franchise, and it came AFTER Spider-Man. Sony could be the difference, or even Raimi himself — as I’ve noted elsewhere, Raimi’s Spider-Man movies are unique from the other Marvel movies in giving Ditko an upfront creator credit; obviously a creator credit doesn’t cost anything, but it does establish a (sadly) unique treatment of Ditko (and Lee, of course) compared to other creators whose work has been adapted into films.

    But again, you make a fair point — that’s no proof that he was actually offered any money, and Patrick’s comments about the Post article are certainly germane. Hoping he’s right and we here more from Ditko on the subject soon.

    …BTW, sorry to harp but Christopher Reeve’s name is still wrong up in the post.

  36. Richard Gagnon

    Comic fans have a power that they haven’t often exercised. Unfortunately, many comics fans are often more passionate about the fictional characters than the real life creators who bring the fiction to life.

    My decision to try and use the media to shine a light on the creators, who haven’t been well served by the industry making a fortune off them with summer blockbusters, is an attempt to use the studio’s investment against them. A company that spends a hundred million dollars on a movie doesn’t want to fend off negative publicity before the opening. A lot of speculation on why the John Carter movie failed centered on bad early publicity that made customers wary of trying the movie (and spending $250 million on a somewhat obscure pulp character didn’t help).

    Letter writing campaigns have brought back TV shows, such as “Star Trek”, that otherwise would have remained cancelled. Obviously, the more people that get involved in trying to get the media interested in looking at the plight of comics veterans will have a greater effect than that from a lone voice. Although I’ve focused on Steve Ditko for personal reasons, Steve B. has shown how the issue isn’t that of one creator, but one of many. I didn’t think trying to complain to Marvel Comics would do much good because it is one small, relatively unimportant cog in a much larger entertainment conglomerate that is now only part of the even larger enterprise of Disney. Thousands of people writing to Disney about bringing another Marvel character to the screen may move an executive to attention. That same campaign, for the largely invisible business policies would be considerably less effective. That’s why I thought trying to engage the media might have a greater impact.

    The trick is trying to present the case in a fashion that a journalist would consider interesting enough to pursue. One thought, to help in the greater cause of all professionals, and not just Steve Ditko, would be compiling a list of creators who, unlike Ditko, want to be heard and would be willing to talk to reporters. The easier it is for a journalist to tell a story, the more likely it is for it to be told. Paraphrasing Scott Adams, a reporter can either spend a great deal of time exhaustively researching a story or do it quickly with no effort to check the facts–both pay the same–which are they going to do? Another thought is compiling links that verify assertions to how comic creators have been treated poorly. Make it easy for reporters to tell the story.

    Part of my sense of urgency, in Steve Ditko’s case, is due to his being 85-years old. Unfortunately, the number of creators that were involved in the early history of comics are gone. That makes it all the more important to maintain the history that was captured when they were alive.

    Another point that I think is getting lost is figuring out what battle lines are being drawn. To me, it’s creators vs. industry. It’s about the money guys against the creative guys that that made it possible for others to get rich. I don’t think attacking Stan Lee serves any purpose. He’s not the guy controlling the money. Apply the proverb: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. That doesn’t mean the enemy of my enemy is somebody I would wholly trust as much as that for now an uneasy ally against a great foe is better than none at all. Comics fandom vs. Stan Lee doesn’t serve the financial well-being of suffering creators. Not putting him on the defensive makes him a greater possible ally even though I do not think he has the freedom to speak out against the company paying him. If he’s not put into a position of having to defend his creative legacy, he won’t be intentionally siding with the company. To get the money that Stan got from the kind of people he got it from had to come at a price. I would expect that it wasn’t simply a matter of relinquishing any claim he had on the characters he co-created and scripted for so long. There were very likely many nondisclosure clauses and agreements to not talk against company practices and policies.

    I’ve been reading a lot of books of early Marvel history and interviews with the people who were there when it happened. Outside of Jack Kirby, I haven’t read anything that says that by Stan Lee did not write the comics for which he has a writing credit. Jack had a notoriously horrible memory. Semantics sometimes entered the issue where Jack figured that the writer was the guy that came up with the story. Other times, he asserted that he wrote the actual words. He’s also on record saying he created Spider-Man’s famous costume and even once said he created Superman in an interview. I’ll refer everybody to Mark Evanier’s Jack FAQ. Right up front, the FAQ tries to explain who did what on the stories. Also look at the Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Daredevil explanations on page 4.
    http://www.povonline.com/jackfaq/JackFaq1.htm

    The book, Lee & Kirby: The Wonder Years by Mark Alexander (which is actually Jack Kirby Collector #58) extensively documents many known proofs of Stan’s collaborations in the last chapter. It’s not a great book, but did uncover some info that I didn’t know. One of the most compelling bits of evidence comes from Jack in a story that he wrote and drew for Fantastic Four Annual #5, “This Is a Plot?”, that depicts a fanciful plotting session of how Jack and Stan come up with their fantastic story ideas. There’s also an excerpt from a 1966 New York Herald article that recounts an actual plotting session for Fantastic Four #55 where Stan was emoting all over the place and Jack was nearly silent for the whole session. Stan believes Jack blames him personally for undercutting him in that story and that it was the start of their later creative friction.

    Mark Alexander adds to that with recollections from Flo Steinberg, Roy Thomas, Jack Kirby’s son–Neal, Joe Sinnott, and Mark Evanier. Evanier relates being with Kirby when Stan called to give him a quick plot idea while Jack was drawing Fantastic Four #97 with the whole call only lasting a minute or two. At the end of it, Kirby told him that they used to talk longer. Even at the tail end of Jack’s run on Fantastic Four, Stan still had input to plots even if it only amounted to a short discussion. Comics had about a three month lead time, so Stan’s call may have been for FF #100. Evanier also told Alexander that he had Stan’s typed plots for the Dr. Doom/Silver Surfer arcs in FF #58-60. Roy Thomas was told by John Verpoorten, after they and Stan were seeing the Silver Surfer for the first time in Jack’s art, that this was an exception to the rule and that most of the major characters were created by both men working together. Roy Thomas heard Stan and Jack plot FF #30 while stuck in traffic.

    I’ve dug up more quotes from people about how Marvel’s early comics were created. All these interview quotes show that Stan was involved in plotting the comics with the artists. Steve Ditko’s quote provides the most detailed description of Marvel’s working process I’ve seen. As Stan says in Comics Creators on Spider-Man regarding who came up with the Spider-Man costume, “Jack’s memory was almost as bad as mine, while Steve’s was always pretty sharp. I assume Steve created the costume.” One funny quote from the book, when Stan was being interviewed about his early work, had Stan pushing his autobiography for “even more unreliable memoirs.”

    Steve Ditko on the creation of Spider-Man in Alter Ego: The Comic Book Artist Collection: “Briefly, in regards to our working method, Stan provided the plot ideas. There would be a discussion to clear up anything, consider options, and so forth. I would then do the panel/page breakdowns, pencil the visual story continuity, and, on a separate paper provide a very rough panel dialogue, merely as a guide for Stan. We would go over the penciled story/art pages and I would explain any deviations, changes, and additions, noting anything to be corrected before or during the inking. Stan would provide the finished dialogue for the characters, ideas, consistency, and continuity. Once lettered, I would ink the pages.”
    http://books.google.com/books?id=LfgGmF3aoigC&pg=PA56&lpg=PA56&dq=steve+ditko+jack+kirby+spider-man+costume+-java&source=bl&ots=ofJEbwRWv4&sig=CgDifKEQpYu0ULiKDjPBLAOVz3U&hl=en&sa=X&ei=iZxLUbOMNerl4AOUi4DYBg&ved=0CEEQ6AEwDA#v=onepage&q=steve%20ditko%20jack%20kirby%20spider-man%20costume%20-java&f=false

  37. Richard Gagnon

    [WordPress wouldn't accept the original post because the links made it too spammy, so her's part 2]

    Here’s an interview with Marie Severin from Comic Book Artist Collection, Vol. 2: “I was very lucky in that Stan worked closely with all the artists. Gene Colan would develop a method of taking a tape recorder in, because if he missed something in the conversation with Stan, he’d call Stan and ask him, and Stan wouldn’t know what he was talking about. Stan created so quickly, it was just out of his head. ‘Next, please’ [laughter] It’s just wonderful, the juices he revs up. Me and Romita and Trimpe were the last ones he had time to use the old method on. At that time, he’d talk a plot with you, and you’d make notes and come back with it sort of layed out. Maybe he’d type something up, I forget. You’d come back with a rough layout and notes in the margin and he would go over it, standing all the time by the drawing board. Panel by panel, inch by inch, he went over it quickly, and you had to pay attention. Some of it he liked, some of it he’d say, ‘Marie, whatta you write so much in the margins for? You’re not writing it, I am!” And I’m thinking, ‘Yeah and I should draw so much either.’ [laughter] But that was Stan. You got your money’s worth. I’d come out of there and I’d be, ‘Hey, I know what to do now’–and I understood it, and I thought it was a great learning experience.”
    http://books.google.com/books?id=18evuq_VXXUC&pg=PA153&lpg=PA153&dq=gene+colan+stan+lee+%22tape+recorder%22+-java&source=bl&ots=mGP5ZiupvQ&sig=_hAvujW0aCnGa1ZvOdpf7J5TSqQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=p_9LUZHaHsuh4AP56IGQCQ&ved=0CC0Q6AEwBA

    Flo Steinberg, Stan Lee’s secretary during the early Marvel superhero revolution did an interview for Comics Interview #17: “Stan would just sit there typing out stories. And when the artists came in, they’d discuss the plots and act them out. Stan would jump on the desk and be Thor or somebody. And they’d run around the office.”

    Larry Leiber on his early scripting work on Marvel’s monster and superhero titles: “They were five page stories or seven page stories, he [Stan] would make up the plot then he would give it to me and I would write it. At the time I was living in a place called Tudor City, in a furnished room. I would write and I wrote stories for Jack Kirby who was so fast; he was drawing faster than I could write. I had to keep feeding him stories; he needed them to earn a living. I think he was living in New Jersey at the time and I’d go to the post office on Saturday night and send the stuff there. I did that for a few years; and then they started making up the Super Heroes and I wrote a few of the first, Ant Man and Iron Man and Thor. Stan again made up the plots, but I made up the civilian names for a few of them that I create. Let’s see, the Ant Man was Henry Pym. I made up the name Henry Pym and Don Blake I made up for Thor and Tony Stark I made up, you know. But the important names, such as Ant Man, Thor and Iron Man, Stan made up.” [I'm more inclined to think that Jack Kirby came up with Thor, but it's another example of the shaky memories of the guys that did all this work.]
    http://ohdannyboy.blogspot.com/2007/08/looking-back-with-larry-lieber.html

  38. Richard Gagnon

    [and the rest]

    Here’s an interview with Roy Thomas with info on the infamous New York Herald-Tribune article: “The other incident I remember was one of the seminal problems that I know Stan has always felt led to – not exactly a final break between Jack and Stan, but heaping more coals on the fire of animosity that Jack felt, I think more than Stan, probably because Stan’s position was more secure. Jack was the key artist. No one was going to replace him, but on the other hand he had no real secure situation like Stan. There was a big article in the New York Herald-Tribune, where some reporter came in and interviewed Stan and Jack. For some reason, I was called in to be a witness or whatever, because I certainly took no part in it. We’re talking within six months or a year of when I started there. Stan is always ‘on,’ and he’s promoting Stan, but he’s also promoting Jack. I saw that, y’know? And Jack would jump in with his own pronouncements, and Stan strides around, and Jack just kind of sits there, but he was eloquent enough in his own way. And the reporter is more interested in Stan, but at the same time is talking to Jack. And then the article came out, which of course Stan didn’t have any prior approval of. The article is somehow very unfavorable toward Jack. It talks about him sitting there in a Robert Hall suit, and Stan saying something, and Jack falling off his chair in glee. It sort of put down Jack in a way that made Stan very embarrassed, and Jack very upset. Stan always had the feeling that Jack felt Stan had somehow maneuvered that. And other than Stan being Stan, and Jack being Jack, and this reporter having his own agenda, I just didn’t see any of that. There was no jockeying between Stan and Jack as to who was the top person, but of course Stan was the editor, and he’s the person who was doing the writing, and he’s a little more eloquent in speaking, maybe, than Jack was. But it was just one of those unfortunate situations that I think really did heap a lot of coals on the fire, and Stan always considered it an important turning point in his relationship with Jack. But there’s no way to prove that or straighten it out. How do you say, ‘I didn’t do it. I wasn’t responsible for what this reporter wrote.’?”
    http://www.twomorrows.com/kirby/articles/18thomas.html

    None of what I’m relating is meant to diminish the heavy creative work that the artists did at Marvel to fully break down the plots and sometimes contributing the bulk of the plot detail. Since this was expected of Marvel artists, they did more work on Marvel’s superheroes than their compatriots at DC that worked with complete scripts. Marvel’s rates weren’t as good as DC’s and the artists were doing more work because they were also crafting much of the story. I think it’s entirely appropriate to credit an artist, working Marvel style, as the co-plotter or some kind of co-story credit. The writer, in my opinion, is still the person who actually crafts the text in comics (similar to movie credits where one author is given a story credit and another a screenwriting credit). Stan Lee was Marvel’s writer on the comics that have his credit. The artist may have contributed much of the story and provided notes, but the final words were those of the writer. Below is a sample page from FF #49 with Stan’s dialog and Jack Kirby’s notes. Stan didn’t copy Jack’s suggested dialog word for word (which often was more direction than dialog) and sometimes deviated from what Jack wanted to convey (a source of frustration to Jack especially when he was plotting more and more of later issues).
    http://www.silver-surfer.us/Original_Art/How_Comics_Are_Made/How_Comics_Are_Made.html

    Ultimately, the Marvel method of creating comics will forever leave the issue of who originated the Marvel heroes a mystery. Everything happened a half century ago and most of the men involved in their creation had horrible memories. Something that we tend to forget is that nobody thought they were doing anything particularly important back then. It was one more effort by Goodman to copy something that was successful at DC. Stan wasn’t saving his scripts or synopses. Neither had the artists saved Stan’s written direction so that they could someday show what Stan gave them versus what they had to create. Artists weren’t asking for their art back because there was no market for it. A lot of art was simply thrown away because there was no room for it according to Flo Steinberg (who seemed to be unaware that much of it was eventually going to a warehouse). That’s why we’re never going to get a final answer on who created what. We’re left with those old creators trying to reconstruct memories they no longer had such that their recollections are often wrong until somebody prompts them with other information that makes them remember something different.

    This post is a bit long and may deserve a separate MyRant column with Steve’s position on writer/artist contributions to comics. I want to put to rest claims that Stan Lee created nothing and wrote nothing. Stan was clearly involved in collaborative plotting with his artists. Stan wrote the dialog and captions for the comics where he was the author. If anybody has something contrary, I’m okay with being corrected as long as the source is attributed. I’ve dug up enough quotes from enough different people who were around when Stan was still actively involved in creating comics that it’s going to be hard to refute the evidence in any academic fashion.

    As far as I’m concerned, Stan belongs on the creator side of the fight between creators and corporations. Nobody has to fight on Stan’s behalf because he’s done pretty good on his own. There is no reason to dilute his accomplishments. It’s better to have Stan spiritually supporting the creative side even if can’t personally do much.

    I posted a follow-up to BleedingCool on why I hadn’t initially considered contacting Steve Ditko before initiating an effort to help him. It’s mostly because I didn’t expect to readily find a means of contacting him. There’s also the question whether getting his consent starts to slip into an area of expectations for doing something. If I could help Steve get money he’s owed, it’s something I’m doing for nothing. If I do it on his behalf, it becomes a little different. I provided a variety of links to show that Steve Ditko left Marvel over an issue of royalties and that he would not be adverse to receiving money for the movies. I don’t know if I should post the whole thing here since it was an answer to the conversations going on at that site. Looking it over, I found some typos. That’s after having gone through it before making the post.

  39. Henry R. Kujawa

    I’ll be interested in what Patrick Ford or James Robert Smith have to say about some of this.

    By the way, in DAREDEVIL ANNUAL #1, Gene Colan (who was writing the stories, at least, until Roy Thomas replaced Stan Lee) did a feature in the back showing a “plotting session” between himself and Lee. The whole thing was treated as a “joke”, yet, it clearly shows Gene’s frustration over the way Lee expected him to do ALL the work while Lee would take all the credit for it, as far as writing the stories went.

    Stan Goldberg, meanwhile, told of Lee using virtual threats and intimidation when it came to having Goldberg write the stories.

    Just a few days ago, Roy Thomas mentioned to me there was a “brief period” where, yes, Wally Wood was writing DAREDEVIL entirely on his own. Are we really supposed to believe that Wood did this, but Bill Everett, Joe Orlando, John Romita and Gene Colan didn’t? I’d be especially interested to see exactly what those 3 Joe Orlando issues were like BEFORE Lee insisted on all those major re-writes that included Orlando having to redraw page after page after page, as much as 50% of a given issue. I’d bet the stories MADE MORE SENSE before Lee made all those changes.

    In every single instance where I’ve either seen evidence of Lee making changes after-the-fact, or where common sense has indicated where this has happened, the after-the-fact story changes were for the WORSE. In EVERY instance. Again– think, “Hollywood script doctor.” They’re the kind of people who have to mutilate other people’s perfectly good work in order to justify their paychecks.

    And finally, despite any opinions tossed out by Stan Lee or Roy Thomas, the (ahem) “plots” ARE the most important part of any story, not the dialogue. Without a “plot”, there’d be no place to put any dialogue whatsoever.

  40. Jacob D.

    Looking past all legal and financial responsibilities toward Ditko that both Marvel and possibly the state of New York owe him, there is one thing that I have failed to notice anybody take into account: Ditko’s own pride. Not only would such an article publicly embarrass Disney/Marvel, but Ditko himself! Sure, this is an issue that is as famous as the Siegel/Superman battle at DC, but if Ditko himself has followed Alan Moore’s suit and denied any royalty payments after all these decades, then I see no need to battle in his favor. Now that’s not to say that both Disney/Marvel and especially New York shouldn’t be attacked, but it shouldn’t be done to the possible humiliation of Mr. Ditko. And even if the article gets enough media attention, Disney is a high-profile conglomerate and may not bend over to the public’s pleas. When have they ever? I think that the whole “tax-payer’s money” is a better lead to follow both ethically and strategically.

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