Tag: Corporate Greed

What Now?

So today I got the old "Well, the project's almost over and we don't know what that means for you" talk.

As per usual, if it were up to the discretion of people I have actually met, I'd have the job. But, as per usual, I am at the mercy of west-coast bean counters.

The thing about that: when you complete a project weeks ahead of schedule, the people who have actually met you think, "Hey, maybe we should keep this guy around." But the bean counters tend to think, "Oh good, that means we can cut him loose that much sooner." Here's hoping the people who value me win the argument for a change.

Apparently I've got, at the very least, two weeks left. Which could mean I become unemployed just in time for my thirtieth birthday. I don't think it'll be that soon, but man that would be a fun little extra coincidence.

So it goes. I'm sanguine, I guess. I'd like to keep my job -- it's a good gig, it pays fairly, I'm settled and I like the people I'm working with -- but you know, if I'm forced into another change of scenery, I'll make the best of that too.

If nothing else, there are plenty of companies that could still use a guy who can handle a Windows 7 migration.

Playboy Interview

Playboy Interview

This one's a downer -- it's May 1993 and Zappa is dying.

The whole thing's on Wiki Jawaka -- just the text, no titties (though the language, as you would expect, is NSFW).

Some excerpts that I think fit the Democratic Convention theme:

Was it surprising that you had fans behind the iron curtain?
Yeah, and lots of people who didn't like me -- like the secret police.

What did the secret police have against you?
In Prague, I was told that the biggest enemies of the Communist Czech state were Jimmy Carter and me. A student I met said that he was arrested by the secret police and beaten. They said they were going to beat the Zappa music out of him.

Sometimes you sound like a political candidate. How serious was your plan to run for president?
I wanted to do it. It's a bit hard to mount a campaign if you have cancer and don't feel well.

If you hadn't been ill, would you have run?
Yeah. And it's a shame. We got calls and mail throughout the election. Squadrons of volunteers called.

If you had run and won, what would President Zappa have done?
I would have started by dismantling the government. At least I would have presented the idea to the voters.

Nothing too revolutionary?
In the Beltway and places that have large federal payrolls, the idea wouldn't be too popular, but in other places people would think it's great. One strong selling point is that you could do away with federal income taxes, or at least reduce them to a point that people would have something left at the end of the week. In the end, I think people, in their enlightened self-interest, would consider voting for that.

If you dismantled the government, you'd put yourself out of a job.
No, because most reasonable people would agree that we need roads, for instance, and water you can drink and breathable air. Most people realize that there has to be some coordinated infrastructure and a national offense that is commensurate with whatever threat you feel from other countries.

National offense?
I mean -- well, what we have now is national offense. We should have national defense.

You've said that you're not a peacenik.
Human nature and human stupidity often breed violence. When violence escalates to an international confrontation, you should be able to protect yourself. On the other hand, to plan for it -- like we did throughout the Cold War -- based on badly handled intelligence estimates of the threat to our national security is just stupid. Most intelligence estimates indicated that the Soviet couldn't do shit to us, but they were ignored order to maintain the level of employment and financial activity in the defense industry.

Do you think that our recent election was irrelevant?
Yes, because America has to be completely restructured. We have to question every institution in terms of efficiency. I'm serious about abandoning the federal system.

Is there any way that it's likely to happen?
Not this week, but I wish people would at least consider it. They think, There it is, we're stuck with it, it will go on forever. It doesn't have to. The Soviet Union didn't go on forever. If you want reform, the people who've been doing a bad job have to get fired. They have to go back to the used-car lot from where they came.

Yet you've always pushed people to vote. Why bother?
Even if you don't like the candidates, there are issues that affect your life. Bond issues affect your pocketbook. That's the only real reason for voting. As far as the rest of government is concerned, forget it. The amount of overstaffing, overlapping, wasted energy and pompous pseudograndeur is science fiction. All of it is supported by this universe of political talk shows. CNN is one of the worst offenders on the planet. It maintains the fiction of the theoretical value of the thoughts and words of these inferior human specimens who manage to become Beltway insiders.

Do you want to name names?
Do we need to see John Sununu as a talk-show guy? Or, on CNBC, Gordon Liddy or Oliver North? Let's face it: Some of these people are criminals. Why do we need to be presented with them as voices of authority whose opinions are something we should even waste our time with? Why?

What do you think is behind it?
It's a whole program designed to modify behavior and modify thinking on a national level. They're happy to take the slings and arrows of the outraged minority in order to keep these voices of stupidity in your face all the time. It's all propaganda.

How planned is it?
Completely. It is the residue of the domestic-diplomacy department that Reagan established during the Irancontra days. The idea was to control the news. From that office, a guy would make phone calls and certain journalists would get fired and news stories would get changed. Then it was the obvious control of the media we saw during the Gulf war.

So you maintain that the media are no more than pawns?
The media are part of the package. You think really liberal people own those outlets? I don't. Even if they were Democrats, it wouldn't mean anything, because who can tell the difference between those two criminal classes?

it sounds as if you are as cynical as ever.
It's hard not to be.

Yet you feel it's worthwhile to raise some hell?
Pessimism and the natural instinct to raise hell are not mutually exclusive. Raising hell comes naturally to me. Still, I am not optimistic about what will happen to this country unless some radical change is made. It's going to take more than just firing a few bad guys.

It must have been strange for you when Al Gore was nominated as vice president.
They felt it was a good way to counteract the Dan Quayle-family values nonsense. But why would anybody need to counteract Dan Quayle?

They obviously didn't care about your vote -- or the vote of the people concerned about Tipper's ratings campaign.
Not necessarily. Deep in their hearts, those politicos think they're really cagey strategists. They figured they'd get a certain amount of column inches because of Tipper. It was advertising they didn't have to buy.

Downer of an ending for a downer of a theme week and a downer of an election. So it goes.

Tomorrow I'll see if I can't find a funny song to post.

Some Fucking Bullshit

So last Thursday I mailed a package. New hire; needed to be there next-day. But it was in Phoenix, so I chose express shipping. Because, you know, it takes less than a day to drive a package 9 miles.

Today I find out it hasn't arrived yet, so I pull up tracking. And I see this goddamn fucking bullshit:

Package Not Due for Delivery

The package is sitting in a fucking warehouse for three days, because I did not pay extra for next-day delivery. This is a thing that FedEx does now.

They've got the package. They've got it all set to put it on a truck and take it to its destination. But if you don't pay for next-day delivery, they won't deliver it next-day, no matter how short a distance it's going.

I guess what I'm saying is, support your local post office.

Real Alternatives

To: NPR's All Things Considered

On this afternoon's All Things Considered, you referred to the computer-illiterate, failed copyright bills SOPA and PIPA, and spoke with economist Steve Siwek. You noted, "Although both bills seem to be on permanent hold, Siwek says their critics have offered no real alternatives." You did not challenge this assertion.

A Google search for the phrase "alternative to sopa" produces 41,100 results. A Google search for the phrase "real alternative to sopa" produces 4,930.

These proposed alternatives range from simple -- focus on the biggest infringers -- to the more radical -- completely overhaul copyright law to provide shorter copyright terms and broader exceptions for fair use.

Indeed, there is a proposed alternative to SOPA and PIPA working its way through Congress right now; it's called the OPEN Act.

To put it bluntly, it is impossible that Siwek is unaware of these proposals. When he says no one has offered any alternative to SOPA and PIPA, he is lying.

Friedrich Appeal

Since everybody loves my Creators' Rights posts: per 20th Century Danny Boy, Gary Friedrich is making good on his plan to appeal the ruling on the Ghost Rider rights.

Quick recap: Friedrich sued Marvel for the rights to Ghost Rider, claiming he had never signed over his ownership stake in the character. (He co-created Ghost Rider with Roy Thomas and Mike Ploog, though he claims he created the character in 1968 and that Marvel failed to register the copyright for the published story in 1972.)

Marvel countersued, on the grounds that Friedrich was selling signed Ghost Rider prints -- and Friedrich is a writer, not an artist, keep in mind, so the art wasn't his work.

The suit ended in a Marvel victory, with Marvel agreeing to drop the countersuit in exchange for $17,000 as payment for the prints and Friedrich agreeing not to refer to himself as "the creator of Ghost Rider" for financial gain.

Friedrich is penniless and in poor health and, as you might expect, regardless of its legal merits this rankled a whole lot of fans and pros.

Speaking of which, you can buy a Generic, Non-Infringing Flaming Skull T-Shirt for $12 at World of Strange, with the proceeds going to Friedrich; the art is by Steve Bissette, Rick Veitch, Bob Burden, Billy Tackett, Nathan Thomas Milliner, Sam Flegal, and Denis St. John.

So now Friedrich is appealing the ruling.

The most interesting piece of new evidence he's introduced: a creator-owned Lee/Kirby Silver Surfer book from 1978. Why this is important, quoting Daniel Best:

At one point during Friedrich's deposition he was asked the following question: "Q. Are you aware of whether any other freelance writer of Marvel comic books owned the rights in any of the characters or stories created by that writer," in relation to the period of 1971 to 1978. The answer was no, and Marvel's lawyers accepted that, for the understanding in this case is that everything produced by Marvel in the 1970s at least, belonged to Marvel and was duly copyrighted. This isn't the case. In 1978 Marvel published The Silver Surfer, a graphic novel which contained a copyright legend naming not Marvel, but the books authors - Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Importantly it falls on the cusp of the work-for-hire contracts, but a savvy lawyer might well be able to argue that Marvel did indeed produce work that was owned not by the company, but by the authors from the time period of 1971 to [1978]. Unfortunately this news might have come a bit late to be of any use to Gary Friedrich, but the battle isn't over yet.

The book seems like a pretty serious outlier; it was a case of Kirby, already unhappy with his work-for-hire situation with Marvel, pushing for a different arrangement (and indeed a different publisher, as the book was published by Simon and Schuster). I find it hard to believe that a court will rule that Friedrich's work on Ghost Rider was not necessarily for-hire just because Kirby and Lee put out a creator-owned book with a Marvel character six years later.

The previous ruling did hinge on Friedrich signing back-of-the-check contracts, and that sticks in my craw. Back-of-the-check contracts are coercive (you already did the work expecting to be paid for it, and the company only shows you an agreement to sign after the work is already done?) and I would very much like it if an appelate court determined that they are not legally binding.

But I still don't think that's going to help Friedrich. The judge in Marvel v Kirby determined that Kirby's work was for-hire based on the instance-and-expense test and stated outright that it was irrelevant whether he signed a back-of-the-check contract or not. Similarly, precedent doesn't necessarily favor Friedrich's "I created the character 4 years earlier" argument; even if he can prove it, the judge in Wolfman v Marvel ruled that the Blade character who appeared in Tomb of Dracula was so substantially different from Wolfman's original pitch as to constitute a distinct, work-for-hire creation.

In short: I don't think Marvel's in the right here ethically, but I don't think Friedrich's prospects look good legally. I hope I'm wrong and I hope he gets something out of this, but I'm concerned that he's doubling down on a losing hand.

Ideally, this would be settled out of court. Ideally, Marvel would open itself to renegotiation with its pre-1980 creators and allow them to get the same equity deals that current creators do (something that DC has done -- DC's not perfect but it's better than Marvel on this subject at this time). Ideally, Friedrich would get some small share of Ghost Rider comics and movies, and be satisfied and not feel the need to sue to get that piece.

But unfortunately I don't see any of that happening. I'm worried that Friedrich is going to be pounded into the concrete once again -- but if he does win, it'll be a great thing not just for him but for creators everywhere.

Detorrent

So now uTorrent is bundling a bunch of obnoxious, unnecessary crap with its installer?

Man, that is a brilliantly subtle way of discouraging people from using BitTorrent right as the Six Strikes rules are kicking in.

A Venn Diagram of a Circle Inside a Bigger Circle

Dear DC,

Thank you so much for putting an obnoxious-ass banner ad for The Dark Knight Rises across the top of all my fucking comic books. Everybody loves banner ads, and I was just wondering how you could make comic book covers as distracting as television shows!

Kudos on targeting the completely fucking imaginary demographic of people who buy DC comics but are not aware that there is a Batman movie coming out! Four dollars is far too small a price to pay for this bold and completely redundant innovation!

Might Have Beens

It's a little weird to see things like, say, Ian Flynn doing a Sonic/Mega Man crossover for Archie Comics.

Because I wrote that story when I was 11.

(Okay, co-wrote it -- though I expect my collaborative partner would be happy for me to take all the "credit" for myself -- and it was Mega Man X, not the original Mega Man. But still and all...)

Ian Flynn and I were involved in Sonic fandom around the same time -- he went by Ian Potto in those days. I didn't really know him; we posted on different forums, but I remember seeing his name around. But, y'know, now and again it makes me wonder what would have happened if I'd stuck with it.

Per Wikipedia, Ian's about my age, give or take a few months -- but I skipped a grade. I expect I was starting college and Putting Aside Childish Things around the time he was submitting samples to Archie. Now I image laptops and he gets paid to do the shit I used to do for fun.

Which isn't to say I'd really consider writing Sonic comics for Archie to fit my personal definition of "livin' the dream", mind. You know the shit I go on about here, the way DC and Marvel treat their freelancers? Well, they're generous compared to Archie. Archie is like DC and Marvel used to be, before royalties, before creator credits, even, in most cases, before "house style" gave way to letting artists develop their own styles. Archie finally got around to crediting its writers and artists a couple of decades ago -- but if you piss 'em off they still might take your name out of the reprints.

And then there's Sega.

Ken Penders, one of Flynn's predecessors in the Sonic writer's chair, and an artist besides, was always pretty candid with the fans on the restrictions he had to work under. The book was marketed to 8-to-12-year-old boys (as he would constantly remind us), and so its content was inline with some dumb-ass Sega marketing guy's idea of a dopey eight-year-old's idea of a cool fifteen-year-old. Penders drew Sonic looking too depressed? Sega would send Pat Spaziante in to redraw his face to look more generally bored. Penders wrote a bit where Sonic, finding out that Sally wasn't dead after all, kissed her on the mouth? Sega made him change it to a peck on the cheek. Sonic was barely allowed to show an emotion north or south of 'Tude, barely allowed to like girls, and slept in a fucking race car bed.

(Let me stress that these are all real examples.)

So, y'know, it ain't exactly The Prince and the Pauper. I'm not crazy about my "career", and I grant that getting paid to write fan fiction about my favorite video game characters sounds like a pretty sweet deal. But in practice? Well, I wish Potto the best and I'm glad he seems a lot happier doing it than I probably would.

Why No Ditko/Marvel Boycott

Two days ago I mentioned, in passing, that while I'm boycotting Kirby-derived Marvel products, I'm not boycotting Ditko-derived ones.

Now, Ditko got much the same raw deal as Kirby back in the 1960's, and left under similar acrimonious circumstances.

But the major difference is this: while Kirby and his heirs asked for a better deal with Marvel and Marvel responded by suing them, Ditko was offered a better deal and he refused.

A couple of years back, Kurt Busiek said this in a comments thread at Robot 6:

And reportedly, Ditko also feels that Marvel owes him millions, and he's refused the money they've offered him as a bonus from the Spider-Man movie because he feels it's not enough. He thinks they owe him far, far more, and won't compromise his principles by settling for a lesser payment than he deserves.

He feels he was made promises that Marvel hasn't lived up to, going back to those inflatable Spider-Man pillows from the 1960s. That he's lived up to what he sees as his side of the bargain, and he won't renege on it even though he feels Marvel hasn't lived up to theirs. In his worldview, that shames them, not him.

But if you think Ditko thinks he doesn't deserve to be paid more than his page rate, then you're mistaken.

(While Busiek provides no primary source, he has a reputation for doing his homework; I am inclined to believe him on this one.)

I suspect -- though this is conjecture on my part -- that Ditko didn't merely refuse the money because he believed he was owed more, but that Marvel actually would have made him sign a contract stating that he was not entitled to any more. Rather like the one Kirby signed in the 1980's -- Marvel agreed to return Jack's original art in exchange for Jack signing a contract saying he had no claim to any of the characters he'd created. Marvel never lived up to its end of the agreement; the courts have found that while the statute of limitations has expired and Marvel is no longer obligated to return Kirby's art, it can still use that contract as evidence to prevent Kirby's children from reclaiming the rights to any of his characters.

So you can see why Ditko would be wary of signing anything Marvel offers him.

That said: he was offered something, and he refused it. It may have been a bad offer, he certainly had every right to refuse, but that's still fundamentally different from the Kirby situation, where both Jack and, subsequently, his heirs, have been denied anything at all beyond his original page rate, and Marvel has actually sued to keep it that way. Marvel's actions toward Ditko have been deplorable, but at least they've made a token effort to give him something.

Ditko, unlike Kirby, has also received a prominent creator credit in the Spider-Man movies (it's right upfront in the opening credits, as opposed to being buried 2/3 of the way down the closing credits). He certainly doesn't receive the recognition that Stan Lee does, but that too is a result of his own choices; as Mark Evanier recently put it:

The man has every right, of course, to refuse publicity and interviews but it's one of the reasons so many people think Stan Lee created Spider-Man all by himself. From Ditko's occasional letters in print, it's obvious this bothers him greatly...and it would bother anyone. But Lee is a great interview and Ditko is a non-interview and if you don't wave to the search party, there's a real good chance they're going to overlook you. I don't expect this to ever change. And nowadays when I talk about the many injustices in how the comic book industry has shorted major talents on money and/or credit, I've moved Ditko way down the list.

Ditko wants recognition but he refuses to grant interviews or even be photographed. While I can certainly admire his position -- that the work speaks for itself and that he should be recognized for his art instead of, say, being recognized for cameos in a bunch of movies based on it --, it's not a very realistic one.

In a nutshell, the reason I am boycotting Kirby-derived Marvel product and not Ditko-derived Marvel product is this: Kirby and his heirs have been denied money and recognition, while Ditko has refused money and recognition.

(In practice, lately it's amounted to the same thing. I haven't bought a Spider-Man comic in a couple years -- though I've been a Dan Slott fan since his Ren & Stimpy days and I hear his current Spidey work is great! -- and haven't seen Amazing Spider-Man. But as I've noted before, there's a difference between boycotting something and just not buying it.)

Shot Across the Bow

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the ending of the Avengers movie. (Though if you've made it two months without hearing about it, you probably don't care.)

So I've made it just past a month of posting every day, and closer to two months with Regular Updates. The post that kicked it off was about Avengers and creators' rights, and those types of posts seem to be my most popular ones. I've gotten E-Mails from a couple of unexpected readers at this point thanking me for my comments, and given that I get a couple of dozen visitors on a good day and most of those are people looking for Final Fantasy 7 mods, I'm a little surprised and flattered by that.

So here's another post about Avengers and creators' rights. Today we're going to talk about Jim Starlin and his creation, Thanos.

Thanos shows up in the end of the Avengers movie. He's only onscreen for a short tease, but it's a big moment, the reveal of the bad guy who set all this in motion and is now positioned as the major antagonist for the sequel.

More than that, actually: Marvel's working on a Guardians of the Galaxy picture, widely speculated to feature Thanos and give him some background before Avengers 2.

The LA Times' Hero Complex interviewed Starlin after Avengers came out, and it included this exchange:

HC: I spoke to Jerry Robinson once and I congratulated him on the billion-dollar success of "The Dark Knight" and he winced like I had poked him in the eye. Of course I instantly realized that watching Alfred, the Joker, Two-Face, etc. fill the coffers of Warner Bros. was like watching a son raised in another house with another family's name. I don't know the arrangements on this film, but has this project and its success been a mixed experience in any way?

JS: Very mixed. It's nice to see my work recognized as being worth something beyond the printed page, and it was very cool seeing Thanos up on the big screen. Joss Whedon and his crew did an excellent job on "The Avengers" movie and I look forward to the sequel, for obvious reasons. But this is the second film that had something I created for Marvel in it -- the Infinity Gauntlet in "Thor" being the other -- and both films I had to pay for my own ticket to see them. Financial compensation to the creators of these characters doesn't appear to be part of the equation. Hopefully Thanos' walk-on in "The Avengers" will give a boost to a number of my own properties that are in various stages of development for film: "Dreadstar," "Breed" and the novel "Thinning the Predators."

Of course, Thanos's appearance in Avengers has ignited some interest in the character; Marvel's got some new series with him coming out, as well as reprinting some old ones. In a recent post at Bleeding Cool, Rich Johnson saw a press release for a "new" Thanos miniseries and misunderstood Marvel's present-tense copy to imply that it was new work from Starlin rather than a reprint.

But it isn't. Starlin quit freelancing for Marvel back around the beginning of '04, citing the standard "irreconcilable differences".

And while I expect Starlin would get royalties if Marvel reprinted work he'd done in the past 25 years or so, these reprints are books he did back in '77, so he's most likely getting nothing for them.

So that's the story so far. Marvel is preparing a big marketing push involving Thanos, which may culminate in a major role in two Hollywood blockbusters. And it's not sharing anything with his creator.

So when Starlin posted a picture of Thanos on his Facebook account the other day, with these words:

This is probably one of the first concept drawings of Thanos I ever did, long before I started working at Marvel. Jack Kirby's Metron is clearly the more dominant influence in this character's look. Not Darkseid. Both D and T started off much smaller than they eventually became. This was one of the drawings I had in my portfolio when I was hired by Marvel. It was later inked by Rich Buckler.

that may sound like just a "Hey, here's a neat historical artifact I found, check it out" post. But Heidi MacDonald reads it as something much bigger, and I'm inclined to agree.

That seemingly-offhand reference to it being in his portfolio before he was hired by Marvel? What that actually says is, "Thanos was not created as work-for-hire, and I have proof."

I've talked, at some length, about the Kirby heirs' legal battle for the rights to Kirby's characters. Marvel v Kirby to date has hinged on Stan Lee's testimony and a lack of hard evidence contradicting it. Stan says everything Jack did at Marvel was work-for-hire and none of his characters were created independently of Marvel's requests, and Jack's heirs have been unable to produce art proving that he created characters on his own time before pitching them to Marvel. (I have opined, more than once, that such evidence was probably in the box or boxes of Kirby art stolen from Marvel in the 1980's before it could be returned to him; there is of course no proof of this but things certainly worked out well for Marvel.) There's no such problem here; Starlin has solid proof that he created Thanos before he went to work for Marvel, and therefore Thanos was not created for-hire.

Now, there are some other questions that arise.

The biggest is, did Starlin transfer the rights to Thanos to Marvel?

Marvel didn't keep good records at that point. Contracts were seldom formal affairs; more commonly, Marvel printed a legend on the back of a freelancer's paycheck saying that in exchange for the pay he transferred all rights to them.

Back-of-the-check contracts are dicey affairs. There's an argument to be made that they're coercive; after all, waiting until after an artist has already done his work expecting a payout for it -- a check he may very well need for rent and food -- and then hitting him with a "By the way, give up ownership or we won't pay you" doesn't exactly create an even playing field for negotiations.

Be that as it may, Marvel's back-of-the-check contracts were upheld recently in Friedrich v Marvel. I've heard that they were also upheld in DeCarlo v Archie but I can't find a primary source to verify that; the summary judgement I found appears to be based on later, more formal contracts that DeCarlo signed, not an original back-of-the-check contract.

But that still means that, if Starlin were to claim ownership of Thanos in court (and this is pure speculation, mind; he's made no indication that he intends to do so), Marvel would want to produce a copy of any contract he signed with them, back-of-the-check or otherwise.

(I've also heard that Starlin crossed out the legend on the back of his checks before signing them, though I haven't seen any primary-source verification on that claim. That would itself make for an interesting legal case -- even assuming back-of-the-check contracts are legally binding in the first place, what if you don't sign, or cross the contract out, and the check still clears? That might not be a wise thing to risk an entire suit on, but it would be fascinating.)

There's another wrinkle, as noted by Nat Gertler in The Beat's comments section:

We’re more likely to run into the Blade situation, which ended up resting (in my not-a-lawyer understanding of the case) not on the question of whether it was work for hire, but on the question of whether the similarities between the original Blade and the movie Blade were sufficient to be infringing.

That's an important point too. Marv Wolfman sued Marvel over the rights to Blade under similar circumstances, and a judge ruled that Marvel's Blade was so substantially different from Wolfman's version as to be legally distinct. And given that so far we've only had a brief tease of Thanos, Marvel's still got two films to make the "substantially different" case.

And there's another point to consider: even if Starlin did transfer the Thanos rights to Marvel, he's permitted to terminate the transfer after 56 years. Thanos first appeared in '73, so Starlin (or, if he doesn't live that long, his statutory heirs) can reclaim him in 2029. And Kurt Busiek (also in the comments section of that Beat post) suggests that this might be a negotiating tactic -- Starlin could agree not to seek reversion in exchange for a percent of royalties for Thanos's use, for example.

Indeed, that comments section is well worth reading, largely because of Nat and Kurt's input. There are a couple of the usual anti-creator types in there (and I'm pretty sure at least one of them is a troll, seeing as he wades right in and immediately says the most provocative and factually wrong thing he possibly can) but if you step over them and get to the people who actually know what they're talking about, you might learn something.

Speaking of anti-creator fanboys? Well, in the Kirby case the constant refrain has been "Kirby's heirs didn't do anything so they don't deserve anything." This, of course, is a case where a creator is still alive. Will that change anything? Will the people pooh-poohing the Kirby heirs' suit rally behind Starlin?

Well, to be fair, some of them might. But in general? Well, here's what one guy said to me a couple of months ago when I brought up Starlin's complaint that Marvel hadn't so much as bought him a movie ticket:

I think Starlin was about as uninvolved in the making of the movie as a person could possibly be. I'd wager I had as much to do with making The Avengers as Jim Starlin did. Granted, I didn't have a character show up for all of a 2 second reveal, but beyond that, our contributions were the same. Where's my free ticket?

(By the way, I got a free ticket to see Avengers. So that means I got more for the movie than Jim Starlin did.)

He went on to make a slippery-slope argument that compensating creators is equivalent to just putting the characters right out into the public domain and will end DC and Marvel, an absurd position I've dismantled previously. (tl;dr no dude a few million dollars for creators is not going to bankrupt the company that just made a billion dollars on its movie.)

Guys like that? It's not about the law and it's not about the ethics. It's The Spice Must Flow. It doesn't matter how Marvel treats creators, as long as it keeps putting out product to consume.

There's always a fresh rationalization on the horizon. "He signed a contract." No he didn't. "Well, he's dead now." Okay, but this guy's alive. "The character we know is the work of dozens of creators over a period of decades, so no one person can really claim credit to him." Even if that were true in some cases, Thanos is unmistakably Jim Starlin's character. "Well, it was only a tiny cameo, so he's not entitled to anything." And once Thanos has more than a cameo, it's going to be "Well okay, that's terrible, but the industry's not like that anymore; it's all better now." (A point Scott Kurtz raised recently, right about two weeks before Static co-creator Robert Washington III died of multiple heart attacks at the age of 47 and his family had to turn to charity to get him buried.)

There is and will continue to be a vocal minority of comic book fans who will side with the publishers no matter what. (Oh God how I hope it's a minority -- but I think it is. You can find a vocal population of people on the Internet who will angrily, zealously defend absolutely any dumbass position you can possibly think of.) And it's particularly galling when that includes guys like Kurtz, an actual cartoonist who makes an actual living from actual creator-owned comics. But The Spice Must Flow -- they like Marvel, they like the comics and the movies and the characters and the shared universe, and they see attempts at compensation by the people who actually created those characters as a threat. A threat to the free flow of those comics and movies or, perhaps even worse, the threat of making them feel guilty for enjoying them.

I think that's why justifications like "Well the heirs didn't do it so they don't deserve anything" and "Well okay, that's how it was in the Bad Old Days but it just doesn't happen anymore" are so prevalent: because they show a sympathy toward creators without actually indicting the current management at Disney/Marvel for any kind of wrongdoing. It means they don't have to feel bad about buying the latest issue of Daredevil (which, don't get me wrong, I hear is a really excellent comic -- and I'm certainly not asking you to feel bad if you buy it!).

But strip those away and there's always another excuse, always another justification.

And hell, maybe I'm just as knee-jerk in coming down on the side of creators over corporations. (Ken Penders might disagree -- I'm not allowed to post on his forums and I suspect it's because I once described his claims against Archie as "some legitimately crazy shit" -- but truth be told I hope he's right and I hope he wins. And yeah that comment was pretty out-of-line and I should probably walk it back to "I am skeptical but wish him luck.") But you know, I don't feel too bad about knee-jerk support of human beings. I don't mind being the guy who says "You know, if a movie makes a billion dollars, the guys who created the characters it's based on should get a higher share of that than zero percent."

Course, appeals to emotion aren't going to help Starlin get any compensation.

The good news is, he seems to have a better case and more leverage than most of the other comic creators who've fought Goliath.

Or maybe he just wanted to show people a drawing of Thanos. I dunno, I'm not a mind reader.