The character rights to Superman have been in dispute for some time now. The court case between Warner Brothers and the Siegel and Shuster families has raged for quite some time. An original deal was made with the Shuster family and Warner Brothers in the early nineties that would allow payments throughout their lifetime for the use of Superman. A similar deal was supposedly reached with the Siegels in the early 2000s as well. Those deals notwithstanding, both families have been embroiled in legal battles with Warner Brothers over ownership rights. Close to a year ago the Siegel family lost their final appeal and this week the same court that shut down that case ruled against the Shusters as well, securing all rights to Superman and any characters derived from his use for Warner Brothers.
With talks of copyright extension in the news it is interesting to take a look at this case and see how different and yet the same things are within the comic book industry when it comes to the handling of work for hire. DC Comics does have a fairly decent track record as of late. Talks of royalty checks showing up in Chuck Dixon’s mailbox when The Dark Knight Rises hit theaters for his contributions to creating Bane got a lot of press. Apparently DC has no incentive to do this, but did so for reasons nobody can truly fathom. Creator rights seem to be a very broad spectrum from case to case. I think everyone is quite aware of how Marvel treated Jack Kirby and Joe Simon regarding their contributions to the Marvel universe.
Most people who do work for hire understand the ramifications of that. Look at Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker and their reactions to the Jim Gordon TV show announcement and the use of The Winter Soldier. They know that Marvel is well within their rights to use those characters and ideas because that was in the terms of their contract with the company. Most creators are realistic when it comes to how their work-for-hire output is utilized and what expectations they should have regarding compensation. Siegel and Shuster were in a very different boat when they made their deal with DC comics in the early twentieth century. They tried to secure a fair shake for their involvement when they were alive and their family continued that fight after their deaths.
The world of copyright and creator rights is an ever shifting landscape. The comics industry should certainly treat their creators with more respect. The people in charge would not have these characters without the creative types doing their job. Royalties for new creations shouldn’t be such a stumbling block. I don’t work for any of the major companies so I don’t want to overstep my bounds. But I don’t think I’m going out on too far of a limb to say that I support creators and creator rights and think that its not bad business to support the people who keep your enterprise alive.
I consider this site to be one of Greg Rucka’s biggest cheerleaders. We think the guy is amazing and will hype up his work as much as we can because nine times out of ten (a conservative estimate) he knocks whatever projects he’s working on out of the park. So the news out of NYCC that he’ll be penning a five-issue miniseries for Dark Horse to be illustrated by Toni Fejzula gives us a real case of the giddies. The log line seems right up Mr. Rucka’s alley;
“A beautiful girl wakes up in an abandoned subway station with no memory of how she got there. When men try to hurt her . . . they wind up dead. Where did she come from? And what is she capable of?”
The book is expected to hit shelves and digital download next March and mark another notch in Rucka’s amazing creator owned comics slam-dunk belt.
I am an unabashed fan of Greg Rucka. His comics work is peerless and his novels are some of my favorites. I’ve met him more than a few times, he’s signed countless books for me while I’ve gushed over his character work and picked his brain for writing tips. He’s one of the most honest writers you could ever hope to encounter as well as one of the most gracious. His perceived masterwork is Queen and Country, a comic series from Oni Press supplemented by a trio of prose novels following the hard-boiled covert operative Tara Chase. It because of Queen and Country that Rucka receives much of his praise for writing strong, fully-developed female characters that are such a rarity in not just comics but all forms of media. The book has been in a cycle of development hell at Fox studios since 2005.
Yesterday news broke that Ellen Page, she of Juno and Cisco networking television commercial fame, is in negotiations to star as Tara in a film adaptation of Rucka’s series. The words “franchise potential” seem to be getting thrown around a lot with regards to this news and while in a perfect world I would thank whatever deity that claimed responsibility for such a thing with whatever tribute he/she demanded, I am hesitant to grow excited about this news just yet. For one, I am not wholly convinced that Ellen Page, the spritely little Canadian, is the right choice to play a rough and tumble British secret agent. Casting for a film like this is extremely important, and the fact that the first thing I hear out of the gate is that they are trying to make a franchise for the star rather than focus on adapting the books faithfully with some sort of artistic through line bothers me just a little bit.
I remain optimistic about the film. Ellen Page is a wonderful actress and I’m sure she can pull it off. That’s why it’s called acting. What I truly want to know is what sort of people will be working on the script and who they’ll get behind the camera. I’m sure Page will lend a hand as a producer, that isn’t much of a stretch. So much of the film is simply an idea right now, which is why I’m reining myself in a little bit with regards to my feeling on the matter. This article is mainly a warning that when news does start to trickle in about Q&C in the future, I’ll be nitpicking it to hell and back because I’m a fan and I’m on the internet and that is the way of things.
So we have a Wonder Woman. Adrianne Palicki (which is a last name sure to invite nerd-drooling innuendo for the foreseeable future) has been reportedly cast as the Amazonian princess in David Kelley’s adaptation of Wonder Woman set to air on NBC. Palicki stands at 5’11” and has the build necessary to pull off the character believably though she’s going to have to spend some time with a dye pack to get her hair to the jet-black sheen we’re used to seeing with Wonder Woman. All that truly is in question right now is how well she will be able to portray the character. I do not have any real idea of how well she can play the part as I honestly haven’t seen her in anything live-action, my only experience with her in any form is from her voice work in bits on Robot Chicken and Titan Maximum. Apparently she was in an episode of Smallville once upon a time but nothing about that show really left much of an impression on me other than how badly I want to make out with Allison Mack, because let’s face it, that woman is amazing.
So now we have our Wonder Woman, and the vocal Wondy fans will likely spend the next few months complaining about it as I’ve learned that Wonder Woman fans are 90% psychotic. Their obsession with the minutia of her character is unparalleled and this is equally insane due to the fact that Wonder Woman has to be the least consistent character in the DC universe, paling only in comparison to Donna Troy who herself is part of the Wonder Woman continuity clusterfuck. I’m not saying I don’t like the character, as I’ve got a pretty much a full run of her issues from the moment George Perez took over following the first Crisis through Rucka’s run up through Simone’s and even currently through this current JMS debacle but I’ll be damned if I ever met a Wonder Woman fan who didn’t make me raise my eyebrows and inch for the door just ever so slightly.
Last night I was able to attend a signing/q&a session with prolific writer Greg Rucka at Houston bookstore Murder by the Book. If you live in the Houston area and are into any sort of crime fiction you would be a total idiot not to check out their store as it is just a fine establishment. I recommend it with every fiber of my being.
Anyhow, Mr. Rucka was appearing last night to discuss his latest novel, an entry into the Queen & Country series which he launched at Oni Press with a series of comics that evolved into a series of novels. It’s one of the few instances where a comic character gets a novel and it doesn’t seem trite. I see novels about Superman and while I understand the appeal, at the same time it feels odd. Like a turkey riding a horse. Terrible analogy, but it stays.
Mr. Rucka started off by giving an explanation of what the series was all about and a little bit about how he likes to work as a writer, which for me was basically like porn because as someone who’s desperately trying to find an ending to his novel Mr. Rucka’s explanations gave me a nudge in the right direction. Coming from someone who has been writing for the better part of two decades, even the simplest explanations of process can be illuminating.
The Q&A was fun and informative, with a healthy dose of questions posed about both his prose work as well as his dealings in the comic industry, which I found refreshing in their candor. Mr. Rucka obviously has no reason to hold back now that he’s almost exclusively writing novels or his own independent creator-owned books for Oni Press. He reiterated what a lot of people have been saying that so long as comic customers keep purchasing the event-driven books that the product will remain to continue in that vein.
I had the chance to chime in with some questions, mainly since he’s written so many characters of his own creation if there were any characters that he found more difficult to write than others, to which he replied that he didn’t like to write Spider-Man, mainly due to his consistently whiny nature, a problem that Rucka says most Marvel characters share. He went on to explain that he loves the DC characters because of their simplistic elegance, going on to echo my sentiments about Superman that his stories are necessary in order to provide a beacon in a darker world. His enthusiasm for the DC characters really showed through, which makes his departure from the upcoming Batwoman series so disheartening, although he did confide in me that he has seen some of JH Williams’ artwork for the series and that we will be blown away.
He signed a stack of my books, including a copy of his first issue on Detective which I also was able to get signed by Williams a few months back and a copy of the first trade of Gotham Central which has a signature from Michael Lark. Both of these are now lovingly displayed in my office.
I hope he comes back to town as he made a verbal agreement to go out for drinks with myself and a few of my cohorts who attended the event. Unfortunately the man had been up since three in the morning and wasn’t prepared for a night of attempting to drink with Texas folk.
According to DC’s THE SOURCE the previously announced Batwoman series that would have been written by Greg Rucka before his exodus from the company, will be moving forward with Detective Comics artist J.H. Williams III taking on the writing duties as well as doing the art for the book. This gives me a lot of hope for a decent book as I have a feeling that Williams will probably be working off notes left on Rucka’s drawing board when he was still planning to write the series.
This is good news as it proves that DC has enough faith in the character that she can sustain a book without it being part of an established series and also that she’s a strong enough entity that one writer can leave the book and the fans will still remain on board. They’re playing it safe by keeping the Eiser award nominated artist on board, but this is a step in the right direction after rumblings that the series would be put on the shelf without Rucka to steer the boat.
All of this ties into my general attitude toward mainline comic companies and their seemingly strict inability to get new characters to stick around in any real capacity of their own, instead giving up on them and relegating them to team books that have only a marginally higher readership than the new hero’s cancelled title (Blue Beetle anybody?). I figure with Batwoman, the hype she got even before she showed up as well as the fact that she has bat-family ties, makes her sort of bulletproof in the eyes of editorial, and so she’s safe by virtue of circumstance. I’ll take that victory in whatever way I can.
I think it’s common knowledge around these parts how much I love the Batwoman driven Detective Comics title. And while a great deal of that love comes from my unabashed love of J.H. Williams III’s wonderful artwork, just as much of it comes from writer Greg Rucka, who has turned a character who could have been a throwaway token lesbian into someone fully developed by subtle characterization and organic growth.
Now the news has broken out of Wondercon that Greg Rucka will be leaving the title and focusing on work outside of the comic industry. I’m not going to rant and rave about how disappointed I am, because as an artist I understand that if doesn’t want to work within someone else’s system, under someone else’s mandate, and would rather let his mind work freely, he should be allowed to do so and commended for having the strength to do it. The main crux of this little article is meant to illuminate what I believe to be a major problem with the DC system, namely, the manner in which their writers are promoted as an entity.
Look at the way Marvel handles their writers. Names like Bendis, Brubaker, Fraction, Slott, etc. are treated like they’re members of some holy pantheon. They put their writers up on a pedestal in such a way that even if we have never heard their names before, the marketing forces us to sit with mouths agape in awe. One only need look at the way Quesada pushed the rotating teams of writers on the Amazing Spider-Man title as an example of how Marvel sells the writer just as much as they do the book itself.
And DC does the same thing, to a point. But my main problem with DC is that at this moment, with Rucka exiting, it’s easy to see that DC doesn’t promote their talent roster the same way that Marvel does. I will be the first to admit that DC has just as many good writers as Marvel, if not more. The difference is the way in which they tier them. DC has Morrison and Johns at the top, with Stracynski joining them after getting little fanfare during his little run on Brave and The Bold. But where is the hype for people like Matt Sturges, who is knocking it out of the park with JSA All Stars? Where’s the love for Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray? People will claim that these names don’t sell books, but that’s my entire point. Marvel has an entire marketing machine built around making their writers, ALL their writers, seem like the cream of the crop. You don’t think people would be consistently buying JSA All Stars if DC ran to Wizard every month telling people how important the work he’s doing there will be at some point? If they splattered editorials all over the internet proclaiming him to be the next Geoff Johns? You bet your ass!
I’m afraid that DC is going to rely on the same “established” writers they’ve had on their books for the last several years, like Winnick and now Robinson, who has fallen so far from his wonderful work on Starman to the point that I can barely read any of his work. JT Krul has been getting a lot of high profile gigs but they’re doing nothing to inspire consumer confidence in him as a writer. The same goes for all the new blood that seems to be working their way into the system. In this regard, DC really needs to take a page out of Marvel’s handbook and start working some marketing mojo.
That is all.