Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valentines for Creeps and my two cents

I drew these last year and the year before for Valentines' Day. Here are some new ones in addition to previous ones, this time made so you can actually print them and give them out. Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket

And nobody gives a shit about my opinions, but it's my blog, and I'll do what I want.

If you're on social network sites like me, you know every day there's a new cause du jour. This weekend it's outraged comic fans talking about Marvel Comics.

As I understand it, writer Gary Friedrich has been forced to pay legal costs for a countersuit. He sued them initially over rights to the character Ghost Rider he created for them. They have a new movie coming out and they won't be giving him a cut. Marvel has a history of screwing its creators (or their estates) and forcing them to legally acknowledge that Marvel Comics, and not they, are the true authors of the works. From Jack Kirby to Steve Gerber to Marv Wolfman.
Legally, I don't believe he had a leg to stand on. He signed his rights away years ago when he created the character. I think Marvel used to even have the contract on the back of their checks so you'd have to sign it in order to get the money. If the checks were never endorsed, then the true rights would be questionable, though I doubt that ever happened. When you do work-for-hire, you sign your rights away. If you have a creation you want to own the copyright on, negotiate the terms or better yet, do it for another company more friendly to creators and lets you keep the copyright.

Back to Gary Friedrich, not only did he lose his lawsuit against Marvel, they sued him back forbidding him to call himself the creator of Ghost Rider at any appearances, similar to how Clayton Moore was not allowed to wear the Lone Ranger mask. People like Lou Ferrigno are allowed to cash in on their involvement with Marvel's characters, but Gary Friedrich is not. No surprise that he lost the lawsuit, because that's what corporations do, dick over employees. Companies often don't just have lawyers on retainer to protect their trademarks, often they hire lawyers to look for suit-worthy situations they otherwise wouldn't know or care about. In this case, Friedrich not only lost the lawsuit they filed against him, he's forced to pay their legal bills to the tune of $17,000. Now the internet's exploding with a call not just to boycott the upcoming Ghost Rider movie but saying that Nicolas Cage, who's starring in the movie, should pay the legal fees, chump change for him, if he has any conscience.
I'm all for that. Corporations may legally be in the right to fuck over creators, but morally I feel they're in the wrong for building an empire an individual created for them. The comics are basically an ad for the movies and merchandising. They don't have to, but giving a creator a piece of the pie is the right thing to do. If corporations are people, that means they should have feelings.

For the most part, I've been boycotting Marvel since 1987. But only for the same reason I “boycotted” the Superbowl or the Top 40. I just don't care about them anymore. I still buy some of their product when they reprint old stuff or to see how someone like Peter Bagge handles the characters. They're not exactly for me. I'm an adult and the comics are for kids. I have a fondness for a lot of what they did in the 70's not because they were better then, but because I was the right age at the time. I like the first three Star Wars movies only because they were a part of my childhood. I wouldn't expect anyone over 50 or under 30 to see them the same way, though. People always argue when something like Mad, Saturday Night Live, or anything long-running was at its best and I always counter that often things don't jump the shark, your tastes change as you get older.

If you choose to boycott Marvel, I support you, but only if you go all the way. Don't just refuse to buy their comics, refuse to buy anything at the store that sells them. Marvel is a subsidiary of Disney, so you should also boycott all other subsidiaries, and any trademarks like the Muppets. It's not enough to refuse to see any movies with their characters, boycott everything the studio makes or anything starring those actors. And any theater showing their movies. Otherwise it's not really a boycott, it's just venting.
My own stand on this? I strongly side with creators on owning what they create, but it's a smaller issue than bigots running for President and people who believe in ghosts having a say in reproductive health. I'll support a smaller business and not a chain when I have a choice, but like I said, screwing people over for maximum profit is nothing new, it's what corporations do.


  1. You really squandered an opportunity on that wood one.

  2. Sam,
    I agree and I disagree. I agree that a total boycott is a desirable action, but I disagree on it needing to be a total one. A focussed boycott of one arm of the octopus can be a very effective tactic. Given the size of this particular cephalopod, and the number of connected entities - theme parks, Pixar, you could argue Apple Computers - and licensing parties - AME Marvel superhero underwear, Hasbro toys, Williams-Sonoma Marvel branded cooking stuff... it goes on and on. I have an impression that people are blind to the scope of the exploitation involved here. It makes me sick whenever I see a Kirby (or whomever else's) image badly 'shopped onto whichever new product. It's endless streams of Thor t-shirts and other garbage. A concerted effort to focus on shutting down the Avengers movie or ignoring one issue of one comic could certainly make some sort of impact. Ultimately what is needed is a denial of this whole horrible system. The Diamond dominated model cannot prevail. Alternatives will rise up.

  3. For an added level of irony:

  4. True, the level is up to the person, and making the general public aware of an artist's plight is a good thing, but people don't boycott Monsanto's tomatoes and continue to eat their carrots (I pulled this out of my ass without checking facts, but you know what I mean). Anything else one chooses to buy of Marvel's was also built on scab labor and ripping off the true creators.

    And I wouldn't doubt it Gary Friedrich created the attributes and an editor gave him the name which they needed to keep the trademark for. Marvel was a third-rate company that gained lead status from appropriating things in the public domain, reviving old characters to keep the copyright, and producing imitations of other company's properties. By their own admission, Fantastic Four was created as an answer to JLA.