It’s been a while since I’ve provided an update on what’s going on with me and the works I’ve been currently doing.
I mentioned before that I’m working on two things simultaneously: A graphic novel project done in collaboration with an artist friend of mine and my next novel.
The graphic novel, from my part, is completely written and therefore the bulk of the work is on my artist-friend’s shoulder and it will be a little bit before we have enough material to publish the first of what I’m thinking will be three books.
As for my latest novel, a couple of days ago I finished the 2nd draft of the book. It’s a very full draft and presents the story’s elements from start to end. I was having issues, as I wrote before in some updates, about the way the book ends but I’m quite happy with what I’ve come up with.
It is, though, a second draft. As good as I feel it is, and I feel it is very good, I’m guessing there are things I’ll be adding to put more “meat on the bone” and make the book a little more fully realized.
Having said that, I’m confident that part will not take as much time as its taken me to get all those other elements together.
Bottom line is that things are certainly moving ahead and I’m looking forward to having some interesting releases… hopefully by a little later this year!
In that time, news came over that Al Jaffee had passed away at the age of 102…
Those familiar with Mad Magazine no doubt are familiar with that name. Mr. Jaffee had a very long career with the magazine and will likely be best remembered for his “Fold-Ins”, often found at the end of the magazine and which involved the reader folding in the final page and creating a new, humorous image. A before and after example:
He was a master of the comic book form and did other very humorous features for Mad Magazine and lived a very long and productive life.
I hope everyone has as long and productive life as he has!
In other, far more depressing news, we seem to be having more and more shootings in this country and… I wonder when this will finally resonate with certain members of the Republican party.
Instead, they seem to be focused on “woke beer”. I wish I was kidding. Below is a couple of pictures taken from a YouTube video posted by illustrious musician Kid Rock wherein he mows down the ghastly beer and… sigh…
See, TikToker and trans activist Dylan Mulvaney became a source of controversy in the right-wing sphere when Bud Light announced she would be their latest spokesperson… or something.
Honestly, until this whole tempest in a teapot, I didn’t know Dylan Mulvaney. Here she is with the beer in question…
Seriously, that’s the reason to get all bent?
Let me also say, for the record, that while I don’t consider myself a prude, I’m not into alcoholic beverages. I’ve tried plenty of different ones over my life but they don’t do much for me. If I’m honest, I don’t like the taste of beer at all, though I have found it can add a pleasant taste to some cooked meals.
Anyway, I suppose for those on the right it’s another reason to get incensed over something that in the long run doesn’t matter all that much at all.
But don’t worry.
Give it a week or so and they’ll find some fresh new hell to get worked up about.
There have been plenty of other things going on, big and small, but I’ll conclude with this: The disastrous box office of Shazam! Fury of the Gods.
The sequel to the successful 2019 Shazam! film, there was a feeling this film simply didn’t have all that much demand. Early projections were very low and when the film was eventually released only three weeks ago, those projections proved accurate.
The film, which this week has become available to purchase digitally, likely won’t quite reach $60 million in the domestic box office.
Which made one wonder: With the also lackluster (but better) box office of Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, is it possible the whole superhero genre may be running out of gas?
It’s certainly possible, though word of mouth for Ant-Man was far more negative, I thought, than Shazam! The problem with Shazam! appeared to be that no one seemed to really care to see the film. Perhaps this has something to do with audiences feeling little need to see the “old” DC movies and having more anticipation for the new films James Gunn is producing.
Do you have this vague memory from your childhood, say a movie or TV show or perhaps a book or comic book that you read/saw/etc. and would love to see again but you just don’t quite know what the thing you read/saw/etc. was?
I have plenty of such fragmentary memories and, luckily for me, we live in an era where if you look around the internet with a bit of diligence you may eventually find such items.
In this particular case, it was a comic book story. I recalled it involved a guy -our main character- who goes to a cornfield looking for work. There, he meets Death. Death, as it turns out, is tending to his crop of corn.
The upshot of the story is that Death is looking for a replacement, someone who will tend to the crops and, at day’s end, take some of the grown corn to his shack where they will eat them. See, each individual kernel of corn has the face of someone who will die on it. Thus Death has its “meal” and those whose faces are on the kernels die, including (the story’s punchline) the main character’s wife.
For many, many, many years I’ve sought that story. I’ve longed to see it once again but I had only vague memories of where it could be.
I was certain it was published in a comic book released likely in the late 1970’s. I realized, after a while and after collecting horror comic books from that era, that it was likely a DC comic and I became certain, based on memory alone, that the artist who drew the story was likely Jerry Grandinetti.
While over the passage of years certain artists may become very famous and their work well known, others may fall by the wayside and be somewhat forgotten.
His work was even (ahem) used by Roy Lichtenstein in a couple of his pop art pieces.
By the 1970’s his artwork had become very unique and, let’s be honest, perhaps a little too odd for popular consumption. The artwork, in my opinion, looked like comic book versions of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, expressionistic works with heavy shadows and almost bizarre backgrounds. The piece below appeared, based on what is written at the top of the page, in the DC horror title Unexpected…
It was because I spent some time into the 1980’s and 90’s (perhaps even a little beyond) collecting DC horror titles like The Witching Hour, The House of Mystery/Secrets, The Unexpected, and Ghosts among other titles and stumbling upon stories drawn by Mr. Grandinetti that I realized my memory of that corn-farming Death story was very likely drawn by him.
But where was it?
I couldn’t recall which of the DC horror books it was in. I couldn’t recall the cover of the particular issue it might have been in.
And over the weekend, I thought about that story and decided I would once again try to find it.
This time, I succeeded.
Looking around over the weekend, I found a website that offered a list of Jerry Grandinetti’s comic book work and, specifically, his stories presented in the DC Horror comics and, voila, I found House of Mystery 261 from October of 1978.
As you can tell from the cover alone (something I don’t recall, even though I do recall the Grandinetti illustrated story within!) it is obviously showing Death holding corn and, you guessed it, the cover very much ties into the story. The story is called “The Husker” and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Mike Kaluta cover (spectacular, by the way) was drawn first and Greg Potter’s story was subsequently written to tie into that cover concept.
Anyway, looking around a little more, I found a website which offered the contents of the issue and there, finally and after all these years, I once again read the comic and the Jerry Grandinetti illustrated story. There were, to be clear, other stories within the issue but for whatever reason they didn’t stick to my mind quite as much as the Grandinetti drawn piece…
I know it is a total dream on my part, but I would dearly love it if DC comics would collect and offer a large trade paperback of all of Jerry Grandinetti’s horror stories. As I mentioned above, I’ve stumbled upon other stories he illustrated while collecting DC’s horror books and each time I find a story drawn by him I’m delighted by his weird compositions, heavy blacks, and overall look.
Either way, it’s great to finally have this particular “itch” scratched after all these years!
I swear, it seems like the days are not just rushing by, but literally rocketing before my eyes.
We’re already three months into 2023 and I can barely remember 2022 at this point.
Anyway, as I pointed out a little before, I’m currently working on two things: A (gasp) graphic novel I’m working on with a wonderful penciller and my latest novel.
I’ve written before that the novel is moving along but I do still have to figure out the novel’s ending. I’m not quite there yet but when I do crack that particular nut -and I’m sure I will eventually- everything should fall into place.
As for the graphic novel, if all works as I hope, this will be the second graphic novel I’ve ever done… in collaboration with a wonderful artist, of course. My first is The Dark Fringe, which was the very first attempt at creating a full story…
I am loathe to get into too many details of this new graphic novel simply because we’re in the very early stages of this work and I’d rather start making formal announcements when the work is near release. I will say this much: The script is complete and if all works out, the book itself will be approximately 170 pages long. It will likely be released in three volumes at first before being collected into a single volume.
So far it looks terrific and I couldn’t be happier with the work of my friend who is drawing it.
Again, I’m being a bit cryptic here but revelations will be made when the time comes.
I couldn’t tell you the first time I read a Dilbert comic strip. I can tell you that I quickly grew to love them back then, likely in the 1990’s or early 2000’s and before the internet swallowed up any need for me to still purchase newspapers.
I probably have a collection book or two somewhere of Dilbert strips. I liked the characters. I enjoyed the witty and bewildering look at being an office drone. Writing such humorous things takes quite a bit of skill and making it look “easy” takes even more. Having enough material to continue doing the strip for some 30 years? That takes genius.
But it doesn’t mean one is smart.
Back in the 1940’s and through 1977, Al Capp was renowned for his Li’l Abner comic strip…
Though known to espouse certain liberal causes, Mr. Capp would, by the late 60’s and into the 1970’s, become very conservative in his ideologies. He would end his career in controversy, accused by multiple women of sexual harassment, including a 19 year old Goldie Hawn.
And so we have Scott Adams who, with the rise of Donald Trump years ago, started to espouse a sharp right wing philosophy as well. There’s nothing wrong with espousing certain right wing ideologies, I feel, but there does come a point where they can slip a person into unforgivable areas.
Don’t take my word for it. You can go to YouTube.com and see the entirety of Mr. Adams’ video (it runs nearly an hour long) but here you get a smaller length clip that explores what has exactly happened since the video, and shows what got him into hot water to begin with…
The bottom line is that newspapers no longer want to carry Mr. Adams’ Dilbert and… I can’t blame them. I don’t know what goes through the mind of some creators. As I mentioned, Al Capp had his issues… and they may well have been even worse than those in which Mr. Adams currently falls into.
I’m familiar with and could mention other creators who have also espoused strange, perhaps even bizarre ideals and philosophies. The difference seems to be that today these things can be recorded, whether by others or by the person themselves, and posted with seemingly no awareness of how bad saying certain things may make them look.
Mr. Adams, if he was smart, has a nice nest egg thanks to his Dilbert strip. Based on the reactions thus far, he may need it because his strip may not exist for too much longer.
And, ultimately, he will have no one to blame for his misfortunes but himself.
It strikes me I haven’t provided much information about what’s been on my plate -creatively, anyway- for a while now.
One of the frustrating things about being a writer is that it takes a while for something to get done. It is more likely than not whatever project I initiate goes through various permutations and what comes out often isn’t anything like what I originally conceived.
Further, I don’t want to give details up… I want the project to be released fully formed and “done”, and that means giving “updates” on a project have to be free of many story details.
At the moment, I’m working on two projects… or rather I personally am writing my next novel while a good friend of mine -an extraordinary artist- is working on another project I’ve already written.
The novel is roughly halfway done. I’ve gotten most of the details of the first half of the book in place but have yet to fully flesh out the book’s last act. I’m getting there, thought.
As for the project done in collaboration with my good friend… I saw the first few pages of it and I can’t wait to see more. Again, don’t want to give away too much but after all the shit I’ve gone through and the sadness and madness of dealing with my parents’ passing, lawyers and judges, and banks… it’s really nice to get back to creative work.
It’s been quite literally years since the last time Henry Cavill donned the famous Superman costume for any significant length of time. It was back when Joss Whedon was doing re-shoots of the Justice League film which infamously had Cavill maintain his mustache from Mission: Impossible which was then digitally removed… quite badly.
Since then, there’s been speculation as to whether Henry Cavill would ever return to the character. To Mr. Cavill’s credit, he didn’t stoke the fires or try to pressure the studios. If anything, he’s been very low key about the possibility and (I strongly suspect on his side) hope of eventually returning to the character.
Cavill’s Superman would show up again, minus Cavill himself, in the first Shazam! film…
Yeah, they wanted Cavill to appear at the movie’s end in his Superman costume but couldn’t. Instead, they had another actor don Cavill’s costume and showed Superman from the neck down. A cheesy solution, I suppose, but what can you do?
Then, Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam showed up and, at its end, fans of Henry Cavill had a distinct thrill at the end of the film… a cameo by Henry Cavill himself…!
I suspect this cameo -supposedly pushed by Dwayne Johnson himself- helped Black Adam draw what it did in the box office, though there are conflicting analysis of how well -or badly- the film did in the end.
Regardless, we had this article by Adam B. Vary appear on variety.com:
Alas, that cameo turned out -at least for the time being- Henry Cavill’s last big hurrah as the famous comic book character.
Yesterday and on Instagram, Mr. Cavill posted the following:
Again, Mr. Cavill takes the very high road and, without bitterness, announced his retirement from the character.
Warner Brothers has been, frankly, a mess of late and this is above and beyond their DC Comics properties. When James Gunn was announced as the new “head” of the DC properties, speculation began that maybe he would start with a “clean slate” and build from the bottom up with the characters… which would mean many of the actors we have come to associate with the DC properties might have seen their last appearances as such.
Interestingly, there are still a couple of “old” DC movies to come. There’s Aquaman 2, Shazam 2, and The Flash. There was, infamously, the Batgirl film which was cancelled after being close to complete and we also heard Patty Jenkins is out as Wonder Woman director. Is Gal Gadot also done with the role?
Jason Momoa, interestingly enough, supposedly met with Gunn and was ecstatic with whatever project they proposed he be in. The safe bet is that Momoa is going to play Lobo…
Truthfully when it was originally announced that Momoa was joining the DC universe, many thought playing Lobo was a no-brainer and Aquaman, who is most often drawn as this…
…seemed an odd choice.
I felt it worked in the end, but it doesn’t entirely shock me that Momoa may be cast as Lobo. If so, will his Aquaman days be gone?
The article rightfully wonders how film studios can survive with such staggering losses and, frankly, I wonder the same.
Looking at this from a longer view, it seems to me this is part and parcel of, of all things, the arrival of home computers and the internet.
Let me explain.
When home computers first appeared they were crude yet began changing the landscape. I’m old enough to have been part of the very first generation to have one way, waaaaaaaayyyy back in the early 1980’s. My first computer was the venerable Atari 800…
Compared to what we now have, the Atari 800 was a laughably crude and for the most part primitive machine. And yet I almost instantly found a use for it. See, I was in high school at the time and the word processing program it had allowed me to write reports and get them printed out (on an equally crude and extremely slow printer) which was an incredible blessing!
No longer did I have to use a typewriter and white out errors or have to start all over again when I made too many errors. With Atari’s Word Processor, I could type and correct the whole thing and print it out only when it was ready!
A truly marvelous innovation!
Of course, the Atari computers didn’t last and soon IBM and Apple computers appeared. Apple was viewed as more “graphic” intensive but the IBM computers seemed to have the leg up. They were constantly improving and, like the mania to buy new iPhones or new gaming computers, one expected each new generation of IBM or Windows based computers to be better and better.
And they were!
And then came the internet, which is essentially phase two.
Now, you could interact with people all over the world. You could communicate via email. You could send files…
When MP3s became a thing, you no longer needed to store your music on CDs or have those vinyl records (by then, cassettes were a thing of the past and, yes, I know vinyl records are making a comeback).
You could keep your music on your computer and soon enough, even buy albums digitally without having to leave the comfort of your home. Suddenly, all those music stores I frequented -some of which were incredibly large!- were gone…
Then came the Kindle and the iPad and, as with music, now you didn’t need to actually buy physical copies of books. You could buy digital copies and buy and read them in the comfort of your home and, just like that, bookstores also became something of a thing of the past.
Certainly in my area there are only a fraction of them around like there used to be!
Alas, next in line were movies.
With the ability to create music and book files, it wasn’t long before digital copies of movies became a thing as well. Further, Netflix appeared and showed the industry that streaming was also a viable option to watching movies and TV shows.
However, people still went to theaters to see the latest releases, so things seemed to be going ok…
Until COVID hit.
Suddenly people were homebound and the studios had to hold back on releasing their upcoming films. In some cases, these films eventually were released but appeared on streaming services very quickly afterwards. It’s fair to say that films such as Wonder Woman 84, No Time to Die, and Tenet, regardless of their quality (and I know some feel they’re not great films at all), would have performed far better had COVID not kept them from being released as they should have been… and those are the three “biggest” films I can think of offhand which were victims of COVID.
Here’s the thing I’ve come to notice after spending all these years watching the ebb and flow of entertainment: Something that is big at one point might suddenly become old hat really quickly.
There was a time disco music ruled. Then, suddenly, no one wanted to hear disco music. There was a time grunge ruled. Then, it was gone.
Movie theaters for so many years have been THE place to go see new films. But with COVID, we stopped going to them en mass. Yes, there are exceptions (Top Gun Maverick and the latest Spider-Man film being two of them) but in general the entire industry is in a funk.
And now that COVID is somewhat a thing of the past (get vaccinated, people!) we’re seeing that audiences aren’t necessarily flocking back to see the latest movies. At least not quite yet.
For we have seen movies appear on various streaming services and some of us figure we’ll just wait a month or two and see whatever film is currently in theaters then.
It’s happened to me, quite frankly, with Black Adam. I’m certainly curious to see it (Dr. Fate is a favorite comic book character of mine and the fact that they got Pierce Brosnan to play the role delights me!) but frankly… I can wait.
How many other people are saying the same thing?
I’ve mentioned it before to friends of mine, but we still don’t know the extent to which the internet and home computers will affect our lives. We’re seeing it, day by day, from the early days when I realized I could use a Word Processor to write my High School reports, to realizing you can have your entire music collection on a small memory card to realizing you can have your entire library (books, comic books, magazines, etc.) on a memory card as well, to where we now realize we can stream or own movies on that same memory card.
If you’re into comic books at all, the two names I posted in the headline should be well known to you.
For those who aren’t into comic books, it’s fair to say these two were among the titans of the comic book art community and their passing is cause for great sadness.
Neal Adams burst onto the comic book scene in the late 1960’s with a style of artwork which seemed to take the power of the late Jack Kirby but merged it with a more “realistic” style.
His first jobs at DC comics generally involved doing covers, though eventually he gravitated to some supernatural stars, including Deadman…
…as well as The Spectre.
The folks at DC comics got real smart and, together with writer Denny O’Neil, the two would go on to what is perhaps their crowning achievement, taking the character of Batman -who at the time was mired in the more campy, Adam West TV show-esq pattern- and play him far more straight… and scary.
Neal Adams had a knack for mixing his superheroics with gothic and supernatural elements, and this fit the character of Batman incredibly well.
Perhaps the highlight of Neal Adams’ work on Batman, though, did not feature such gothic elements, but was rather his -and writer Denny O’Neil’s- reinterpretation of what is Batman’s nemesis, the Joker.
While Batman had become softened with the Batman TV show, The Joker had also become a far less “dangerous” criminal. As presented on the show, he was a literal clown, laughing and carrying on and never really all that scary. Neal Adams, along with author Denny O’Neil, changed that with the classic Batman #251.
But Neal Adams’ work wasn’t limited to simply making Batman -and his villains- scary again. He, along with Denny O’Neil (again) created the villainous Ra’s Al Gul, who would be featured in the first Christopher Nolan directed Batman film. The character’s daughter, Talia, was also created by the team and she would appear in the third and last of Nolan’s films…
The team of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams would also collaborate on the Green Lantern/Green Arrow comic, which was one of the very first comic books to deal with societal issues…
Perhaps the most famous sequence from their run in this series is this one, which addresses the issue of racism…
Neal Adams would work for Marvel comics as well. During the time he was working at DC he reinvigorated a moribund Marvel franchise which looked like it would wither on the proverbial vine and be completely forgotten. I’m referring, of course, to The X-Men…
His run on this series would inspire others to follow and enhance his work, including artist/writer John Byrne who, early in his career, very obviously emulated Adams’ style.
In the 1970’s Adams’ comic book work lessened, though in the later 1970’s he co-wrote, plotted, and pencilled what I consider the best Superman story ever created, Superman vs. Muhammad Ali…
To be very clear, the concept of this comic sure did seem, even back then, silly as hell, even for a much younger me. But damn if Neal Adams didn’t deliver the goods, creating a story that drew you in and wowed you with its power and humanity.
During the 1970’s Neal Adams was also a loud voice for artist’s rights, shaming DC comics into giving a stipend to Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster -both of whom had been discarded by the industry by that time and who were in financial need- on the eve of the release of the Superman movie and was also instrumental in getting artists their original artwork back, so they might sell it and gain some money for it.
Neal Adams would spend the 1980’s and much of the 1990’s doing less work for the big companies and releasing self-published works. In more recent years, he returned to Batman, Deadman, and Ra’s Al Gul for limited series. While those series to my eyes didn’t quite recapture the glory of prime Neal Adams work, they were welcome additions to my library.
He accomplished so much in his career and he will be missed. Mr. Adams passed away on April 28th, 2022.
Two days ago and on May 6th of 2022 the comic book industry would receive another shock: Artist George Perez passed away.
Mr. Perez became one of the bigger names in comic books in the generation of artists who followed Neal Adams. His first published work would appear in Marvel’s Astonishing Tales #25, in a backup parody of the main feature, which introduced the character of Deathlok…
From such humble beginning Mr. Perez would draw some of Marvel’s greatest heroes, including the Fantastic Four…
…and the Avengers.
What distinguished Mr. Perez from many other artists was his love of shoving as many characters and background as possible (or what seemed impossible!) into his pages. He had such a love of the characters that he would show readers as many as he could fit, all lovingly detailed.
In the early 1980’s he moved from Marvel Comics to DC comics and it was there he arguably had his biggest impact on the field, starting with his work on the Justice League of America.
But it would be his work, alongside writer Marv Wolfman, that would truly set him up as the premiere artist of that decade, starting with their work on The New Teen Titans…
Many fans at the time felt Wolfman and Perez were simply “copying” the success of Marvel’s X-Men but the series became very much its own thing and was successful as such.
Wolfman and Perez, though, had another card up their sleeves…
Crisis On Infinite Earths was an incredibly ambitious twelve-issue series first released in 1985. The goal of the series was to trim down the multiverse aspect of DC Comics (for the record, I feel that proved in the long run to be a mistake, from a storytelling point of view) and try to streamline the DC universe.
While I had my issues with the end result of the series’ story, there was nothing at all wrong with Mr. Perez’s magnificent artwork. The twelve issues of Crisis allowed Mr. Perez to draw virtually every single character in the DC universe, from incredibly minor to very well known, along with creating a few new characters along the way.
I seriously doubt there is any other artist, alive or passed, who could have accomplished what he did in this series without either going completely crazy or taking years of extremely hard work to achieve.
It seemed Mr. Perez had reached his pinnacle. However, there was still one other major accomplishment to come, the Marvel and DC crossover event he longed to do his entire career, Justice League vs the Avengers…
While they were publishing rivals, there were occasions Marvel and DC Comics would allow special event crossovers. They did this twice with Superman meeting up with Spider-Man, Batman with Hulk, and Justice League going up against the Avengers in the limited series published between 2003 and 2004.
George Perez had first been approached, and delivered a few pages for, a JLA/Avengers team up book but it was torpedoed before it was published. He would get his chance to do this again some twenty years later and delivered a magnificent product.
As if he was capable of not doing so!
Sadly, Mr. Perez would suffer from various health issues which limited his ability to continue working on his beloved comic books. A couple of months ago it was announced he was suffering from stage 3 cancer and knew he had a limited time left. Marvel and DC, magnanimously, allowed the JLA/Avengers series, collected in a TPB, to be republished to help Mr. Perez and his family with their medical and other bills, though it seems the limited nature of this reprint allowed speculators to blow up the resale price of the book and… yeah, greed can do bad things to people.
I never got to meet either Neal Adams or George Perez and now, I never will and that’s a real shame.
Two titans of the comic book industry passed away a mere week apart.
Such a sad series of events, even as their works ensure we will enjoy their talents for years to come.
In the news lately have come articles regarding the heirs of Steve Ditko, Stan Lee, Gene Colon, and others’ moves toward getting control over characters they created for Marvel Comics back in the day… and which they may have the possibility of getting thanks to the passage of time.
What does this mean to you or I? Not really all that much, I admit, unless of course we are heirs to the estate of some of the creators of the various Marvel characters and/or have financial interests in Disney and their movies.
So, what exactly is happening here?
Well, for many, many years comic book work was considered a “one and done” type deal. You would get your assignment, write and/or draw your story, get it published, it sells (hopefully), and you get your next assignment and so on and so forth.
There wasn’t a sense of permanence to the job. People figured once the current story was published and left the newstands, that was pretty much it and whatever work you did would be forgotten in time.
Only, that didn’t happen.
Sure, it was the case mostly from the early days of comic book work through perhaps the later 1960’s. By the 1970’s there was a healthy collector market which had sprung up and publishing companies realized there was money to be made in reprinting past works. It was a win-win for the publishers: They had already paid for the work so reprinting it was like making free money. They didn’t have to pay the author or artist and whatever was made was gravy.
Certainly back then there was no sense that the characters they had could become billion dollar movie properties.
Here’s the thing: These companies, like the artists and writers, tended to feel the work had little permanence. Some of the contracts might have been lost over time or discarded, though the companies do have a claim over the characters they have continuously published over the decades.
Regardless, the work tended to be “work for hire”, which meant the author/artist was doing the work specifically to sell it to the company and, in theory, they had no rights to the work and/or any new characters they created after this fact.
However, there is a loophole, of sorts, which the above article states: After a certain amount of time, the creator(s) or heirs can request the copyright revert to them, and that is making a company like Marvel pretty nervous… to the point they are proactively suing to ensure they retain copyrights to the various characters in their stable.
There are people who have no sympathy for the creators of these myriad characters. They may say things like “well, they signed the work for hire contract, they knew what they were getting into” but how does one see what’s coming two or three decades down the line?
Artist/writer Jack Kirby essentially created or co-created most of the Marvel characters. Artist /writer Steve Ditko created or co-created -I tend to lean into the former rather than the later, but others may be more willing to give more credit to Stan Lee- what is arguably Marvel’s best known character, Spider-Man.
Both Kirby and Ditko left Marvel Comics in the later 1960’s and both had the same complaints, that Stan Lee -whom many today and thanks to his humorous cameos in various Marvel films have come to view as some kind of saint- was only too willing to take more credit for what was, in Kirby and Ditko’s opinion, their work.
In fact, the rumor is that Ditko left Spider-Man, and Marvel Comics, because he was essentially writing as well as drawing the book and Stan Lee wanted a certain villain, the Green Goblin, to be revealed as a certain character, and Ditko adamantly was against that.
Further, it is pretty well known today that Jack Kirby created the character of the Silver Surfer all on his own. The story goes that one day Kirby delivered the pages to the latest Fantastic Four issue and on it was the first appearance of the Silver Surfer and Stan Lee, confused as to the character on the page, asked who that was!
Again, though, Kirby and Lee would butt heads about, among other things, the story of the Silver Surfer and Kirby eventually left the company for, among other things, because Lee wanted his story to go in one direction and Kirby wasn’t interested in going that way. This apparently occurred in other books as well.
Now, despite what I’ve just written above, I don’t feel Stan Lee is some kind of terrible villain.
What I do believe is that he was very willing to take more credit for his work than he should have and that doesn’t reflect all that well on him.
Having said that, its not like he did nothing to make Marvel Comics the juggernaut it became. He wrote some great dialogue and captions to many of the comics he worked on even if there might be a question as to how involved in the stories he was, especially when Marvel Comics really started to take off and many more books were released each month. Further, he was terrific as a gushing fan for the product, hyping it up and creating a sense of fun in the various books which was lacking in rival DC at the time.
Ultimately, though, I side with the artists and writers of the works. They created wonderful stories and now we have people in movie studios picking over their years of hard work, making adaptations (as a writer, trust me, its easier to adapt a story already made versus coming up with something reasonably original), and then making a bundle for work while the original creators or their estates/heirs get next to nothing.
Sadly, this is nothing new.
Back in the 1970’s and when Warner Brothers was in the process of making a big budget Superman film, artist/writer Neal Adams shamed DC comics/Warners into giving monies to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the creators of the character, who by that point were elderly and in need of the help.
It’s a shame and I hope that Marvel/Disney, rather than sticking to suing and countersuing, instead become a little more generous to those whose work they’re now using to make their millions… and billions.