So there was this earlier in the week from Gerry Conway:
I need your help.
DC Comics is a great company.
It was the first major publisher to offer creator contracts on a regular basis, allowing the men and women who create characters for DC books to share in the profits those characters generate in other media. You may say, that’s only fair, but until the mid-1970s it was standard policy for comic book publishers to buy all rights in perpetuity upon payment for a single story. Writers and artists received no further payment for their work after that first check — no money for reprints, no money for toys based on characters they’d created, no money for movies or TV shows or games or trading cards.
Nada, zip, zilch.
DC Comics changed that.
Starting in the mid-70s DC offered creators an opportunity for what they called “equity participation.” With the appropriate paperwork submitted and signed, DC creators would receive a share of the profits generated by their creations. Like I said, you may think this is only fair, but in the ’70s it hit the business like a revelation. And for more than thirty years it’s given quite a few creators an extra bit of income — in some cases, for some older creators, the only real income they receive from comics.
So, to repeat, DC Comics is a great company.
But, like all companies, it’s a business, and its first priority is to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and maximize profits. So tracking which character was created by which writer and artist team thirty or forty years ago isn’t part of their business plan. It’s just too much work, and it requires a dedication and devotion to detail that only one group in the world has in abundant quantities:
You, the fans.
A personal note. I started this site because some of my fans alerted me to the use in the TV series “Arrow” of characters I co-created in the late 1970s, early 1980s. Without those fans I wouldn’t have known those characters were appearing. I wouldn’t have filed equity participation paperwork with DC. And neither I nor the artists I worked with would be eligible to receive money for the use of those characters. DC does not make payments retroactive. If a creator wants to claim equity participation in a character he or she co-created, they need to do so proactively.
Which is where you come in.
If you’re a fan of DC comics published since 1975, you can help your favorite pros — not just me, but any writer or artist who worked on DC’s titles. Go through your collection. Look for the first appearances of any character, major or minor, hero/villain/sidekick/bystander from the years 1975 on. Download and fill out the DC Comics Character Equity Request form (you’ll find the link below) and email it to the creators involved. Most creators have an active presence on the web, either on Facebook, or Twitter, or through their own web sites or fan pages. Reach out to them. Encourage them to file the paperwork you prepared with DC.
Help them get their fair share.
Obviously, I include myself (Gerry Conway) in this list. I can use your help, too.
Between 1975 and the mid-80s I wrote literally hundreds of comics for DC and created dozens of characters. FIRESTORM, JUSTICE LEAGUE, LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, BATMAN, SUPERMAN, WONDER WOMAN, on and on and on. There’s no way I can single-handedly track down each and every character who made their first appearance in a story I wrote. But all of you working together, each doing one or two characters — you can crowd-source it.
Download the form, fill it out, attach a piece of art identifying the character, and send it to the email link below with the subject line EQUITY. To prevent duplication of effort by fellow fans (and to claim credit for your help!) post a comment to this blog identifying the character you’ve discovered.
On behalf of all the DC creators who would otherwise never know, literally, what they’re missing, thank you!
Here’s the link to the Character Equity Request Form:
And here’s the email where the filled-out forms for characters co-created by Gerry Conway, with the subject line EQUITY: firstname.lastname@example.org
I think it’s a good thing to contribute to, if you possibly can. Conway put out a fairly simple plea to the fans that if they knew of a property being exploited in other media to contact the writers and artists that created those characters and stories with the details, etc.
Given many fans’ obsessive nature and near encyclopaedic knowledge of minutia when it comes to their favourite creators and characters, it makes sense to ask them for help, right? Some might even consider it a way to give back to some of those creators who built even just a little part of a cherished story or a favourite character. Hell, I’m sure that there’s someone out there who is an unabashed fan of Brother Power The Geek.
Anyway, the simple plea set off a furor amongst some people on message boards and comics sites about Gerry Conway trying to get other people to do research to get him money, and how dare he be so arrogant, why does he even need the money, and on and on. Some wondering why they’d do anything unless they got something out of it.
I would think that those opposed would just think to themselves, “Eh, not for me.” and then move on, but apparently it was so offensive that is was almost a personal attack on them.
So, I have to ask, when did asking for help become such a bad thing? When did asking for someone who loves a medium to help those who create in it become anathema?
As I’ve said before, I’m astonished by the lengths that some people will go to in order to crap all over an artform that they claim to love. You see it when a creator is fighting for something they believe in, you see it when a creator speaks out against unfair working conditions, you see it when a creator has to scrape, claw, and fight legally for something that should be a given that is written in their very contract.
Maybe it’s my failing to understand the human capacity for irrational hate?
Anyway, I’d advise people if there’s a 70’s or 80’s creator out there that you enjoy and you’ve got a bit of spare time, just use comics.org and a google search to see if there’s anything there. I’m certain that there are creators out there that could use the assistance of the royalties and residuals for work they are rightfully owed.