On Saturday, Aaron Couch of the Hollywood Reporter published a statement by writer Joe Casey who expressed dissatisfaction over Marvel’s treatment of creators whose characters are later used in the company’s film/television properties. More specifically, Casey described receiving an “insult of an offer” from Disney/Marvel Studios for America Chavez (a character he created back in 2011) having a prominent role in the upcoming Doctor Strange: In the Multiverse of Madness.
And yes, Casey fully acknowledged his awareness of the stipulations behind a work-for-hire contract for Marvel, stating:
The fact is Marvel owns America Chavez. That’s not in dispute on any level, but there are still systemic flaws in the way that creators are neither respected nor rewarded.
Casey went on to say that even before America Chavez’s appearance in the Doctor Strange sequel was announced, he had not been paid a dime for her multiple previous appearances in animated shows and video games, either. While Marvel technically doesn’t owe Casey anything beyond his page rate at the time of America Chavez’s creation, it still didn’t seem right to him–especially when Marvel/Disney stands to rake in billions off his work.
Casey is hardly the first creator to express their frustration with Marvel/Disney making billions off of characters whose creators were paid a minuscule fraction of their eventual value. A few of the more prominent examples include:
- Jim Starlin has complained about how much money Marvel made off the cinematic version of Thanos compared to what he was paid for creating the character.
- Writer Ed Brubaker said he’s earned more from his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in Captain America: The Winter Soldier than he has from creating the actual Winter Soldier character.
- Artist Kev Hopgood expressed his disappointment at seeing the Hulkbuster armor he designed making a prominent appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron. After speaking out, he received a “thank you payment” and has done work for Marvel since then
It has been reported that Marvel’s typical “thank you payment” to creators is in the range of $5,000. Couch’s report indicates that Marvel claims they provide much more, but will not disclose the amount. Whatever the case, there are enough aggrieved creators to indicate that most of them don’t consider Marvel’s post-contract compensation to be enough.
Even if you agree that creators have no right to ask for more money after being paid what they initially agreed on, you can’t deny that a pattern of disgruntled creators could have wide-ranging issues for Marvel’s publishing and film divisions. If comic creators aren’t willing to make new characters (or significantly alter others), that could greatly reduce the sales potential of future comics. If Marvel Comics doesn’t have a pipeline of new characters, that limits the amount of well-constructed intellectual property they can draw from to create their future film and television series.
As far as Casey is concerned, this current fight isn’t about him as much as it’s for helping future creators get fair compensation. He added:
For me, it’s not about money. It’s not even about the respect. I would never expect to be respected by a corporation. If I’m in a position where I can afford not to take their insult of an offer, and be able to talk about it, maybe the next guy — where that kind of money could change their life — would get a fair shot of receiving that money.
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