DC Comics to Clarify Creator Equity In Wake of Conway Outcry

Every now and again, fans and comic book media can get something of real value accomplished.

Last week, veteran comic book creator Gerry Conway took to Tumblr to draw attention to how he and other creators have been shut out by DC Entertainment of what was once a lucrative Creator Equity program which rewarded creators when characters they originated were translated into other media.

We reported on his comments here, after which sites like Bleeding Cool, Newsarama, and Comic Book Resources took up the call.

In the wake of the online controversy generated by Conway’s comments, DC Entertainment’s executive team issued a statement regarding their intentions moving forward.

“Dear Talent,

DC Entertainment’s talent community is extraordinarily important to us, and we value your many contributions to DC’s legendary stable of characters and world-class stories. We pride ourselves on being the premier destination for top talent.

Recently, there have been questions regarding DC’s credit and equity policies, and we wish to assure you that no changes have been made to either of these policies that in any way diminish the credit or equity that we’ve been extending to our talent for nearly four decades…

As part of our ongoing mission to attract and retain the best artists and writers in the industry, we are looking to build off of and improve on current practices by finding ways to increase the frequency of such payments and to proactively compensate equity stakeholders above and beyond the usual standards when their characters are the driving principals of new productions. With the dramatic increase in the use of DC characters across all media, there will be more and more uses of our characters across our businesses. This is great news for all of you!

We have tremendous respect for the creative contributions of the writers and artists who bring DC’s characters to life, as reflected by our long-standing business practice of rewarding talent for those valuable contributions. We welcome any questions you may have about credit, character equity or any other matter as we continue our efforts to improve the ways we recognize, compensate and reward our talent.

Sincerely,

Dan & Jim”

Clearly, the people in charge of running DC Entertainment understand that this subject has generated a great deal of ill will, as comic book fans are notoriously loyal to the men and women who create the characters they love and cherish. What the final result of this shift will is remains to be seen, but DC deserves to be lauded for any efforts they take to improve what is, at best, a problematic arrangement between its creative and executive branches.

Do you think DC will follow through on their promises? Let us know in the comments!

 

[UPDATE]

Conway responded to DC’s statement, gratefully, thanking Jim Lee and Dan Didio for their efforts.

“Is Felicity Smoak on #Arrow worth more than Caitlin Snow on #TheFlash?

Okay, okay, okay – I admit it, that’s a click bait headline, but there’s an underlying serious point here that I’ll get to in a minute.

First, I want to thank Dan DiDio and Geoff Johns for reaching out to me yesterday, in response to last week’s Tumblr post (http://gerryconway.tumblr.com/post/117619743363/who-created-caitlin-snow-on-theflash-according) about my issues with DC Entertainment’s handling of its creators equity program.

I figure, since I made this issue public, I owe it to these men to thank them publicly for their calls. I believe they’re sincere in their reassurances that DC wants to do right by creators, as they both told me personally, and as Dan DiDio and Jim Lee stated in their press release yesterday. I can’t imagine that Dan wanted to talk to me after I ripped into DC in such a public way, but he was incredibly nice, and I truly appreciate his kind and thoughtful words. Ditto for Geoff, who’s always been very generous to me– starting when we shared a stage at a convention in Gijon, Spain almost fourteen years ago.

Good people, both of them. I believe they’re going to make a valiant effort to clarify and strengthen DC’s approach to creators’ equity. As I told Dan in a follow up email, since I complained loudly about DC’s current policy, it’s only fair that I offer some practical suggestions (and not just incessant negative whining, which I’m all too good at).

So, here we go, two suggestions to help DC address the issue of creator equity, offered in a spirit of cooperation and in appreciation of Dan and Geoff’s generous effort at outreach. (I’m really, really impressed they didn’t just tell me to jump off Gotham Bridge.)

First, DC could clearly articulate its policy for compensating creators of both original and derivative characters. (Apparently DC does have a policy to compensate creators of derivative characters like Caitlin Snow and Jason Todd, something I was unaware of; I’m still not certain how it works.) If DC wants to keep “derivative” characters out of the equity program, it could articulate a simple and consistent principle for how creators of derivative characters will be compensated.

Second, DC could accept responsibility to proactively offer equity contracts for original characters used in other media. Right now it’s up to creators to contact DC. Make it DC’s policy to take charge of this. That information is easily accessible both on the public Internet and in DC’s own corporate records. DC can track character use and make sure all creators of original characters are offered an equity contract as soon as DC becomes aware the character will appear in another medium — either as a toy, or in a video game, or in a film or movie or a book. It’s the right thing to do, and from a public relations point of view, it’s just good corporate policy.

I truly believe Dan and Geoff and Jim Lee and Diane Nelson all want to do right by DC’s creators. Sometimes corporate policy takes on an inertia of its own separate from the people guiding it. There’s no ill will in cases like this: it’s hard to stay on top of everything, and often the people who are charged with executing a policy aren’t aware of what the people who instituted the policy really want to accomplish.

(That’s what leads to a lot of government scandals, after all. Good intentions filtered through bureaucratic misinterpretation.)

It’s up to us – creators and fans – to alert the policy makers when their policies aren’t working the way they intend.

Corporations move slowly and inexorably in predetermined paths, much like cruise ships. It’s hard to make them change course dramatically. But a small change can have a great effect. Just ask the passengers of the Titanic. If someone had alerted the crew to alter course by one small degree, it would have missed that iceberg by a mile.”

Josh Epstein

Josh Epstein is the Publisher for the Capeless Crusader website. He’s a lifelong comic nerd, and “Superman” is the first word he ever read aloud. He is also an actor, singer, and resident of a real-world Smallville.

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