I really hadn’t planned on getting into the controversy surrounding the imminent releases of DC’s Before Watchmen series and Marvel’s Avengers movie — David Brothers, after all, had said everything that needed to said, with an eloquence and passion that spoke volumes without needing more noise muddying the signal.
But on Facebook today I linked to an article on The Beat (which also touched on the firing of Chris Roberson after he was publicly critical of DC, where he was working on Fairest), and in writing a follow-up comment it turned out I did have something to say, after all. I’m reprinting it here to share with you, and to get it off my chest. It’s far from a complete statement on the situation, but I’m putting it here as originally written ( you’ll have to forgive the “quote” format); we can continue the discussion in the comments if it comes to that.
One of the things that bothers me most is the way DC, Marvel and the fanboys go out of their way to say, “Well, shitty contracts are part of the business – they’ll know better next time.” This is not the way publishers should be treating their creators. Or, if you want to put it into business terms, this is not the way companies should be treating their cash cows. Alienating your creators, and some of your customer base, is bad business.
But just on the simple face of it, the situation these creators have found themselves in is wrong. Sure, DC and Marvel are in the legal right, but they are morally wrong and, dammit, that is important. The publishers are under no legal obligation to do more than they are now — but simply because they managed to hand the dirty end of the stick to their former employees doesn’t mean it’s a situation they have to take advantage of in perpetuity. Contracts are renegotiated all the time; the fact neither DC or Marvel care to is evidence that turning a buck on the backs of others is more important to them than doing right by the people who brought them success in the first place.
I think what the people at Marvel and DC are missing is that much of the anger directed at them isn’t really because of the way the creators were treated originally. I don’t think most of the people in charge now were even around back then. The anger is due to the way the creators continue to be willfully mistreated today. In the Bad Old Days, shitty contracts and screwing over the talent was commonplace. But that doesn’t mean it’s the way the publishers should be conducting their business — and their simple interactions with creators — today. Not by a long shot.