Marvel and DC Comics have been criticised over reported compensation payments offered to comic book writers who have had their work adapted into films.
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In a report by The Guardian, it’s claimed that writers and artists receive an “invitation to the [film] premiere and a cheque for $5,000” if their work features prominently in a Marvel film.
“Three different sources confirmed this amount to The Guardian,” the report states. “There’s no obligation to attend the premiere, or to use the $5,000 for travel or accommodation; sources described it as a tacit acknowledgement that compensation was due.”
According to their sources, creators are sometimes offered a “special character contract” instead of this $5,000 compensation. This allows select creators to claim remuneration when their characters or stories are used. There’s potential to earn more by being made executives or producers on Marvel’s film or TV projects, but there’s no legal obligation for the company to do so.
In the report, an anonymous Marvel creator said: “I’ve been offered a [special character contract] that was really, really terrible, but it was that or nothing.
“And then instead of honouring it, they send a thank you note and are like, ‘Here’s some money we don’t owe you!’ And it’s five grand. And you’re like, ‘The movie made a billion dollars.’”
The report comes after writer Ed Brubaker criticised Marvel Studios’ over the use of his character The Winter Soldier – played by Sebastian Stan in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, and most recently in Disney+ TV series The Falcon And The Winter Soldier.
In a blog post, Brubaker, who created the character in 2005 alongside Steve Epting, claims he hasn’t received any notable financial compensation from Marvel for using his character and storyline.
“For the most part all Steve Epting and I have gotten for creating the Winter Soldier and his storyline is a ‘thanks’ here or there, and over the years that’s become harder and harder to live with,” Brukbaker said. “I’ve even seen higher-ups on the publishing side try to take credit for my work a few times, which was pretty galling.”
There have been cases of artists successfully fighting for credit, with Jim Starlin, who created Thanos, having negotiated a bigger payout from Marvel for the use of the villain. Marvel writer Roy Thomas also got his name added to the credits of Disney+ series Loki after his agent applied some pressure.
In response to the claims via the report, Marvel said there’s no restrictions on when creators could approach the company about contracts, and that they are “having ongoing conversations with writers and artists pertaining to both recent and past work”.