How comic book creators are forgotten in the superhero boom
First published in The Conversation | February, 2023
When the new creative head of DC Studios, James Gunn, announced their upcoming slate of films and TV, it included many names you might expect: Superman, Batman, maybe even Swamp Thing.
It also included some lesser-known and leftfield picks, such as the take-no-prisoners superhero team The Authority. The team’s co-creator, artist Bryan Hitch, found that out when everyone else did. “The Authority…?” he tweeted. “I’m glad someone told me…”
This kind of disrespect to comic book creators is nothing new. As recounted in Tom De Haven’s book Our Hero: Superman On Earth, Superman’s co-creator wrote a furious press release about the upcoming Superman movie in 1975:
I, Jerry Siegel, the co-originator of Superman, put a curse on the Superman movie! I hope it super-bombs. I hope loyal Superman fans stay away from it in droves. I hope the whole world, becoming aware of the stench that surrounds Superman, will avoid the movie like a plague. Why am I putting this curse on a movie based on my creation of Superman? Because cartoonist Joe Shuster and I, who co-originated Superman together, will not get one cent from the Superman super-movie deal.
For most comic creators, not much has changed. Ed Brubaker, who co-created the Winter Soldier for Marvel’s Captain America comics, also saw his character burst onto the big screen. He wrote:
For the most part, all Steve [Epting, co-creator] and I have got 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.
Brubaker is referring to the “special thanks” that appear in the credits of blockbuster movies, briefly listing the names of comic writers and artists whose work influenced the films. Sometimes that’s all they get, according to The Guardian, sometimes they will receive a flat fee if they lawyer up – like Jim Starlin did, creator of the supervillain Thanos – they can sometimes manage more. Compared to the global box office for superhero movies, though, these payments are pittances.
Read the full essay at The Conversation.