TV Eye by Martha Thomases
A few thoughts on the Writers Guild of America strike, and what it means for comics – and you!
• If the history of comics has shown us anything, it’s the fact that the more satisfied the creative talent is with their deal, the better our choices in entertainment. The rise in independent comics that started with the undergrounds in the 1960s forced innovation on what had been a stodgy industry, not only in terms of subject matter but also in terms of revenue sharing and creator-owned properties.
• Television and movies are much more collaborative efforts than comics, so sharing copyrights and trademarks can be much more complicated. That’s why, in those media, the accepted standard payments are residuals and royalties. Even though the comics industry has been paying royalties for over a decade, I have not seen it make any difference in the bottom line at Warner Bros. or Marvel. When profits are shared, everyone profits. (Aside: Yes, I know studio accountants can magically make profits disappear. That’s a separate rant.)
• It’s kind of hilarious that people expect a flood of Hollywood talent to descend on comics during the strike. For one thing, most of the major publishers book up their talent on regular books for at least six months to a year. For another, the major publishers offer deals that are much worse than what the studios are offering. DC or Marvel may consider original graphic novels, but they’ll want to retain ownership, just as they do with all their other properties.
• Just because you can write a great movie or sit-com doesn’t mean you can write comics. There are many fewer words to work with on a page, and you can’t count on a great actor (or director) to make you look good. You have to count on an artist, many of whom are already working on projects (see above).
• It would be interesting to see what a Hollywood agent would make of the standard industry contract. I’d love to see Ari Gold negotiate with Paul Levitz. On Pay-Per-View.
• The producers argue that it can’t be predicted whether DVDs and the Internet will prove to be profitable, and therefore it’s not fair for them to assume all the risk on these new-fangled media. For one thing, it’s really cheap to make DVDs, and they’ve been selling briskly for a decade. The Internet is so profitable for advertisers that sites like this exist (and ComicMix attracts the kind of talent that we do because we share revenue). I mean, according to the ads in this month’s comics, DC has advertising support from Halo 3 for Zuda. Am I to believe that DC’s ad people are better at this stuff than NBC’s?
• There’s a lot of entertainment coming out of this strike. I recommend http://unitedhollywood.blogspot.com/, because the videos are really good.
• Last, but not least: the people, united, will never be defeated.
Martha Thomases, Media Goddess of ComicMix, is proud that her son walked in his first picket line Monday for the WGA.