Fundraiser Update: DC/Warner Bros. Cancer Charity Fiasco, Gene Colan News

Rick Marshall

Rick Marshall was Online Managing Editor for ComicMix before joining MTV's SplashPage. Previously, he was Online Content Manager for Wizard Entertainment. He has written for several daily newspapers, alternative weekly newspapers, trade magazines and online media, and was named "Writer of the Year" by the New York Press Association in 2005.

You may also like...

11 Responses

  1. Russ Rogers says:

    I looked into the WB shutdown of the childhood cancer fund raiser. The "impressive, non-DC properties" seem to be gone from eBay, also pulled. And Mr. Denton's eBay username of "mistermxy" has ZERO feedback! That means that Mr. Denton has never bought or sold anything on eBay and gotten feedback for it. Not with the username, "mistermxy". It marks the man as a TOTAL eBay newbie. This is a red flag for many eBay buyers and sellers, in that it can spell possible trouble. You might be dealing with a fly-by-night scammer. The person has no history, no resume. You might also be dealing with a jerk or novice who will make your transaction difficult. I'm not saying that Mr. Denton is a jerk, a novice or a scammer. But he has no eBay history to show that he's not. There are many eBayers who won't deal with anyone with less than 10 positive feedbacks.The other problem may have been that Mr. Denton's auctions might not have gone through "Mission Fish." Mission Fish is eBay's charitable auctions wing. Buyers can see what percentage of the final sale is being given to the charity. It's a way of identifying which "charitable auctions" are actually for a recognized charity.'s, the non-profit that Mr. Denton is trying to raise money for is on Mission Fish's list of recognized charities. Currently, Candlelighter's doesn't seem to have any active auctions benefiting them on eBay.…Look, Mr. Denton has a great idea. It just doesn't look like he laid the groundwork before plunging into this project. First, he needs to establish a feedback history on eBay. Second, obviously he needs to get clearance for selling licensed images. Third, he should set up his auction through Mission Fish, to help reassure the public that the money raised is actually going to a recognized charity.DC is not the bad guy here. DC has a perfect right to control their licensed properties. I think DC might also be looking to protect the public from possible scams. It doesn't look good for DC if somebody gets scammed out of a bunch of money buying Superman's image, even if the sale isn't officially authorized by DC. Again, I'm not saying that Denton is a scam artist. I'm just saying that he probably would have had less trouble all around if he had done his homework and established his credentials with eBay, Mission Fish and DC, BEFORE he tried to organized a large fund raiser.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Good objective comment Russ.

    • Alan Coil says:

      Yeah, Russ, well done.And here we thought you were just another pretty face. ;)

  3. Rick Marshall says:

    Russ,While you raise a good point about eBayers' sensitivity to sellers w/ 0 feedback, and there's certainly legal basis for the actions taken by DC/WB, the reason none of those "impressive non-DC properties" were listed on eBay when you looked was because the auctions ended before you left your comment. That's also the reason you didn't see any active auctions listed on MissionFish or Candlelighters when you left that comment, too. All of those links you provided were for ACTIVE auctions.It took about two or three extra clicks to find the auctions that the link in the article was pointing to at the time I created that article (they're all listed on the front page of Denton's blog, actually). Each of the auctions ended that morning. Here's a link to the list of auctions.To be honest, that article might have gone up as the auctions were ending, and if so, the error was mine in having the article post to the site late enough to cause readers some confusion. I apologize for that. However, I think your criticism of Denton's planning is still a bit off-base.You mentioned that he should have organized the auction through MissionFish, and if you check all of the auctions he's run (via the link above and throughout his blog), it's plainly indicated on each auction that they were all organized through MissionFish.Click here for an example.You also mention that he should have established a feedback history on eBay prior to starting the fundraiser. This seems to be one of those "Catch 22"-type situations: You're basically saying someone shouldn't try to raise money for charity until they have experience raising money for a charity. However, the reason agencies like MissionFish exist is to handle exactly this type of situation and ensure that "charity" auctions on eBay are actually benefiting a charity. The reason someone runs an auction through MissionFish is to provide that piece of mind to the buyer that you're criticising Denton for not providing in his auctions. In my opinion, it seems unreasonable to ask him to spend months finding random things to buy and sell on eBay just to juice his feedback rating.I looked into this issue myself (well before I wrote this article, in fact) and it seems to me that Denton did do "his homework" for the most part. In fact, he did everything one can realistically expect of someone trying to do organize a fundraiser for the first time – with the exception of getting clearance for the DC's licensed properties. (And that's a big exception, as we've learned!) On that final note, though, I think it's fairly safe to say that Denton made a mistake that 9 out of 10 people in the same situation would probably have made, too. Having never seen an artist charging for sketches receive this sort of attention from DC/WB, and having seen countless similar eBay auctions go through without a hitch as recent as the last few months, I can understand where the misunderstanding occurred. That doesn't make it legal, of course, but I believe it does provide some additional context for both the overall issue and for my criticism of your comment here.

    • Russ Rogers says:

      Rick, Thanks for the update and the links to Thomas Denton's auctions. You are right, Denton DID run his auctions through MissionFish! To be fair to myself, Mr. Denton's auctions had ended when I wrote my ealrier comment and I used the qualifier "might not have." But I shouldn't have said that the other auctions were "pulled." I assumed. Sorry.I took a look at the closed auctions and frankly, I was very impressed. There was a very nice selection of material. Not all of the auctions were focused on big name comics. A "Milk and Cheese" drawing brought in around $250! And the nine auctions I looked at raised nearly $900! I wish I had known about the auctions sooner. I might have bid.The benefits of listing through MissionFish are twofold. One is on the buyers end; it does reassure that the moneys raised will go to a good cause. On the sellers end, the benefit to Mr. Denton is that eBay will credit his account the percentage of his listing fees equal to the percentage donation made of the final sale. SO, if Mr. Denton gave 100% of the money raised to Candlelighters, his eBay account would be credited 100% of the listing fees! This isn't quite like getting your money back, but it's close. And it's a very generous and savvy thing for eBay to do.It may seem unreasonable to you that sellers need to beef up their ratings by spending time buying and selling stuff on eBay before putting major items up for sale, but those are the expectations of a large percentage of experienced eBayers. There are eBay auctions that refuse to SELL stuff to people with a low rating. eBay won't even list a Detailed Sellers Rating until the seller has at least 10 detailed ratings.Is it unreasonable for an employer to expect that resumes be typed? A person's job experience doesn't change, even when his resume is written in crayon on paper towels.The answer is that it's all about the perception of professionalism. A higher eBay rating gives a higher perception of professionalism. You will be pleased to know that mistermxy now has a Feedback Rating of 1! He's sent out 14 Possitive Feedbacks for prompt payments on his charity auction items. That means that as soon as those other 13 people receive their items, they should be giving Mr. Denton positive feedback. Enough for a Detailed Sellers Rating! His higher rating should help make Mr. Denton's future auctions even MORE successful! I took a close look at the 9 auction links provided. I have to say that they were presented very well. Some of the item descriptions could have been more detailed with dimensions and the like. But that's just quibbling. Let's take a look at the logo Mr. Denton used for all his auctions.…The tag line is, "Because even Superman can't save us all… Ben's charity art auction!" The logo is a stylized silhouette of Superman, taken from the cover of a 1939 Superman Comic. I recognized the image immediately, because I have a jigsaw puzzle of the comic cover in my basement.The logo design is sharp, professional and powerful. It's obviously "Superman," and even if you don't recognize the silhouette, the tag line says, "Because even Superman can't save us all…"Here's where Thomas Denton's professionalism works against him. The logo is TOO well drawn. The tag line is TOO powerful and references Superman directly. The logo and tag line were used on EVERY auction. I wondered why Mr. Denton was talking about taking down every one of his auctions after DC had complained about him selling licensed materials in just SOME of his auctions. It's because Denton was using "Superman" in EVERY one of his auctions.The professionalism of the logo and the use of Superman's name in the slogan IMPLIES a direct connection to the licensed property, especially when NO disclaimer is made that the image is not intended to be Superman or that Ben's Charity Auction is NOT affiliated with Superman, DC, Warner Bros. or the like. Denton wasn't just auctioning off a few, discrete images of licensed properties, he had made "Superman" the FACE of his charity fund raising. This could have gone on ad infinitum. That's just running roughshod over the character and license. THAT is something that DC HAS to control or risk losing it's rights.I think Mr. Denton did a very cool thing. It looks like the auctions that he did complete (at least 14) probably raised more than $1000! That's very cool and commendable. DC may have over-reacted by having SOME of Mr. Denton's auctions pulled. Certainly DC is getting a bit of negative publicity from the whole deal. But Denton wasn't just selling a few items, he had made "Superman" his logo for all his auctions. Obviously, DC didn't make him pull all the auction listings where he had used unlicensed images of Superman; every auction was using Superman to try to make the sale! Maybe the few that made it through were just able to slip by without notice. Or maybe by letting the other auctions finish, DC was making a measured response.I hope that Mr. Denton hasn't become so discouraged by the hassle of this that he won't consider making this auction an annual event. Charity Auctions are complicated. Messy. But they can also build momentum over time. Here's to the next Ben's Charity Auction! Excelsior!(Hey Rick, What do you think about ComicMix organizing it's OWN charity auction to benefit The HERO Initiative, the CBLDF or the Red Cross for the current tragedies in Myanmar and China?)

  4. Vinnie Bartilucci says:

    It does appear the Superman tagline and art may be more the culprit. Now that people are looking in more detail that seems to be the concensus.Raffles and auctions are a good way to raise money for HERO and the CBLDF, but as a rule they like to run them themselves, if only to avoid boondoggles like this. They already have the associations to many of the publishers so there's less chances of things like this happening. Last year I got four of those Silver Surfer quarters from the movie's PR company. Rather than keep them or sell 'em on Ebay, I donated them to the Hero Initiative, and they made 400 bucks off them.

  5. Rick Marshall says:

    Agreed on all fronts, Russ and Vinnie… the Superman logo was probably a big part of the problem – and that's an aspect I didn't fully take into account until I read these comments. I thought your assessment of the logo's role in things was spot-on, Russ.And Russ, I'd be all for a charity fundraiser, but i don't think auctions are the way to go – especially not after seeing how Denton's event went down. I'm leery of anything that might require the news side of the site to be indebted to a publisher, to be honest. (In this case, I'd worry that the right to auction licensed properties would be accompanied by an expectation of coverage for the publisher's projects.) I recently organized a scholarship fundraiser in Albany, NY, that netted about $3000 in three hours, but it was practically a full-time job for several months to make it happen. As you mentioned in your comments, charity fundraisers aren't something you should just try on a whim, so I think there would have to be a significant amount of both analysis and planning before anything is even in the initial stages of happening. I think that charity events are a great way to do good and build awareness simultaneously, but I think I'd rather go a different route than auctions.

    • Russ Rogers says:

      Rick wrote: "I'm leery of anything that might require the news side of the site to be indebted to a publisher, to be honest. (In this case, I'd worry that the right to auction licensed properties would be accompanied by an expectation of coverage for the publisher's projects.)"Rick, I agree. There might be a conflict of interest in ComicMix trying to auction stuff from other publishers. And organizing an auction might take more time than is available to any ComicMix editor or contributor. But what about ComicMix artists donating signed images of GrimJack, Jon Sable Freelance, The Black Lamb, Robin Hood or Simone and Ajax directly to the HERO Initiative or the CBLDF? Of course those artists can always do that on their own. But it would get them more publicity and make a greater impact for ComicMix if a LARGE group of them made a mass donation as an EVENT. This would require a bit of some editor's time. But not as much as organizing the auctions themselves.Here, the onus for running the auction is on the charity. But ComicMix would NEED to trust that the charity would give ComixMix's donations the respect and promotion that they deserved. And I would see NO conflict of interest in ComicMix promoting a charity event that featured ComicMix artists, writers and characters. That is ComicMix promoting it's own interests, the expectation is already there!

  6. Vinnie Bartilucci says:

    Here's a mad idea – assuming one of the goals of the Comicmix model is trade paperback reprinting of the comics seen here, a limited edition version of the books (numbered and autographed, etc) made available, with some amount of the profits going to charity would be pretty cool. Regular tpb is x dollars, limited edition is x + y dollars, with y dollars going to charity. Certinaly wouldn't be any permissions issue, nor any extra debt to a publisher.

  7. Rick Marshall says:

    I think those are definitely interesting ideas, Russ and Vinnie. Unfortunately, they also herald the point in the conversation where I have to bow out and turn it over to somebody on the publishing side of ComicMix. I only manage the news and related editorial content here, and the machinations of the publishing side are in the good hands of people far more attuned to that scene than I would ever claim to be.I'm not sure when print editions of ComicMix comics are planned or any other info related to that aspect of things, because as far as I know, there's a tribe of "publishing gnomes" who magically appear and leave trade paperbacks and hardcovers on the doorstep of the office. Me, I'm just the news guy with a bit of tech savvy… ;)