Mike Gold: Creators’ Rights… And A Big Wrong

Mike Gold

ComicMix's award-winning and spectacularly shy editor-in-chief Mike Gold also performs the weekly two-hour Weird Sounds Inside The Gold Mind ass-kicking rock, blues and blather radio show on The Point, www.getthepointradio.com and on iNetRadio, www.iNetRadio.com (search: Hit Oldies) every Sunday at 7:00 PM Eastern, rebroadcast three times during the week – check www.getthepointradio.com above for times and on-demand streaming information.

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32 Responses

  1. I’m sure they neglected to mention that Malibu was the original publisher of the early Image books, too. I still have the promo mini-poster of the Youngblood #1 cover that clearly says “Malibu Comics in association with Image Press” on the bottom. Forget what Malibu book it came in, but I ran across it while sorting some kitsche earlier this year.

    I don’t even consider Image/Dark Horse/IDW independent publishers. Not that they don’t have some great books, but they are “The Smaller Three” rather than “The Big Two”.

    I forget who said it, but I remember reading someone’s definition of “not independent” being when a company has a dedicated marketing team who does that and nothing but. Not sure I agree with it, but it certainly differentiates them from the many publishers that nobody can deny are truly independent.

    • Mike Gold says:

      Before Image cut that initial deal with Malibu, they shopped distribution rights around the entire industry. They arrived en masse for a meeting with DC; we all knew why they were there. And some of us knew why it would be a bad deal for BOTH sides.

      • If you don’t mind my asking, why would it be a bad deal? I always thought both Image and Malibu made a lot of money off that initial agreement, at least based on the numbers of books moved.

        • Mike Gold says:

          Brandon, I was referring to DC and not Malibu.

          I think it would have been a bad deal for DC because DC, and the company which owns them, likes to have a lot more control than Image was looking to give up. All Image wanted was a distribution deal; DC, and Warners, likes to have some say in it.

          From DC’s perspective, I suspect it came down to this: these guys never ran a publishing company, they don’t have anybody on their staff (at that time and for a considerable time after) who did, and therefore we’re going to have to supply that expertise and we want stability, a very long-term agreement, and a piece of the action for what, in our opinion, is going to wind up being our efforts. That might have been slightly egotistic, but they’d been publishing comics for over a half-century and, besides, they have the right to look at it any way they want.

          Image, on the other hand, wouldn’t want to be under anybody’s thumb (that’s why some if not all of them left a sure-thing situation at Marvel), thought they didn’t need a publishing partner or the expertise DC might offer, wanted complete control of their company to do things a different way, wouldn’t want to commit to a long-term relationship and in fact was looking to take over their own distribution as soon as possible… which is what happened with Malibu.

          I also assume Malibu did fine while they had Image, but the day they didn’t their income must have plummeted like Wile E. Coyote with an anvil. Not a good way to run a business as there was no way they could have compensated for the loss of those revenues.

          • I got you meant it’d be bad for DC and Image as a pair, I was just saying Malibu made a lot of money from it that I assume DC would have made, too, but I see what you mean.

          • Malibu did get something later from Marvel for the Ultraverse line, and it must have been extra keen as all parties are still uber-tight-lipped on details more than a dozen years after the fact.

  2. Hollie Buchanan says:

    It’s almost impressive how the writer manages to suggest that Image deserves credit for every step forward [I started to write innovation.] without _quite_ lying outright. (I think the statement that Sandman is creator-ownedDC is the only actual falsehood.) Also cute are the suggestion that any errors of fact are probably Evanier’s fault and the degree to which the article is insulting within 24 words even without Biff or Pow.

    • Mike Gold says:

      Yep. After all these years of “progress,” the comics industry fails to attract the level of respect from reporters that they were taught to afford in their high school journalism class.

      • Neil C. says:

        That’s why the Times should hire me (I’ve tried, I’ve tried), a copy editor who knows stuff like that. Of course, it wouldn’t help much since sports is my main area….but whatever. :)

        • Mike Gold says:

          The Times covers sports, but it does so without joy or an appreciation of why people would want to be fans.

          On more than one occasion, the great Jimmy Breslin condemned newspapers for being boring. Not for doing Hearst’s version of Murdoch or for writing fiction, but for not reflecting the feeling of life on the streets of the big city. Each time I read these thoughts, I thought of the New York Times, which goes to great lengths to ignore the heartbeat of New York City.

  3. Russ Rogers says:

    When I think of “Creator Rights,” two things come to mind: Destroyer Duck, and how Jack Kirby and Steve Gerber were royally and casually hosed by Marvel. And Scott McCloud and his “Comics Creators Bill of Rights.” Now, I know there were more people in on the discussion than Scott. And there were more people hosed by Comics Management than Kirby and Gerber (the list could go on and on). But those are the two things that first popped into my head.

    • Mike Gold says:

      Russ, with all due respect to Scott and all the other frontline freedom fighters for creators’ rights (and that is an enormous amount of respect), creators only have ONE right: the right to not work for people who are ripping them off.

      The bad news is, there are an infinite number of newcomers out there that will work for Marvel or DC for free or for dirt wages and no rights whatsoever. Sure they’re not as gifted as those they’d replace — yet — and when they reach that level they’ll leave to do creator-owned projects distributed by non-Marvel/DC operations, including the growing field of direct-to-tablet publishing.

      And then those creators will be replaced by the next wave of newcomers. If DC/Marvel save as little as $50 a page on using younger talent, that’s a saving of more than two million dollars a year on page rates alone. That means they’re saving money even with a net loss of six million sales copies annually. Given the number of titles that don’t sell six THOUSAND copies — and the likelihood that they can actually save a lot more than $50 a page without the experienced, established talent — the creator has very little clout.

      Particularly when there’s a lot of top talent out there that will continue to work for Marvel and DC because they are being given the opportunity to also work on the media stuff — movies, teevee — which pays Hollywood rates. And there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s the brass ring for staying on the ride.

      And, of course, if writing Batman or drawing The Avengers is what rocks your boat, there’s only one place where you can do that. There’s nothing wrong with that as well.

      • On the flipside, there are many fly by night con-artist publisher who are oh so eager to mistreat rookies and foreign artists. I wish the conversation started by Adams in the 70s and later continued by Netzer, of a union of creators, would carry on today. If only so that more sharing of notes and basic looking out for each other would automatically cure many (though not all, of course) ails. People just don’t understand their rights, or they misunderstand them and allow themselves subservience to crooks. Curmudgeons are one thing, but I’ve known several young creators who leave the business entirely after just one or two unbelievably sour experiences.

        • Mike Gold says:

          Putting aside the difference between a union and a guild, and in the interest of full disclosure I am so pro-collective bargaining I was actually a member of the IWW (no shit), I have to reiterate that creators have no leverage with publishers as long as they are so painlessly replaceable.

          Established creators can try to get a good creator deal from DC/Marvel, and at various times they have succeeded. Would they TODAY? At DC, probably not. At Marvel, maybe, if you’re already a superstar who makes vital contributions to both the company’s family jewels and to Disney’s media endeavors. Otherwise, they can take their creations to other publishers where, by and large (there have been frightfully few exceptions) they cannot achieve DC/Marvel sales unless they’ve got a big teevee show going.

          Does this mean — for example — that DC won’t get the next League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Yes, it does, but DC can live just fine without it. But the next question must be: does this mean that DC won’t get the next Watchmen? Well, obviously, no: they’re vehemently milking Watchmen now that the management that brought in the property is gone. Besides, Watchmen was 100% based upon properties DC owned. If Watchmen had been published by Marvel, DC would have either sold them a license or sued their patooties off.

  4. Martha Thomases says:

    I have a lot of beefs (<- straight line for Mike!) with the Times, politically and in terms of comics. It bugged me that they continue to say Siegel and Shuster got $30,000 a year from Warners, when the amount increased greatly. When I worked at DC, I called to complain, but they wouldn't change it unless I told them what the new numbers were. Which I wouldn't, because it was an invasion of the families' privacy.

    Politically, I can sum it up with a story they ran when Reagan had the amnesty for undocumented immigrants in the 1980s. The Times wrote about how it would effect their readers' nannies.

    • Mike Gold says:

      Perfect. Just perfect. And sadly typical.

      If they can’t be bothered to get this easy sort of thing right — after all, they could have contacted the Siegel family to ask them if they would confirm or deny the $30,000 line — then why should I have any faith in their coverage of more complicated matters?

  5. It’s not like Todd McFarlane didn’t get his start on Coyote or anything.
    But has anyone contacted the paper to request a retraction?

    • Mike Gold says:

      The only purpose of a newspaper retraction, which is always buried at the bottom of the page under a generic small-type headline, is to attempt to prove good faith in case of a lawsuit. The damage is already done, and the overwhelming majority of people who Google the story in the future for whatever reason will read that initial story and not investigate the possibility of retractions further down the search list.

      And, besides, as Martha showed us the New York Fuckin Times man couldn’t care less.

      (Yes, that was a quote from Woodstock.)

  6. Rick Obadiah says:

    Clearly, creator rights is, should be and must be an on-going topic. Like all major changes in life the process is evolutionary and not revolutionary. However, considering the advancements made in the mid-80’s by First, Eclipse, etc. 30 years ago, as well as those made earlier by the likes of Eisner and Kitchen, et al — perhaps the process needs some high octane laboratory work. If a Creator’s Bill of Rights exists (I’ve not seen Scott McCloud’s paper) perhaps that could be the basis of an industry-wide conference where representatives of all sides (and sizes) on the issue can really work out some regulatory rules for the industry. Clearly, company ‘owned’ or ‘controlled’ properties should exist — in the long run the marketing might of the major companies should reap more dollars overall — to be shared with creators. Just as enlightened corporations set aside some percentage of stock for employee stock options (i.e., ownership) a balance can certainly allow a percentage of profits from all incarnations of a property to be shared by creators of those properties (just watch out for the 3 page, fine print definition of ‘net’ profits). It’s pretty basic. But for some reason the evolution to the solution is long overdo.

    • Mike Gold says:

      Rick, I couldn’t agree with you more. If you look at the creators’ rights situation in 1982 at DC and Marvel and compare it to today, not a hell of a lot of progress has been made. Of course, sales figures are a fraction of what they were back then so the whole “royalty” thing and the whole “profit” thing isn’t very attractive, but if you start with comparing average page rates — adjusted for inflation — you’d be hard-pressed to see any “progress.”

      • Mike Gold says:

        P.S. Jeez, it really was 30 years! Holy Odin’s Eyepatch, we’re old!

      • Glenn Hauman says:

        Average page rates would only be indicative if it was a massive change from the average salary at large– and the sad truth is that wages have remained stagnant for a large swath of the American work force.

        And correct me if I\’m wrong, but didn\’t Marvel use the word \”incentives\” instead of \”royalties\”? The latter, I suppose, implied ownership.

        • Mike Gold says:

          You’re wrong. Consider yourself corrected. As you know all too well, DC would never have put the word in their work-for-hire “agreements” if there was the slightest chance there’d be an ownership fight. Marvel used (uses?) incentives because, unlike royalties, they are reserving the right to screw you at will. Jim Shooter fought a lot of fights on behalf of creators who weren’t receiving their “incentives.”

          Yes, wages have remained stagnant and have even receded slightly over the past ten years, as measured in constant dollars. But the average page rate at the front-of-the-catalog publishers has receded more noticeably. The publishers argue you can’t pay people at the same average rate in an environment where you’re selling 5000 – 10000 copies as you did when times were “better.”

          Yeah. I know. Define “better.”

  7. Jerome Maida says:


    I agree with you beyond 100%..although I think it is unfair to single out the Times or think this laziness is only isolated to comics…I have written about comics for the Philadelphia daily News for 12 years now…during half that time I had a weekly comic book column…and I got to see just how little research people put into things that ARE THEIR JOB…If I interview an actor for example, I will make sure to look at clips on You Tube..look at his/her Wikipedia entry for interesting roles they may bnever get asked about, etc….It seems a lot of people who write for entertainment in general feel they are in the “toy section” and therefore no serious research is necessary..Btw..Have you bothered contacting the Times? They do listen to complaints

    • Mike Gold says:

      I single out the Times because it has wallowed in the legend “the journal of record” and “all the news that fits” for more than a century, and because they published the piece in question. You are absolutely right; this laziness is the industry standard these days. But the Times is the only paper who can set a better example.

      Ummm… also… they’re NOT a New York paper. They don’t actually cover New York, outside of the politics and the foo-fooist of the foo-foo culture. Damn near everything else is a national story. I get the feeling most of their reporters couldn’t find an address in the Bronx unless it was some trendy joint.

      They just hired a new “public editor,” replacing the amusingly named Arthur Brisbane.

      The Philly Daily News used to be a fun second read, although I never had reason to follow it daily. I’d pick up a copy or two when I was in the area. Today… well, it’s still being published. Two paper markets are few and far between. And Batman’s on the front page today!

      Or is that now the “cover?”

      • Rick Obadiah says:

        Okay … I have to laugh out loud and concede that the NY Times just got the last laugh on us — considering Mike’s comment, ” I get the feeling most of their reporters couldn’t find an address in the Bronx …” I just received an email from the NYTimes (yes, I’m a subscriber) with their list of their Top 5 E-Mailed Stories this week. Story #5: Why Can’t the Bronx Be More Like Brooklyn? And, get this, the reporter went to the Bronx! Really. Timing is everything in this world! Touche!

  8. Jerome Maida says:

    Well, it would be considered a “cover story” on the front page..tabloids in general seem to be the ones with a better pulse of the cities they cover…two reporters at the PDN jjsut won Pulitzers for a series exposing police corruption, while the “broadsheets” seem to be more intent on being “important”..like the New York Times

  9. FangsFirst says:

    I continue to find any discussion of “Image” and “Creator’s Rights” hysterical thanks to Todd MacFarlane’s interesting “business dealings” related to that very topic.

  10. Mindy Newell says:

    The NY TIMES also dissed me when it did a story about Gail Simone being the first woman to write WONDER WOMAN. Gail called me to apologize, saying that someone (I forget who) had told her that, no, she wasn’t the first woman, it was Mindy Newell. She said she told the reporter so, but that this info was ignored.

    “Of course,” I said. “Because if DC admits you weren’t the first woman to write Diana’s stories, then where’s the story for the NY TIMES to print?”

    • Mike Gold says:

      Trina wrote and drew The Legend of Wonder Woman mini-series that ran prior to the Pérez run. It was colored by Nansi Hoolahan and lettered by Lois Buhalis. This was in 1986. Not 1886, not 1986 B.C.

      So I think we can safely agree that the New York Times employs a bunch of lazy, arrogant assholes who couldn’t care less about getting their facts right.

    • mike weber says:

      Looks like you and i make periodic sweeps to see if there’s anything interesting to talk about.

      Sympathies on not getting credit where credit is due.