Mike Gold: Gerry Conway, Freedom Fighter
I’ve been reading Gerry Conway’s new Amazing Spider-Man mini-series (or whatever; contemporary comic book numbering would even baffle the ancient Romans who had no concept of “zero.”) and I’m enjoying it… but not in the way I expected. I expected Classic Conway, which is fine. What we got was a solid Spidey story written in a very contemporary style.
But that’s not this old dog’s only new trick.
Gerry’s been very busy standing up for creators’ rights; obviously, including his own. His efforts have earned praise from Neal Adams, the medium’s worthy and long-time leader in the ongoing battle for creators’ rights. Most recently, he’s been commenting on DC’s latest talent-relations habit where they would bonus comics talent for extra-media use of characters they created. If the creation was at all derivative, DC no longer feels the need (non-contractual obligation based upon decades of precedent) to write a check. For example, Gerry Conway created Power Girl – with artists Ric Estrada and Wally Wood – but, because Power Girl is “derivative” of Superman, no bonus. One would think the character is derivative of a certain soon-to-be-televised Marvel superhero, but that’s a story for a different legal team. DC can define derivative any way it wants, but the end result is that money that once went into creators’ pockets now stays in DC’s.
The fact is, any character created for the DC Universe is derivative at least in part simply because it must exist in the DC Universe and honor the DCU’s laws of physics. The old bonus thing is now meaningless because the creator has no recourse except to complain. There is no incentive to trust DC with your new creation because they feel you’re lucky to walk away with your page rate intact. Maybe.
From this point forward, only an idiot or a newbie would create a character for the company. The DC Universe, perpetually fighting eight decades of staleness, is going to continue to press the Reboot Button like some crack monkey in a lab.
This is hardly Gerry’s first rodeo at the Freedom Fighters’ Ranch. Way back in 2014, Gerry wrote a very impressive piece that was reprinted in Forbes Magazine about how Amazon’s acquisition of Comixology hurts comics creators.
This is so important that I’m actually putting it in a separate paragraph and italicizing it:
What hurts comics creators hurts comics readers, and hurts the entire comics medium.
I must make two disclaimers. First, I’ve known Gerry for, oh damn, almost 40 years. That’s frightening… for Gerry. Second, Gerry Conway has created or co-created the Punisher, Firestorm, Steel, The Deserter (my favorite; sadly, it fell victim to the DC Implosion), Killer Croc, Tombstone, Man-Thing, Killer Frost (if you watch The Flash teevee show, that would be Caitlin Snow) and just under a zillion others. So, yeah, it’s his ox that’s being gored, but when you’re right, you’re right.
And Gerry Conway is right.
By the way, you’ll note I called Gerry an “old dog” up in the second paragraph. For the record, he’s two years younger than I am. So I mean “old dog” in the nicest, Scoobie-Doo sort of way.