Mike Gold: The Daredevil Issue

Lately there’s been some controversy about the creator credits on the Daredevil teevee series. To be specific, the hubbub revolves around the use of the name and comments of some comics industry notables with respect to the issue. In other words, we have a controversy about a controversy.

Both are important issues, and are quite different from one another. But for the purpose of this particular polemic, I’m going to focus on the root issue, which is, as I understand it, as the creator of the costume used in the program, whether or not Wallace Wood deserves a creator co-credit.

The issues revolving around creator credits, a subset of the entire creators’ rights movement, are of vital concern. But they’re not very cut-and-dried. For example, there’s a good reason that the creator credit on Superman reads: “Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.” That seems simple and straightforward. It is not.

I think we can all agree that Siegel and Shuster created Superman. If not; go away. I can’t deal with you. We may agree that they also created Lois Lane. Maybe. But, how about… Jimmy Olsen? Kryptonite? Perry White? Almost certainly not; all three were created for the Superman radio series and adopted by the newspaper strip, the comic books and the subsequent media manifestations. Okay, that’s just an example. I can cite dozens more. Maybe hundreds.

In the case of Daredevil, the first issue of the comic book was something of a train wreck. I read it off the stands and loved it, but I didn’t know that artist Bill Everett had enormous difficulty completing the issue and “various hands” were brought in to finish the job. Joe Orlando took over with the second issue, and Wally Wood followed Joe starting with issue #5, often with the credited assistance of Bob Powell. Bob penciled issue #11 and Woody inked it, and Jack Kirby and John Romita took over with #12. The briefness of Wally Wood’s tenure is not an issue here.

Woody changed the coloring of the costume from yellow-and-black to all-red in issue #7, which, coincidentally, costarred the Sub-Mariner – Bill Everett’s creation. The popularly held story, and there’s no reason to doubt it, is that Wood thought Everett’s costume was silly and that if the guy is called anything-devil, he should be in red.

So, some contend, because it is the Wally Wood costume that is being used in the television series, Wally Wood should get a creator’s credit.

I am second to no one in my admiration of and lust for Wally Wood’s artwork. I believe he was the first artist who’s work I could recognize by name – because Woody signed his stuff and Jack Kirby did not. But the immense quality of his craft does not enter into this argument.

There are comics creators, almost always writers, who believe that because they were the ones who came up with the original idea they were the true, and sole, creators of the property. Generally I reject this because comics is, first and foremost, a visual medium and the person or persons who create the visuals are also critical to the creation of the property. When I work on a creator-owned property, as I do almost exclusively these days, I insist the creators have a signed agreement stating their ownership positions. This makes life easier for everybody. I really do not care what those positions may be – as long as it’s not totally egregious, it’s not my business. If it is totally egregious, I know that it will blow up before long and possibly take the project down with it. That’s the only horse I have in the race.

After that point, things get a little tricky. Can you imagine the creators’ credits on any contemporary Superman story? Damn, the credits on Superman The Movie ran longer than some life-forms. Imagine adding the names of the people who came up with all the other characters and unique elements of the saga.

Of course, Batman’s “creator” will get his contractually due credit in next year’s Batman/Superman movie. I won’t get into the issue of just who created Batman right now; it has little to do with the Daredevil situation and, besides, my head would explode. Just consider my quotation marks to be editorial comment.

In my view, Wally Wood did not recreate Daredevil’s costume. As dynamic as the change was – and, damn, it certainly was – it was a coloring change and a tiny bit of alteration akin to putting that yellow circle around Batman’s bat. I know I just pissed a lot of people off and I’m sorry about that.

But it’s a tough one. Marvel notes all (or most all) of the writers and artists whose work is adapted for each movie and television show, and I think it drives my daughter crazy when I freeze-frame that part of the end credits because we’re both enjoying the “coming next week” teaser. But I’ve never seen the end-credits on Daredevil because, at least on my Netflix delivery system, the screen shrinks down to an unreadable size so that Netflix can inform me of how much time I have to not read those credits before the next episode starts. My guess is that for those who believe Woody’s name should be prominently displayed wouldn’t be satisfied, and I get that.

Comic book characters that survive for any length of time are like snowballs going down a ski-slope: they get bigger and bigger as they roll on. To me, the phrase “created by” refers to the people who started that ball rolling.

And my love of and respect for the work of the late Wallace Wood remains undiminished.