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Author Topic: Jack Kirby's copyrights and Steve Ditko's departure from Marvel Comics  (Read 7996 times)

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Offline Yoc

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Re: Steve Ditko and the departure from Marvel Comics,
« Reply #45 on: April 01, 2011, 07:42:11 PM »
Let's turn the heat down a bit on this topic gang.  Ok? 
Nobody has said anything too nasty, but let's not cross the line.

Thanks,
-Yoc

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Re: Steve Ditko and the departure from Marvel Comics,
« Reply #45 on: April 01, 2011, 07:42:11 PM »

Offline brush

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Re: Steve Ditko and the departure from Marvel Comics,
« Reply #46 on: April 01, 2011, 07:55:26 PM »
The late great Jack Kirby must be rolling over in his grave - Marvel and DC's methods of securing the copyrights from the Freelancer was basically an ultimatum tantamount to extortion!! For an  artist/freelancer with a family to feed and a rent or mortgage to pay, there was only one possible scenario; concede to the terms stated on the back of the cheque!!

From Joe Sinnott's testimony:

13. I recall that the [cheques] that I received from Marvel in the 1960's as a
freelancer had pre-printed language on the back. It said that by endorsing the
[cheque], I was acknowledging payment for my assignment of the copyright and all
other rights in my work.


From Dick Ayer's testimony:

14. This was reflected in how we were paid after delivery and acceptance of
freelance material. Marvel's [cheques] to me would include stamped writing on the
back, where I was supposed to endorse the [cheque], which stated that by signing the [cheque] I was transferring to the comic book publisher all of my rights in the material it had purchased.

From Neal Adams testimony:

14. For instance, Marvel's and DC Comics' [cheques] to everyone through at least the mid-1970's would include a printed or stamped legend on the back that stated that by endorsing the [cheque], the artist "transfers" and "assigns" all right, title and interest in the artwork bought by Marvel.



Warren
« Last Edit: April 01, 2011, 09:31:28 PM by brush »

Offline John C

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Re: Steve Ditko and the departure from Marvel Comics,
« Reply #47 on: April 02, 2011, 06:38:03 AM »
Bob, your point is exactly mine, which is my problem, here.  Involved in this case was an attempt to also sue for the artwork and missed payments, for which the Statute of Limitations has long expired.  If this was such an important aspect for the kids, they wouldn't have waited until they were already suing for something else.  The only reason I can imagine for pulling a stunt like that is for parasitic sympathy.

Warren, yes, there's another choice.  It's usually referred to as "getting a real job," which is what most artists do to support their families and their art.  I have a lot of respect for those people and for the choice Kirby made, because they did make the choices, with their eyes open, and in full recognition of the facts.  Kirby, especially, would know the facts, because he had been a publisher for a few years in the same business.

As I said before, to see testimony that suggests that he didn't know what he was doing?  Yeah, I'm sure that's all out of absolute respect for the man and his work and not at all about becoming millionaires off the eight trillion bucks the movies have grossed to date without contributing anything to society.

Offline josemas

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Re: Steve Ditko and the departure from Marvel Comics,
« Reply #48 on: April 02, 2011, 08:09:22 AM »
(Imagine a movie star from the '60s insisting that he should get extra royalties, because nobody at the time of filming ever mentioned selling it "on DVD"...)

I know a bit more about movie related stuff so I'll throw out a few things regarding that in answer to your statement here John.

The earliest that I know of residuals being paid to actors was for radio work back in the early 1940s. 

Once TV took off actors negotiated and began receiving residuals on reruns of television shows & theatrical movies being run on television in the 1950s & 60s.

In the 1970s & 80s they began receiving residuals for such things as video casette , pay per view and cable sales.

The specifics of DVDs and video on demand residuals are items that are still being negotiated. 

Best

Joe

Offline josemas

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Re: Steve Ditko and the departure from Marvel Comics,
« Reply #49 on: April 02, 2011, 08:21:46 AM »
What fascinates me is that this story only seems to happen regularly or taken seriously with comics.  As I mentioned, nobody screams that we should track down Tesla's grand-nephews and force the power companies to give them a percentage of our electric bills, even though he essentially invented AC power transmission, among other things around us he actually never got paid for.  Nobody thinks that Jackie Gleason's estate should get money from modern sitcoms after he essentially reinvented the form used today. 

Well Tesla's work would have dealt with patents (which congress hasn't tinkered with nearly as much as they have with copyright) and as such would have expired many, many years ago.

Jackie Gleason was just putting his own touch on the sort of thing that had been happening in theatrical comedy shorts for decades and in doing so he borrowed heavily from various comedians himself.  He was unique but what he was doing was really nothing new.

Best

Joe


Offline JVJ

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Re: Steve Ditko and the departure from Marvel Comics,
« Reply #50 on: April 02, 2011, 10:08:05 AM »
Interesting cultural slant, John,
Last fall I was speaking with Jean-Claude Mazieres, a French comic book artist of nearly 50 years (he and Jean Giraud with instrumental in the design of The Fifth Element). He told me that an important Belgian original art collector had recently sold his entire collection at auction. Some of the art was work done by Jean-Claude back in the 1970s. The French law requires that a small percentage (he didn't say how much) of the realized sale price is given to the artist, so he had just received a windfall because his work is highly collectible.

I don't know if the monies would be awarded to his estate if he had died, but I LOVE the notion that artists in this culture are presumed to have a vested interest in their work and continue to benefit from the value that accrues from a long and successful career.

Vive la France,

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Offline Yoc

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Re: Steve Ditko and the departure from Marvel Comics,
« Reply #51 on: April 02, 2011, 10:09:46 AM »
Nice calm and informative posts josemas.
Thanks!

Fascinating Jim.  Thanks for sharing that as well.
:)

Offline John C

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Re: Steve Ditko and the departure from Marvel Comics,
« Reply #52 on: April 02, 2011, 03:07:04 PM »
I actually have a bone to pick with a lot of copyright law that's crept onto this side of the Atlantic, Jim (like basing the copyright term of ephemera on the lifespan of utter unknowns) and this just adds to the pile.  I mean, it sounds nice on the surface, but it's basically saying that artists get money long after they've put in the work (and get paid again and again, potentially), while the guy who fixes potholes or invents a new way to fuel cars gets his salary, maybe a bonus, and a pat on the head, to be forgotten.

If the artist gets a cut of every painting resale, why not the company who produced the paints?  Why not the oil company (or walnut/linseed farmer, I guess) that provided the medium for the oil?  We all know why:  Because everything would be too expensive if we priced it that way.

But somehow, we can idolize an artist and demand such payments without every thinking of demanding it for ourselves, and certainly turning a blind eye to everyone who enabled the art.

I think it's well past time I walk away from this topic.  It seems I'm more angering people (not you, Jim) than engaging in conversation, and that's a waste of everybody's time.

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Re: Steve Ditko and the departure from Marvel Comics,
« Reply #53 on: April 02, 2011, 04:48:47 PM »
I'll just add one last thing.  

I was considering this the other day... when Kirby and Ditko joined up with Atlas in those waning days of the 1950s, Atlas was indeed on the rocks.  Basically, it was a completely renewed company by the time Kirby, Ditko and Lee hit their stride with the new superhero titles.  And IMO if one is to draw a correct analogy with the workings of the computer software industry, the conditions of Atlas-Marvel at that time was more akin to a modern day software startup.   If Atlas was a software company today and it brought in two high profile creative talents like Kirby and Ditko, I'm sure they would be offered not only a salary, but stock options as well.  Why?  Well, it's obvious.  The stock options work as a method of recapturing "a cut" of future profits for these creative efforts.  

Did Kirby get such a deal?  No, not at all.  So by this loose modern analogy I'd say yes, Kirby's family deserves to be compensated for loss of income/profits.  

Of course I'm not even sure stock options as a form of compensation for key people was even a concept back then, and besides Atlas was privately held at the time.  But Kirby could have at least been offered a small percentage of the comic book business... in other words, he could have been made a silent partner in the company... which IMO would have amounted to about the same thing as a stock options offering.  But neither he nor Ditko (or Lee for that matter, as far as I know) were... yet they did pretty much rebuild Goodman's comic book business for him (IMO).  
« Last Edit: April 02, 2011, 06:36:42 PM by Drusilla lives! »

Offline KevinP

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Re: Steve Ditko and the departure from Marvel Comics,
« Reply #54 on: April 02, 2011, 05:59:25 PM »
But...why isn't his "equitable reward" the paycheck he received?

If, as the article says, they were promised residuals, if the work took off, then they deserved them.
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Offline JVJ

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Re: Steve Ditko and the departure from Marvel Comics,
« Reply #55 on: April 03, 2011, 05:38:58 AM »
I mean, it sounds nice on the surface, but it's basically saying that artists get money long after they've put in the work (and get paid again and again, potentially), while the guy who fixes potholes or invents a new way to fuel cars gets his salary, maybe a bonus, and a pat on the head, to be forgotten.

If the artist gets a cut of every painting resale, why not the company who produced the paints?  Why not the oil company (or walnut/linseed farmer, I guess) that provided the medium for the oil?  We all know why:  Because everything would be too expensive if we priced it that way.

I don't see that analogy, John. This is applicable only to Art, wherein a specific effort by a specific person adds a value to the canvas and the oil and frame that varies with both the quality of that effort and the value that society places on the result over time. The person who "invested" in a page of Jean-Claude's Valerian strip in 1975 did nothing to increase the value of that page. And it can easily be argued that Jean-Claude's continual effort and the quality of that effort and the popularity that he engendered DID contribute to the value of the 1975 effort. So when M. Collector decides to sell at a profit, there is a case to be made (and French Society makes said case) that a portion of the ROI for M. Collector is due to the Artist who made it possible.

Quote
But somehow, we can idolize an artist and demand such payments without every thinking of demanding it for ourselves, and certainly turning a blind eye to everyone who enabled the art.

It's a little more subtle than that, I think. There is a value that societies place upon Art that is not given to making bricks or waxing automobiles or drilling for oil. Whatever "it" is that an Artist adds to a work of Art, the value of "it" varies with the talent and popularity of the Artist and with time and scarcity. "It" is more than a product or a service, where the normal market forces hold sway. Someone may be able to make a better brick and charge more for it, but there is usually the material and ability available for someone else to produce additional bricks. With Art, it's a done deal. There aren't going to be more Steve Ditko Spider-Man #33 covers. Can you really deny that the seller today of that piece of art doesn't have some moral debt to Mr. Ditko to share a portion of his windfall with Steve? Said seller hadn't contributed anything other than the preservation of it, and Marvel hadn't either.

I'm not saying that Ditko can demand such recompense, but I maintain that a society that can make a rule that awards him such is pretty enlightened.

Quote
I think it's well past time I walk away from this topic.  It seems I'm more angering people (not you, Jim) than engaging in conversation, and that's a waste of everybody's time.

I understand your position, and basically reject the current copyright laws as patently unfair and quite contrary to the intent of the framers of our laws. They are a manifestation of the manipulations of Corporate America. If the original intent of a 28 (or even the 56) year limit were enforced, the Shuster, Kirby, and Simon cases would be moot. Public Domain would be all the richer and faceless corporate ownership of Artistic Creations would be severely limited.

Much of these extension laws stem from Disney's efforts to prevent Mickey Mouse from falling into the public domain. And where would Walt Disney be without such Public Domain material as Treasure Island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas, Snow White, Cinderella, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book, Swiss Family Robinson, etc. etc. etc.?

We exist in a hypocritical world run by lawyers, but there are a few bright spots of respect still around. I think that the French acknowledgement of an Artist's contribution to the value of his own work is a laudable one.

In NO way have you angered me, so I hope you will consider a continuation of our conversation.

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Offline narfstar

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Re: Steve Ditko and the departure from Marvel Comics,
« Reply #56 on: April 03, 2011, 06:02:47 AM »
Quote
Much of these extension laws stem from Disney's efforts to prevent Mickey Mouse from falling into the public domain. And where would Walt Disney be without such Public Domain material as Treasure Island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas, Snow White, Cinderella, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book, Swiss Family Robinson, etc. etc. etc.?

Very astute observation that I had not thought of.

Quote
We exist in a hypocritical world run by lawyers, but there are a few bright spots of respect still around.

Yep

Quote
Much of these extension laws stem from Disney's efforts to prevent Mickey Mouse from falling into the public domain. And where would Walt Disney be without such Public Domain material as Treasure Island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas, Snow White, Cinderella, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book, Swiss Family Robinson, etc. etc. etc.?

Very astute observation that I had not thought of.

Quote
I think that the French acknowledgement of an Artist's contribution to the value of his own work is a laudable one.

I question why we as a society place the arbitrary values on this or that effort. Picasso slapped a few lines on canvas and because he was Picasso it was art. NONSENSE.  Someone sticks a cross in urine and it is art. NONSENSE. If any hack can easily copy it then it is not talent. Some argue that it is the idea. Within one novel a writer may include many such ideas. Just because he does not have a name as an artist and make a physical representation it is not as valued. I remember a "sculpture" I saw once. It looked like a wad of gum. I would bet money that was the "artists" inspiration. It took no talent to make a large version of a wad of gum. He made money probably founded by tax dollars.

I guess my points on this are coming from being a teacher. I feel that I add far more value, with far more effort and work, to society. In most instances I feel that society contributes to the value of the artist more than the artist to society. Same with actors or music stars. In most cases I think it is the work of the writer and the people behind the scenes that add the real value and quality. Once society places a value on the celebrity they continue to reap great rewards. It is almost always the product that made them more than the other way around.

Offline JVJ

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Re: Steve Ditko and the departure from Marvel Comics,
« Reply #57 on: April 03, 2011, 06:06:17 AM »
I'll just add one last thing.  

I was considering this the other day... when Kirby and Ditko joined up with Atlas in those waning days of the 1950s, Atlas was indeed on the rocks.  Basically, it was a completely renewed company by the time Kirby, Ditko and Lee hit their stride with the new superhero titles.  And IMO if one is to draw a correct analogy with the workings of the computer software industry, the conditions of Atlas-Marvel at that time was more akin to a modern day software startup.   If Atlas was a software company today and it brought in two high profile creative talents like Kirby and Ditko, I'm sure they would be offered not only a salary, but stock options as well.  Why?  Well, it's obvious.  The stock options work as a method of recapturing "a cut" of future profits for these creative efforts.  

The analogy falls down, DL, when you consider that Kirby and Ditko were not working full time for pre-Marvel. They weren't "brought in" to create a company, they were two guys looking to earn a paycheck and taking work where ever they could get it. Kirby was at  Classics Illustrated and Archie, while Ditko was still active at Charlton and even Dell. Without a full/total commitment to a company, I don't believe that anyone today would be offered stock options.

Quote
Did Kirby get such a deal?  No, not at all.  So by this loose modern analogy I'd say yes, Kirby's family deserves to be compensated for loss of income/profits.  

I am a firm believer in Jack Kirby's contribution to the Marvel Universe and would argue until the day I die that he deserved more than he got. BUT, I simply reject the notion that his family is owed anything. Families aren't the creators of the work and their contributions are non-existent. The copyright of a work is a tangible asset that can be willed to an heir or heirs, so if there is a legitimate copyright that Kirby can be shown to have owned, then they deserve to inherit that asset. The convoluted and insubstantial nature of the "rights" defined by the new copyright laws makes this both debatable and difficult to prove.

Personally, I think all the rights to anything done over 58 years ago should be PD and the notion that Marvel or Kirby's family should be fighting over them is sad. It seems possible that nothing will ever again fall into the Public Domain.

Quote
Of course I'm not even sure stock options as a form of compensation for key people was even a concept back then, and besides Atlas was privately held at the time.  But Kirby could have at least been offered a small percentage of the comic book business... in other words, he could have been made a silent partner in the company... which IMO would have amounted to about the same thing as a stock options offering.  But neither he nor Ditko (or Lee for that matter, as far as I know) were... yet they did pretty much rebuild Goodman's comic book business for him (IMO).  

I also agree that Kirby rebuilt Goodman's business for him. But he did it with his eyes opened and he did it probably MORE for Jack Kirby than for Martin Goodman. He needed a steady job and he effectively created one for himself. It wasn't altruism on Kirby's part any more than it was manipulation on Goodman's. It was one more example of Capital and Labor joining forces to satisfy their own needs. We don't know exactly who said what to whom, but I think it's extremely unlikely that Kirby was concerned with the long-term returns on his creative investments until long after he had made them. As has been proved more than once in his career, he wasn't the world's greatest contract negotiator. And that doesn't make Martin Goodman an ogre (though he still may have been one).

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Offline JVJ

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Re: Steve Ditko and the departure from Marvel Comics,
« Reply #58 on: April 03, 2011, 06:24:26 AM »
Quote
I think that the French acknowledgement of an Artist's contribution to the value of his own work is a laudable one.

I question why we as a society place the arbitrary values on this or that effort. Picasso slapped a few lines on canvas and because he was Picasso it was art. NONSENSE.  Someone sticks a cross in urine and it is art. NONSENSE. If any hack can easily copy it then it is not talent. Some argue that it is the idea. Within one novel a writer may include many such ideas. Just because he does not have a name as an artist and make a physical representation it is not as valued. I remember a "sculpture" I saw once. It looked like a wad of gum. I would bet money that was the "artists" inspiration. It took no talent to make a large version of a wad of gum. He made money probably founded by tax dollars.

I guess my points on this are coming from being a teacher. I feel that I add far more value, with far more effort and work, to society. In most instances I feel that society contributes to the value of the artist more than the artist to society. Same with actors or music stars. In most cases I think it is the work of the writer and the people behind the scenes that add the real value and quality. Once society places a value on the celebrity they continue to reap great rewards. It is almost always the product that made them more than the other way around.
I agree, narf. I think that much if not most of what is classified as "Art" these days is stupid and laughable, and such is especially true of the popular arts of film and "music". You will get NO argument from me. The "conceptual" nature of Modern "art" is, as you say, nonsense.

I've NEVER understood the appeal or "value" of Picasso, but you and I are not the arbiters of what Society views as Art. Our society is VERY confused on its priorities, as you correctly point out, but it's a social evaluation, not one that we as individuals have control over. You and I can value the writer of a film more than the actors, but Society doesn't. We can be right and Society wrong, but it has ZERO impact on how much Johnny Depp is going to get paid for his next film.

As a teacher, you probably contribute much of value, but Society may just see you as a parasitic leech out to suck the public coffers dry. How stupid is THAT? Pretty DAMN STUPID, but the reality isn't what we're discussing - it is what the masses of opinions that manifest themselves as our Social Values reflect.

So, private opinions aside, American Society values notoriety, sex appeal, and popularity. It's probably much the same in France, but the simply fact that they acknowledge the role of the Artist in the public valuation of his/her Art, is something not found in America and something I laud.

YMMV.

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Offline bcholmes

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Re: Steve Ditko and the departure from Marvel Comics,
« Reply #59 on: April 03, 2011, 09:19:59 AM »
Hm.

I've been hesitating to get involved in this conversation, because I'm sure that a large number of people will disagree with me in ways that are (in my opinion) knee-jerk reactions.  Basically, because I'm really not very far from a communist in my political views, and I find that people just want to argue with anything involving the 'C'-word regardless of whether or not the argument applies to anything said in the conversation.

But there are a coupl'a points that I would like to raise -- and they're common points that (in my opinion) seem to be neglected in these kinds of conversations.  I think that, because we live in such a capitalist society, we aren't really given any real training in the labour theory of capital.  And we also, in my opinion, tend to analyze situations as individual choices without applying any sort of systemic analysis.

Consider the following suggestion that John made:

Quote
Warren, yes, there's another choice.  It's usually referred to as "getting a real job," which is what most artists do to support their families and their art.  I have a lot of respect for those people and for the choice Kirby made, because they did make the choices, with their eyes open, and in full recognition of the facts.  Kirby, especially, would know the facts, because he had been a publisher for a few years in the same business.

This is classic "individualist" thinking, in my opinion.  I would assert that the better choice is for the Marvel artists to unionize and collectively bargain for reasonable wages and/or some other reward system for their work (such as, if the group wants it, future bonuses on the work).

This is, in my opinion, the real difference between the example of the person who fills potholes and the person who draws the X-men: not that one is "art" and the other is "pavement" (although it seems like the difference is obvious, I actually think that the distinction is built on a house of cards that'll tip over the moment you really start to interrogate it).  The pot-hole-filler is almost certainly a unionized municipal worker, whose union has negotiated a reasonable wage and benefits.  We all know what happens to comic artists later in life: the vast majority end up destitute even when the companies that they work for make fortunes.  I don't think that is right, and I do think that there are equitable ways to fix that -- ways that don't involve suggesting that someone like Jack Kirby should have gotten a job filling pot holes. 
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