I recently spread a link of a David Simon blog around to a lot of my fellow comic book writers.
Simon is an awesome talent; the writer and the creator of both Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire. He's got the bona fides in spades.
His blog (linked below) lays out the current falling out between members of the Writer's Guild and the powerful H'wood talent agencies. He makes the case far better than I ever could and I urge you to read the blog. But the upshot is that the agencies, who are supposed to represent their clients, have instead made a place for themselves in the profit stream from the gross receipts of the same productions that they are populating with talent. By making themselves players through "packaging" deals, they are offering producers their clients at cut rates in exchange for a bigger piece of the pie.
The writers, and all other H'wood talent, are hurt by these deals. But it's the writers who are doing all the bitching and working (or threatening NOT to work) to change this corrupt current system. You didn't expect the actors to strike, did you?
I wish them well. I wish them godspeed. I hope the writers triumph and bring the agencies and studios to heel so that all the creative talent can reap the benefit of the current entertainment bonanza.
But what about your cousins in comic books? Huh? What about us? The lowly comic book writers.
We’re beavering away every month writing dozens and dozens of pages; plotting, dialogue, twists, turns and all the storytelling muscle of a feature film every thirty days all while staying within the framework of decades-old continuities under onerous work-for-hire contracts.
Now, I'm sure David Simon and many of his fellow screenwriters have nothing but loathing for the current crop of superhero movies and television shows and I often cringe myself at some of those efforts. But the agents talked about in his piece, along with members of the writer’s guild, have shared in the undreamed-of cash pool that this cycle of movies, TV and SVOD has created.
But not the folks who initially created those properties, who spent years building the framework for these box office monsters. We’ve been working in obscurity creating the material that this bonanza was built on. It’s not all Stan Lee. There’s an army of us out here.
And we’re the ones who created, maintained and/or shaped Iron Man, Batman, Spider-man, the Avengers as well as other properties like The Walking Dead, 300, Sin City, Kingsman, Oblivion, Men in Black and Road to Perdition which were also sourced from comics creators.
Comics have been the source and, like it or not, the savior of the H’wood box office for almost twenty years. As well as populating the TV schedule and filling the content needs for SVOD. Marvel alone has reaped 17 billion in box office receipts from their cinematic universe. You can double that with merchandising, theme parks, games and other ancillary revenue.
What do we get for all that? A mention in the end credits after the ant wranglers and craft service. Sometimes not even that. If we’re lucky we get a one-time payment for a character that will be worth billions in box office, merchandising and other ancillary streams. If we’re REAL lucky we might get an ongoing taste of a taste of the crumbs left on the plate after everyone else has been served.
Our stuff gets “packaged” just like the work of filmed entertainment does. The only difference is that we never get into the box.
As I stated in my comment above, even those levels of remuneration are shrinking as the parent global entertainment conglomerates that own the major comic book companies have moved the goalposts again and again, shrinking the comic book creator’s percentage of participation to less than half of what it was twenty years ago.
We have no guild in my profession. We have no one speaking for each other and, frankly, competition is so keen for work that most of us are afraid to make any noise at all.
And with publication being cut at the major comic companies and word of even more dire news coming down the pike for comics, even our creative participation will begin to fade. More and more, these film and TV productions are creating their own versions of these characters and situations; basing the stories and characters less and less on the source material.
That's all got to change. I have a few efforts I'm currently working on with a few other creators. If they won't let us in the box we'll build our own.
Link to the David Simon blog: