Marvel cinematic universe is the highest-grossing film franchise with over $22.93 billion business in its entirety, wherein Avengers Endgame is the highest-grossing film with 2.8 billion US dollars. Despite, the production houses bagging such a huge sum every year, a sense of discontentment has time and again surfaced from the comic creator’s side. This time, their ordeal has only amplified the voices of scanty compensation structure that had been prevailing since the 1960s. The accusations are bothersome and have triggered a chain of contemplation: Is this how we reward creativity?
Who do you credit for Avengers?
When you have just watched an Avengers film, if asked who should you pay credit to; What names would pop in your mind? For some, without a second thought, it could be an actor or director. Others who have plunged deep into the dynamics of the movie-making would say comic creator whose name is mentioned in the credit line along with a tag “based on the comic books created by”. Of whom many are not alive. But what about some unknown faces like Frank Miller, Walt Simonson, and many uncountable more, who have steward comics like Batman and Thor for time immemorial. Let us not debate over credit, but the cash they pocket in.
And you thought they make millions!
If you wondering that comic creators mint millions in exchange for their appealing imaginary figment, then sorry to burst the bubble. They do not. Comic creators are “work-for-hire” employees who are offered flat rates and royalty payments with no other obligatory compensation structure from the production house whatsoever. Also, to incentivize popular creators they are offered equity: a dollop of proportion if their content becomes fodder for film, mercs, and series. And that’s all they get even if their character beats hundreds of millions in the theatres.
One of the highlighting issues quite recently has been of Kurt Busiek and Ed Brubaker, the artist responsible for the bone and structure of Avengers spin-off: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. According to them via The Guardian, the artists alleged that often they receive a ‘Thank You’ note here and there and a meagre $5000 against their hard labour of years for developing character arcs and intriguing plots for reviving Captain America’s sidekick Bucky. They were also offered exclusive access to the premiere of the series but later denied stating they were not on the list. And then they have to call Sebastian Stan to let them in.
According to Marvel’s creator Jim Starlin, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”. He mentions negotiating a higher paycheck for his character Thanos to appear as MCU’s biggest bad guy. And his request was honoured.
Marvel and DC stand tall on the ground stating they have just a system to appreciate the creator whose characters qualify for an extra payment. In Marvel’s Special Character Contract, the creator can fill the application form for an extra payment. But here is the catch, they reserve rights to refuse surplus pay by questioning the originality of character and stating “the decisions are final”. Not to mention, the tedious and cumbersome the whole process is.
A phenomenal movie is a perfect concoction of scripts and impeccable performance by an actor. But movies aided through the content of comics should proffer due credit to the creators behind the glitz of screens and cameras. Otherwise, a sharp knife dangles at the end of the road, ready to pierce the sprawling creativity.