Wednesday, May 06, 2015
The End of a Beautiful Friendship: Creators' Rights [Guest Post]
The fight over creators' rights seems like ancient lore these days, but for those of us who remember Destroyer Duck and all the fuss that spawned the Gerber vs Marvel fight, it lingers. The movie Howard the Duck tanked, but his cameo at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy reminded me of those old battlegrounds. But not all the battles were fought with Marvel and DC.
Wally Wood, despite being famous from as early as EC Comics, fought his own battles. He was one of the people who created witzend (issue #1 in 1966), the first pro fanzine in which all material was owned by its creators. Commercially a disaster, it did spark the first discussions around "Who owns this idea, anyway?" Other prozines would follow like Phase 1, Hot Stuf' and Star*Reach. The seeds planted in the 1960s would bloom in the 1970s and 1980s, first as "underground comics," but eventually as creator-owned and published works like The First Kingdom, Cerebus the Aardvark, and Elf Quest.
So in June of 1978, when Warren began their version of Heavy Metal - first called 1984, then later changed to 1994 - it made sense to include some sword and sorcery from Wally Wood. Who better? Wally had been into heroic fantasy since the 1960s, as well as inking Kull the Conqueror #1 (1971) for Marvel, then the short-lived Stalker for DC in 1975 and Hercules Unbound (1975-76). He also did a wonderful Lord of the Rings parody for DC's Plop #23 (September-October 1976) called "The King of the Ring." These jobs were nothing though compared to his fantasy masterwork, The King of the World, an adult Fantasy he had been working on since the witzend days.
Ironically, in 1983, Bill DuBay would be one of fifty-eight former Warren writers and artists to appear before the judge in the Warren bankruptcy case, protesting that Harris, who bought out the folding Warren empire, did not have the rights to such characters as Vampirella and decades of stories. Creators' rights? What's that?
GW Thomas has appeared in over 400 different books, magazines and ezines including The Writer, Writer's Digest, Black October Magazine and Contact. His website is gwthomas.org. He is editor of Dark Worlds magazine.