It’s no secret that comic book movies are huge moneymakers for the folks at Disney and Warner Bros. However, just how much these multibillion-dollar companies are giving the minds behind the stories and characters they’re adapting has been a bit secretive — and it turns out the truth isn’t very pretty. In a report published by The Guardian, several comic book creators came forward with stories of how their work has been compensated as both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Cinematic Universe have continued to expand. While DC was mentioned several times, the bulk of the article focused on Marvel and its mistreatment of writers/creators. According to multiple sources, despite Marvel making literal billions off of comic book writer’s properties, many creators are merely getting a $5,000 check and an invite to the film’s premiere.
However, for Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, the creators of Bucky Barnes Winter Soldier persona and his respective storyline, they didn’t even get that. According to Brubaker via The Guardian, when he and Epting showed up to the premiere party for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, they were told they weren’t on the list. Brubaker then had to text Sebastian Stan, the actor who played Bucky, and ask him to let them in. In his interview, Brubaker went into more detail on how he feels about the whole ordeal, as well as Marvel’s treatment of him and his partner in comic book creation:
For the most part, all Steve and I have got for creating the Winter Soldier and his storyline is a ‘thanks’ here or there, and over the years that’s become harder and harder to live with. I have a great life as a writer and much of it is because of Cap and the Winter Soldier bringing so many readers to my other work, but I also can’t deny feeling a bit sick to my stomach sometimes when my inbox fills up with people wanting comments on the show.
Of course, there are a few exceptions to the studio’s general mistreatment of comic book writers. According to Jim Starlin, the creator of Marvel’s Thanos, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” After arguing he was underpaid for his character appearing as the MCU’s big bad he was able to secure more money from Marvel. There is also an application in place to help creators get just compensation for their characters, though based on The Guardian’s report, it sounds anything but simple and fair:
The Guardian has seen an application for the “Marvel Special Character Contract”, in which creators can formally ask Marvel whether one of their characters qualifies for extra payouts. In the application form, Marvel explicitly reserves the right to tell creators their characters aren’t original enough to get the bonus, warning that “the decisions are final” and not subject to appeal. DC uses the same measure.
As more and more folks come after Disney and other studios for being a bit too greedy with their billions, it’s not surprising we’re seeing the creators of some of these top-grossing properties expect a bit more for their significant contributions to these growing “cinematic universes.” Here’s hoping the report sheds some light on the current situation and amends — and more equitable arrangements in the future — will be made.