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February 08 2012

Boycott the Avengers? A Slate writer discusses why Marvel's troubled history with artists has led him to boycott the upcoming project, despite his love for Mr. Whedon.

It's an inflammatory-sounding title, but the article itself is fairly well-reasoned, even if I have strong objections to his points. Interesting for anyone who doesn't already know about the Kirby/Lee/Marvel debate.

Who is Mr. Wheldon? :D
Mr. Wheldon? LOL
According to this dude, the director of the Avengers. I'm excited to see what he brings to the table that Joss couldn't!
I'm not sure exactly how 'well reasoned' this is... He was excited about the film but now after thinking about it (because the problems pre-date the making of the film) he will boycott because of problems with Marvel (or is it because Disney should have made a special payment to Kirby's family above and beyond what they paid to Marvel??). At any rate we know that Joss Whedon wrote the script for 'Toy Story' as work for hire and never saw another penny of residuals for all the showings on TV and DVD sales. It would be nice if corporations were more generous than their written contracts, but I'm not sure it really constitutes a reason for boycott.....

What does everyone here think?
That's pretty much where I stand on it, embers. It sounds like historically, Marvel's actions may be a little dubious as far as human decency goes, but ultimately Kirby made a deal, and as much as the deal may have sucked it was the one he made.
Actually, initially he did not make a deal, and Marvel took off with over 6000 of his illustrations. I would not deny that this issue will not go away. It will hurt the film albeit in a small way. But for those who grew up with Kirby, no amount of Whedon love will quell the anger many feel about how he was treated.
I love Jack Kirby and agree that he got a rotten deal at Marvel.

However, my love of Joss Whedon (and, to a lesser extent, superheroes) means that there is nothing that will keep me from seeing that movie on opening night.
Very few people who will go see this movie have ever heard of Kirby. Maybe 5%. Less globally.
I have a lot of sympathy for the author's views, and I think Kirby is a brilliant artist who got a raw deal. I agree that Marvel probably would not have survived without him. I also agree that Marvel, as a matter of moral decency, should acknowledge it's immeasurable debt to him in the form of some financial compensation to Kirby's family.

That said, I'm not boycotting Avengers. These characters have become much bigger than the artists (or the company) that created them. And yes, Kirby and his family have a legitimate gripe against Marvel, but our going to see the movie doesn't hurt him or his family. To the contrary, I'm going to see this movie in part because Kirby's work made me love these characters. I think that every audience member who can say that is in some sense honoring his memory by watching them brought to life on screen.

I am curious what other Whedonesquers think of this issue though. I think it has interesting parallels to the controversy surrounding the Buffy movie redux, which prompted violent reactions from some.

[ edited by Squishy on 2012-02-09 00:46 ]
Yeah, there's pretty much no chance of me boycotting this movie.

It's obvious that Kirby got a raw deal and yes, his family should sue (or is in the process of suing?) for compensation, and Marvel is not the pinnacle of purity of goodness but a corporation with ruthless business tactics. If Kirby's family can get any extra money out of Marvel/Disney after The Avengers movie comes out, I'll cheer for them. That's the extent of my feelings; I doubt whether a boycott will do anything besides deprive me enjoying one of my favorite artist's work on the big screen.

And I was planning on boycotting the Joss-less BtVS movie not for ethical reasons but for artistic ones. I can't imagine a great BtVS feature made without Joss's direct input. Yet if I was wrong and they made a great Buffy movie without Joss, I'd probably go see it.
For those of us who don't like to read (I know... I just lost my nerd creds... but I'm signing up to watch the movie, not read the books! ...Anyway, those books have pictures, so that's doable!), anyone wanna do a super-quick sum-up answer to my, "Wtft (what the french toast) is this boycott about?" (That article is waaaayyy too long for me - I made it a few paragraphs in and then realized how teeny the scrollbar square was...)
I heart me some superhero, and I heart me some Joss! What could go wrong?
Sorry Amarie, I'm not doing your homework for you. If you don't care enough about the topic to read a 2 page article, you don't deserve to have it summarized for you.

As to the topic at hand, Jack Kirby passed away in 1994. Even if his family were to be awarded the entire company, it wouldn't benefit him in the slightest. I just can't bring myself to feel bad for a bunch of people who haven't done anything to deserve all this money that they claim should be theirs. If Kirby were still alive, it might be a different story.
I think it's safe to assume that Kirby would have wanted his family to receive any compensation that he would receive. Giving money to his family would be a way of posthumously acknowledging his contribution, not rewarding people who don't "deserve" it.
Heh, I considered posting this earlier but wasn't sure how great it was to share an article encouraging a Joss boycott of any kind (glad you did, though, Jobo, it is indeed an interesting read and not some troll exercise). This has a snowball's chance in hell of actually catching on, of course, but as an old-school comic book fan who's familiar with the "Marvel problem" when it comes to how many of their talented creators have been treated, I see where this guy's coming from--to an extent. This story dates back decades; why did he go get his superfreak on with the X-Men and Spiderman films but decide now it's time to throw a hissy? Will he also take his Marvel collection and burn it? Never buy another title from the company? I'm guessing the answers on those don't fall in line with the new militant stance on this summer's latest entry into the canon.

Now, recently minted bazillionaire Stan Lee could certainly have done the right thing by Kirby's family...and open himself up to an onslaught of lawsuits from other prior employees. I don't know the in-depth story of Marvel's foundation, but the sad fact of the matter for the Kirbys is that Lee appears to have been the much more savvy businessman as the company grew. Doesn't make it right, but it does make it so.
I was fortunate enough to meet Jack Kirby, and his wife Roz, in 1990. I was fairly young, and not even very familiar with his work, but he greeted and spoke with me very openly and warmly. Without a doubt, one of the genuinely nicest people that I've ever met.

There's little question that Marvel treated Kirby with special contempt. For anyone interested in greater insight into this issue, I'd encourage you to view this article:

To some extent I can understand those who think that this matter is less important now that Kirby, and perhaps his wife, are no longer with us. But the chief problem there (imo) is that such thinking encourages these large corporations to simply litigate such matters for as long as possible, in order to wait for such litigants to die.

I, of course, have nothing against Whedon or any of the cast or crew involved in this production. But the closer that I come to this film's release, the more that I see that I just can't find it in me to summon up much interest in it. The same was true of previous Marvel films, and is due in part to this matter, and in part to the companies' current business practices which, while not illegal (afaik), are still in many cases more than a little disappointing.

I am very much looking forward to "The Cabin in the Woods", "Much Ado About Nothing", "In Your Eyes" and all the other projects that the future will bring for Joss and all those who have worked with him here and before. I have little doubt that many other people will see this movie, and hopefully they will be entertained enough to seek out some of his other projects. Good luck to all the individuals involved.
In case you are interested, before Kirby drew the Marvel stuff, he drew all kinds of things like Romance Comics. He did those stories as work for hire too.

The big problem occurs because "The Marvel Method" is just so...odd. It is really is more collaborative than the "normal way." But as Stan Lee has said, he was also writing stories for Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, and later Gene Colan and John Romita all at the same time. Which kept all of them working. Lee fully admits that the stories were better because of the artists. Marvel history is just...messy. (The wikipedia entry is rather sterilized.)

Unfortunately, the comics industry has a long history of the creatives getting screwed, wonky contracts, strong arm tactics, etc. Kirby was far from the first and he won't be the last. Stuff still goes on.

It won't help Kirby, who's dead, but you can help out other Golden and Silver Age creators. Check out The Hero Initiative. It is a non-profit group that tries to give back to those of the Golden and Silver Age comic creators who may be in dire straits with medical and financial needs.
Yeah, MrArg, I saw the article yesterday and decided against posting it for those exact reasons. But then, after a night spent tossing and turning, the words "Whedonesquers MUST KNOW" going through my mind, I reversed that decision.
Note that in 1978 when the Christopher Reeve Superman movie was coming out, there was a campaign to give Siegel & Shuster some money, as they were dead broke at the time. Siegel was working as a mail clerk and Shuster was legally blind. Warner Brothers were basically shamed into giving the two men a pension and medical insurance. Not nearly what they both deserved but it was something.

That said, I doubt a public shaming will change Marvel/Disney's mind and give anything to the Kirby estate, particularly when they are in the middle of a high profile legal battle where the payout could be from the millions to billions of dollars.

If people want to boycott as a moral position, that is definitely worthy, but I don't think even if there is a huge outpouring of support that Marvel/Disney will give the Kirby estate anything that they are not mandated in court.

It's really quite unfortunate that the comic book industry works this way. Even Joss has experienced that working at Marvel, where his Astonishing X-men storyline was used for X-men 3. However, Joss didn't get any compensation or credit for it. Not that Joss is hurting for cash and was not screwed over like Kirby was, but unfortunately it's everywhere in the industry.
Hurting Whedon in order to revenge Kirby and help his heirs?
I don't know how much sense this does make.
Yet, injustice and exploitation in our world of business should genarally be fought and minimized.
Considering how Stan Lee makes a cameo in every Marvel film, they must certainly have his blessing.
That's true, but Stan Lee's history with Marvel is very different.
I'll watch it, and feel guilty. Sounds to me like the author is right, and what's legal isn't necassarily what's right. But I really want to see the movie. Probably on the big screen too.
It reminds me of the hoohah over the Joss-less Buffy reboot.
Yeah, if Joss was an established movie director, I might sympathise more. In my eyes, if this movie does well (both critically and commercially), it will essentially mean Joss gets to do any kind of project he wants. He can do it with studio support or out of his own pocket, but no matter how you look at it, for a while he will get to work on what he wants. That's what I want and that's the only response I have to this suggested boycott. Marvel can be a scumbag all it wants, but I want Joss to do well. He's been through enough in the biz to do well now and be recognised as a good storyteller by critics in general, instead of just by his own fanbase.
Sorry Amarie, I'm not doing your homework for you. If you don't care enough about the topic to read a 2 page article, you don't deserve to have it summarized for you.

If you can't say something nice, probably best to let it lie.
Amarie, I'm not reading the article either. At least not before this post. I've read quite a few articles on the topic and already have opinions.

The "summary" you're looking for is this, the early comics companies hired young artists and writers for their books and paid them a flat fee. This was fine while comics were being sold in the 30s through the 70s when comics were a throw-away item. Today, those characters are worth billions. Many of the original creators and their heirs have sued these now-giant comic companies for monies they feel they are owed despite the original agreements which said they were strictly "work for hire."

The creators of superman (Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster) got money after the fact--as someone mentioned above--by shaming DC Comics on a whirlwind media tour. The creator of Batman's family has been in a similar battle for years. Around the time of the Superman compensation deal, I remember Stan Lee (co-creator of many huge franchise characters) was "given" a pension from Marvel comics (and some "editor emeritus" title) of $1,000,000/year. Hardly enough when you consider the Spider-man movies grossed in the billions already...not counting the bed sheets, the kids pajamas and a ton of other products with the webslingers face. Stan gets a million/yr and what does Jack Kirby get from marvel every year? Diddly squat. (And Jack was the other half of the co-creator team on many many characters including the hulk, thor, iron man, the x-men, and the silver surfer)

Basically, the early creators got a bad deal and the normal response from people is the same as it has been in this thread, some think its "too bad for the creators because they made a deal", others think the heirs of these creative giants don't deserve the financial benefits of their parents/grandparents and then there's people like me that feel those early creators should be given a stake in the movies--give them one percent of the gross. Even one tenth of a percent of the gross. Bad laws are changed all the time and if the comics companies would make a big show of it, they would gain much more in PR benefit than the few million the creators would get. (Like Stan Lee's one million dollars a year deal.) If those guys didn't create the characters and write those classic stories, these movies wouldn't exist today to earn those corporations huge money every year. I think they should ignore a bad law and do what's right...clearly they dont have to but its the right thing to do. You dont have to return a bag of money you find on the train either but when you do and find out it was a life savings for some elderly woman that left it there by accident, you know it was the right thing to do.
Will the writer of this blog be boycotting the forthcoming Superman film? DC's treatment of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster was even worse. And what about Batman? Bob Kane and DC refused to give any credit for decades to people like Jerry Robinson and Bill Finger, who created Robin, The Joker and many other key Batman characters.

Indeed, far beyond Marvel, DC are continuing their practice of 'shafting' the creative talent. I myself was agast to learn that DC will be releasing a new series of Watchmen comics, agains the wishes of co-creator Alan Moore.

Indeed, unlike Jack Kirby, Alan Moore had been led to believe by DC that after the comics initial run in the late eighties, the copyright to the characters would return to him.

Did this blogger boycot the Watchmen film, that so infuriated the comics creator that he had his name taken off the credits of the film?

And look at Raymond Cusick, who designed the Daleks for the BBC, yet never saw anything from the billions that they have generated for the BBC.

I agree, the estate of Jack Kirby deserves finacial compensation from Marvel. But that is from a moral, not legal, principal. Legally, Marvel owe Jack Krby nothing. He was paid for his efforts at the time.

Big business never works on morality, just how it can legally generate money for the shareholders.

I do think it extremelly unfair to single out one company, Marvel, and one film, The Avengers, when I can point of countless similar incidents.

[ edited by SeanHarry on 2012-02-10 00:38 ]
Okay, so I follow a pagan faith. I'm not a big fan of society's ways as far as financial gain is concerned, particularly when it is at the expense of the planet. What does that have to do with anything, I hear almost nobody ask? Well, the reason I mention it is because I have always had something of an issue with big business and corporations. I'm not going to go into depth as to the hows and whys (that's a soapbox speech that none of you need to hear...) but suffice to say, I tend to side with the little guy. If there's a choice between shopping at the local corner store or helping to give Tescos shareholders their next sports car or house in the country, I'm giving my money to the corner shop every time. As such, naturally I'm going to back Kirby over Marvel. But this boycott isn't going to get the Kirby family a damn thing.

It's the business side of Marvel that I have an issue with, not the creative people that produce the comic books, cartoons and movies that I enjoy so much. By boycotting this movie I'd be insulting all the hard work that those guys have put in to making it happen, and I can't imagine that Jack Kirby would support that approach for a second. Especially when the impact I would be making on the success of the movie would be almost unnoticeable. The money guys simply won't care because, as has already been said, only a fraction of the potential audience are aware of Jack Kirby and even less are aware of any legal dispute his family have with Marvel.

So forget boycotting the movie. It won't help the cause and you'll miss a spectacular film for no good reason.
I do think it extremelly unfair to single out one company, Marvel, and one film, The Avengers, when I can point of countless similar incidents.

This is like all of the heat Apple is getting over using Foxconn factories in Shenzhen to produce their gadgets. Nearly EVERY computer/gadget maker you've ever heard of works with Foxconn and most of them don't publish supplier compliance reports, conduct hundreds of supply chain audits, actively use their business to ensure workers rights are honored and threaten to drop suppliers who don't comply. They are the only gadget maker who is a member of the FLA... But guess what? No one cares if you publish a NYTimes piece on Dell or Acer's FAR WORSE track records with this stuff. You make noise about the company that people will read about, regardless of what their record is.

Work-for-hire and related issues have been known and discussed in the comics community for decades; there are charities to ensure that retiring pros can afford to live. No one outside the bubble wanted to talk about this when Marvel was in restructuring for bankruptcy, but now that Marvel films is making money hand over fist, its time to shine the light.

That's not a knock on anyone fighting to bring awareness of these abuses, its just a reminder to be aware that when people want to get attention for a cause, they attack the big dog.
Well stated, zeitgeist--fact of the matter is, we all support businesses knowingly or unknowingly on a day to day basis that, somewhere or other, probably tote around some skeletons in their closets. This is not to say that boycotts of truly reprehensible corporate entities are a bad thing, far from it. However, I don't think we're talking about child labor pulling old batteries from dead laptops on the shores of the Yellow River here. And we most certainly are talking about a crowning commercial achievement for an overlooked genius operating in some of the tougher corners of Hollywood for 20+ years now, a guy who deserves a massive commercial hit and the cache that will bring for him to do whatever he wants for as long as he wants. Now there's a cause I can get behind.
zeitgeist The issue for me with Apple anyway is that it is differentiated to the point of monopoly for their product type, gets huge margins by default and engages in the same biz practices as a Dell or an Acer even though they actually have to be price competitive. Apple actually has the luxury of being better at the sacrifice of margin.

The reality is I can build, or have built a largely abuse-free PC (not entirely, you'd still have to vet every part). I can't buy an abuse free Apple no matter what I do. That's MY issue with Apple. It doesn't make Dell blameless, but I consider it less bad. It's fighting for survival in a way Apple does not.

As for boycotting the Avengers, save it. As Simon noted, it's just like boycotting a Buffy reboot.. It's punishing the wrong people.
I only read comics when Joss got involved. I like the man's brain, wherever it spills out. I also found out I quite like his friends' brains too. I've read more comics in the past 6 years than I ever have before. I would have boycotted the Buffy reboot, not because of loyalty, but because it didn't have the brains I like and wouldn't stand to the quality bar.

Wow, this comment made me sound quite a lot like a zombie. Weird.
azzers - almost any PC (and I've been building them for about fifteen years) will have some kind of conflict/rare earth mineral in it that has some unhappy story attached to its mining, refinement or production, sadly. The days of Apple not being price competitive are behind us in many of their product categories, especially newer segments like tablet and ultralight. They get their margins by buying production in advance of need and helping partners to build out capacity in exchange for percentages off goods from those production lines. And they are better at the sacrifice of some margin; your mileage will of course vary as far as how much better is better enough. Apple has stopped doing business with suppliers who failed their audits, I'm not aware of other mfgs off the top of my head who have done similar (doesn't mean it hasn't happened, mind you, maybe their PR isn't as good ;)). They also enforce a restriction on maximum number of hours per work week and force suppliers to refund recruitment fees (to the tune of millions of dollars USD per year). Also, BAD ADMIN, get back on topic!
I'm going to do my part by boycotting all Joss Wheldon films. FOREVER.
I'm going to boycott you boycotting Joss Wheldon films. I am also going to boycott Joe Sweden & Josh Wheldon and any films they may (imaginarily) produce. So there.
I'm boycotting this thread. Not even going to finish this comm
+5 points to Five Horizons! (Gryffindor?)
Okay, now I'm going to have to unboycott this thread to ask zeitgeist what he meant by Gryffindor? I know it's Harry Potter related but I've never read the books so I might be missing the connection.

Oh, and thanks for breaking my steely boycotting resolve, mate! ;)
:) Welcome to the unboycotted thread party, can I get you a drink? Gryffindor is one of the four 'houses' at Hogwart's - get clicky for the full info. At various points as events unfold in the books, students from the houses can earn points for their house.
Aah, right! I actually did vaguely know that, although clearly not well enough to get the reference for myself. I'm going to have to get around to reading the Harry Potter books eventually. Only half way through the Song of Ice and Fire series at the moment though, so Harry might have to wait a little while. :)
Five Horizons, that was funny!

Mort, mmmmmm brains.

If only Whedonesquers ruled the world...there would be no issues with royalties as the creative people would be paid the most, the studio execs would be the writer lackeys and everything would be hugs and puppies.
Can't argue with that, alexreager. A world where creativity and art is considered a higher priority than financial and material gain? Pretty much my idea of nirvana. Bring on the Whedonesque revolution!
Hey, maybe we should all boycott the new Ghost Rider movie instead (not a chore for me, really) because Marvel is suing the creator Gary Friedrich to prevent him from promoting himself as the creator of Ghost Rider (preventing lucrative con appearances where he is billed as "the creator of Ghost Rider") and "demanding $17,000 from the unemployed, financially destitute 68-year-old." Yikes.,69202/

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