A new report in The Guardian scrutinised the contractual practices at the two major comic publishers, months after writer Ed Brubaker published a blog post criticising Marvel Studios’ use of his character The Winter Soldier.
Brubaker, created The Winter Soldier in 2005 alongside Steve Epting. The character would go on to feature in several Marvel Studios films (played by Sebastian Stan) and recently starred in the Disney Plus TV series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
In the post, Brubaker claimed: “All Steve Epting and I have gotten 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.”
The Guardian’s report alleged: “According to multiple sources, when a writer or artist’s work features prominently in a Marvel film, the company’s practice is to send the creator an invitation to the premiere and a check for $5,000.
“Three different sources confirmed this amount to The Guardian. There’s no obligation to attend the premiere, or to use the $5,000 for travel or accommodation; sources described it as a tacit acknowledgment that compensation was due.”
According to the report, a “select few creators” are allowed to claim remuneration when their characters or stories are adapted into films, by way of a “special character contract”. It’s also common for writers and artists to be given producer credits on the films. However, it is noted that there is no legal obligation to do so.
One anonymous Marvel creator is quoted as saying: “I’ve been offered a [special character contract] that was really, really terrible, but it was that or nothing.
“And then instead of honouring it, they send a thank you note and are like, ‘Here’s some money we don’t owe you!’ and it’s five grand. And you’re like, ‘The movie made a billion dollars.’”
It was noted that Jim Starlin, the comics writer who created Thanos, had “negotiated a bigger payout” having initially been “underpaid” for the character’s use in the MCU, and comic book writer Roy Thomas had his name added to the credits of Loki after following pressure from his agent.
Per the report, a Marvel spokesman said that there were no restrictions on when creators are able to approach the company about contracts. They also claim to be having ongoing conversations with creators about past and recent work.
The Independent has contacted Disney (Marvel Studios’ parent company) and DC Comics for comment.