Friday, March 04, 2011

FR Comics (Part II)

So last time I gave some history about the late, lamented TSR/DC comics line, which produced some good stories, some of which have been collected by IDW this week. And when I first found out about this, my first reaction was:

“Hey, That’s real cool!”

And my second reaction was:

“Hey, I wonder if I’m getting paid for this?”

And I had good reason to wonder. Back in the day, I signed a bunch of Work-For-Hire contracts for DC, and this line was in the contracts (yeah, I removed the monetary amounts):

8. DC agrees to pay Writer a sum of not less than $xx.xx if Full Script; $xx.xx if Plot; $xx.xx if Dialogue; per page for any Page of Work reprinted in any book or magazine published in the United States, after initial publication in a DC magazine, providing such reprinting has been authorized by DC, and that DC has received payment therefore.

Seems pretty clear.  Though to be honest, I didn’t really expect the books to ever see the light of day again, since they were a teamup between DC and TSR, and the two did not part on good terms. TSR has the rights, DC has the art. Never the twain would meet. I got paid for the original work, so I didn't lose any sleep about it never being reprinted.


TSR was purchased by WotC was purchased by Hasbro. Upon termination of the license, the ownership of the pages (known in contracts as THE WORK) apparently reverted back to TSR and its successor states. DC continued on and stored those pages.The D&D license went through a couple more licensees, and finally landed at IDW, who wanted to know if they could reprint the original stories. Hasbro (owner of the Work) directed DC (who has the files) to send stuff on to IDW (who would publish them).

But the question is: Who pays the creatives in all this?

IDW is the new  publisher, but never signed the original agreement. Hasbro approved the reprint but also was not party to the Work-For-Hire terms (Still checking this one to see if contractual obligations survive dissolving of a license). DC sent the art to IDW (so there may be tacit authorization here), but did not publish it and will receive (so far as I know) no moneys for its contribution to the new edition.

So far, I’ve been talking to people in all these companies, and everyone has been polite and professional (not a whiff of anyone dancing around in a money shower cackling about screwing over the writers and artists). But I’ve pretty much hit a wall – each in turn has an argument that, if the writer and artists must be paid at all, someone ELSE would have to do the paying.

So, lawyers, then. Strongly considered. This is non-trivial amount of money, but is it small enough to make engaging a lawyer a likely net loss. And if you go to the mattresses with lawyers, it is not about the principle. It’s really about the money.

So now what?  Call my horde of fans to block this horrible trammeling of a contract? Protest in the streets? Fight for creative rights? Camp out in the state capital? Call for a boycott?

Nope. Instead I’m going to recommend you BUY a copy. Though if you dig through the dollar bin at the Emerald City comic con, it is likely you’re going to get the originals for less than the twenty bucks the collection is going for. (Hey, and if you buy the collection at Spy Comics and ask Rick and Paula nicely, they can get me to sign it, since I see them every Wednesday or so).

THEN, of course, I want you to write to IDW (and Hasbro) and tell them how WONDERFUL the story and art is. And how they should (sparing no expense on their part) HIRE the talented team of Grubb and Morales, who obviously understand how the D&D universe works and are fine examples of writer and artist and a shining addition to ANY comic book line.

Right now IDW is publishing a twenty dollar calling card of my work, and while I’m not getting bupkus for it (well, they mentioned sending me a few copies – as I said, there’s this real lack of evil on everyone’s part).  So go out and check it out and remember me for you comic book needs (though I will warn you, I’m going to want to paid for this, and if you're going to put a reprint clause in the contract, I'm going to want you to honor it).

Operators are standing by,

More later