Author Topic: Platinum Studios and HERO BY NIGHT...  (Read 87396 times)

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Al Nickerson

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Platinum Studios and HERO BY NIGHT...
« on: June 23, 2008, 08:00:46 AM »


When will comic book publishers learn? You might think that the abuse by comic book publishers ended with Jack Kirby. Well, think again. In this modern age when many people believe that comic book creators are treated fairly by publishers, the ugly truth of the matter is that some creators are still being burned.

Across the Internet, folks have been discussing the whole Platinum Studios versus DJ Coffman situation. Previously, DJ has mentioned that this isnít a Creatorís Rights issue. However, I disagree (and Iíve told this to DJ). When a publisher does not abide by itís contractual agreements, when it does not pay money-owed to itís creators for work-completed, then this does become a Creatorís Rights issue.

As I can see, the brief history of this ugly mess began in 2006 when DJ entered his creation, HERO BY NIGHT, into the first annual Comic Book Challenge. DJ won the contest, and Platinum Studios began publishing the HERO BY NIGHT comic book mini-series. The mini-series was then reprinted in a hardcover collection. Soon after, a new ongoing HERO BY NIGHT series began. Platinum went public. Then, Platinum stopped paying DJ and (HERO BY NIGHT colorist) Jason Embury. Still, DJ continued to work in good faith. He continued to write and illustrate HERO BY NIGHTÖ despite not being paid. DJ blogged about some of his difficulties with Platinum, but continued to remain respectful toward the publisher. He was still hopeful to work out his problems with Platinum, and to continue on with the HERO BY NIGHT property. However, after waiting around to be paid, DJ eventually announced that he would be putting the HERO BY NIGHT comic book on hold. (DJ did create the property, after all. So, thatís his call.)

Since blogging about Platinumís poor (IMHO) business practices and their scummy (IMHO) treatment of DJ and Jason Embury, Platinum threatened to hold the rights to HERO BY NIGHT over DJís head. Platinumís attempt to punish DJ further to quiet him is horrendous (IMHO).

As DJ posted on his blog: "A long story short, I had emailed the folks at Platinum to inquire if there had been any movement about the rights issue so that I could possibly get moving and publishing at least the webcomic on my own before the audience that we built for 2 years completely dropped off."

In response, Platinum Studios sent DJ a letter containing the following: "ÖPlease be advised that due to the controversy stirred up as a result of your recent blogging and interviews, all discussions between us regarding any potential licensing back to you of limited rights to HERO BY NIGHT are on hold. At this time, we cannot say when those discussions might be resurrected. - Brian Altounian"

From the start, I shared with DJ my concerns about working with Platinum Studios. I have heard some lousy things about the publisher, but DJ seemed happy about the deal. So, I remained hopeful.

Sadly, my worst fears about Platinum have come true. The publisher is taking advantage (IMHO) of a fellow comic book creator by not abiding by itís (as far as I can tell) contractual obligations. If you say youíre going to pay someone for their work, then pay them.

Whatís a comic book creator to do? A publisher owes you money. Money that could have gone to paying your mortgage and other bills. Money that could help feed your wife and children. If a publisher isnít paying you for your labor, if they threaten to hold control of your creation(s), then I say hire the best lawyer you can and make sure that this type of thing doesnít happen again.

The comic book industry has a long history of pooping on folks. I canít believe stuff like this still happens today. One would think that publishers (and even creators) would have learned a lesson or two by now.

I pray that Platinum Studios comes to itís senses. I pray that Platinum does the right thing and compensates itís creators. I pray that Platinum returns DJís creation back to him. However, Iím not holding my breath.

For more on all of this up-to-the-minute mess, please continue to visit DJ Coffmanís blog.



Above: A 2008 New York Comicon Hero by Night sketch by DJ Coffman.

Al Nickerson

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Re: Platinum Studios and HERO BY NIGHT...
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2008, 12:54:36 PM »
Rich Johnston also reports on all of this at his LYING IN THE GUTTERS column. Just scroll down a bit until you reach the heading "PLATINUM HOSTAGE SITUATION."

Johnston sums up part of this quite nicely:

"This appears to be a completely vindictive action on Platinum's part and should be a nail in the coffin for the belief that Platinum are a creator-friendly company. If you sign with them, know what you're getting into."

Al Nickerson

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Re: Platinum Studios and HERO BY NIGHT...
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2008, 01:38:23 PM »
There's still a lot of Internet buzz about this topic.

I enjoyed reading Kris Straubís article "Do Not Enter Platinumís Comic Book Challenge". Not that we really needed a warning about the Comic Book Challenge, but it was a fun read anyway. :)

Al Nickerson

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Re: Platinum Studios and HERO BY NIGHT...
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2008, 07:36:37 AM »
Scott Kurtz shares his perspective on all of this with his article, "Letís keep a little perspective here". In the article, Scott also notes his disagreement with his pal, Kris Straub.

Now, I agree with Scott Kurtz that DJ Coffman made a "deal with the devil" when signing with Platinum Studios. From what I can tell, the Platinum contract doesnít look like the type of contract that I would have signed. DJ now admits that he has learned a terrible lesson from all of this. Still, I think the main problem here is the money (or lack there of) issue. Just because you make a deal with Satan and sign a bad contract doesnít mean that a publisher can renege on the bad contract and not pay you for your work. I know that some comic book creators have, at times, struggled with payment when working with some comic book publishers (I include myself as one of those comic book creators). However, that doesnít mean itís ok for that sort of thing to continue to happen in comics. Please note that I am not saying that Scott Kurtz is stating that non-payment is ok. I donít think thatís what Kurtz believes. Iím just saying that I agree with Kurtz that this sort of horrible thing happens in comics, and should end right now.

Al Nickerson

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Re: Platinum Studios and HERO BY NIGHT...
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2008, 09:23:12 AM »
More Platinum fallout as Dylan Squires (founder of Drunk Duck) has left Platinum Studios. Donít know the juicy details, though.

Stephen R Bissette

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Re: Platinum Studios and HERO BY NIGHT...
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2008, 03:55:24 AM »
Welcome to the 21st Century, where abuse of creators is rampant and the illusion that all the battles were won and such affairs somehow aren't Creator Rights issues is part of what allows outfits like Platinum to get away with this kind of crap.

Of course, they have the now-tradition of the 1990s (e.g., Scott Rosenberg, Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, etc.) to depend upon -- after all, Rob and Todd published and continue to publish work by prominent creators they didn't treat fairly and haven't paid a dime in reprint or royalties to, so what's to stop others from emulating the same behavior?

Scott Rosenberg has been quite public about why he publishes comics, and what he and Platinum are about. The Comic Book Challenge, like the recent debacle over TokyoPop, is simply put a program legally designed to elevate, exploit and legally separate a creator from their creative property for Platinum's financial gain.

Yes, yes, I see the allure of AMERICAN IDOL for comics. If you want to lose your work/property, it's a great opportunity.

STAY AWAY, folks. If you have a concept or character you value, find some other means of getting it in print and out there.

Platinum exists to sink its hooks into creative properties and develop/exploit them. That's what they do. Don't get involved with them.

Anyhoot, it's hard to sort through the various online discussions sans any real articulation of what kind of contract DJ might have signed -- I read a lot of presumptions and statements that read like folks "know" the contract details, but it's all hearsay from what I see -- regardless, non-payment is a serious ethical breach, and DJ has no choice but to get aggressive about protecting his career/property, the sooner the better.

First suggestion: Quit the public engagement -- GET LEGAL HELP. NOW.
Real.
Legal.
Help.

If nothing else, join the Graphic Artists Guild, get their help/attention in this matter.

Barring that -- none of the following is legal advice, as I'm not an attorney -- DJ needs to turn the tables and stop behaving as if Platinum holds the only hand here.

1. The details of the contract are still off the table publicly. But isn't NON-PAYMENT a blatant breach of contract? If so, Platinum is already in breach -- and DJ's in a position to do something. If that language isn't in the contract, Platinum's behavior clearly has made it untenable to continue work under these conditions.

In either case: Get that contract scrutinized by a professional NOW, and start sorting this out NOW, and from this moment forward cease investing your time/energy/work into HERO BY NIGHT.

2. DJ needs to get an attorney (from hard experience, I can tell you there are lawyers who will work with comics creators in exchange for artwork, if necessary), and NOW; the non-payment is reason enough to begin severing relations, the recent letter from Brian at Platinum the icing on the cake. While rescue/reclaiming work is essential, DJ needs to aggressively direct energy and effort away from public disclosure and toward legal resolution -- and only a lawyer can assist with that process.

3. If DJ is resigned to HERO BY NIGHT being out of reach and/or unattainable, believing Platinum has an upper hand here, it's time to drop HERO and immediately use the '1963' process and put out HERO BY DAY, or VILLAIN BY NIGHT, or some such self-created spin-off pronto. HERO BY NIGHT may be a lost cause -- but DJ must quit allowing Platinum to hold he or his ability to continue working prisoner.

4. DON'T PAY PLATINUM TO LICENSE YOUR OWN CHARACTER/CREATION. Brian's letter says it all -- they only will let DJ play in his own sandbox if he's a complacent, compliant toady-boy. Screw THAT. If the nature of the Platinum contract is such that HERO BY NIGHT is their property, legally -- if DJ signed a contract that binds his creation to Platinum in ways DJ cannot extricate himself or HERO BY NIGHT from -- then time to disengage, cut your losses, and create something you own lock, stock and barrel and get it out there.

The Catch-22 in all this, of course, it the usual: Platinum, by not paying DJ, has cut off his ability to pay for legal services.

The perception that Platinum holds all the power here can be paralyzing.

DON'T YOU BELIEVE THAT, DJ -- I was once in a situation with a far, far more powerful comics publisher, and legal redress is ALWAYS in reach. Only your belief in your own paralysis is keeping you from acting.

That said, Scott Rosenberg has been at this for almost two decades now.

Al, you opened this thread with the statement, "When will comic book publishers learn?"

As ever, the reality is -- "When will comic book creators learn?"

Isn't it time for the creative community to aggressively pool resources and quit acting like Creator Rights isn't a war that was won, or somehow doesn't apply to them?

Al Nickerson

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Re: Platinum Studios and HERO BY NIGHT...
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2008, 07:46:46 AM »
Itís always great reading what you have to say about Creatorís Rights issues, Mr. Bissette. Whenever I think I have something intelligent to say, I read some of your insights and I then soon realize that you are far more clever than Iíll ever be.  :)

I sure hope all the buzz about this crazy mess will force Platinum Studios to do the right thing. Not paying someone for their work is a horrible thing, but to threaten them with silence is absolutely horrendous. How can we stand by and let crap like this happen? We all love comics. Shouldnít our passion for this medium cause widespread concern for itís creators? Why do folks care more about SECRET INVASION or FINAL CRISIS then whatís actually going on within the comics community?

(Steve, I tried posting this at your blog, as well, but it didnít seem to want to work for me.)

Stephen R Bissette

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Re: Platinum Studios and HERO BY NIGHT...
« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2008, 08:27:53 AM »
Your reply is there now, Al -- new posters have to have their first comment cleared by me at the blog. It's part of how it's set up; sorry about that.

"Far more clever than" you'll ever be? No, Al, I just took a few more strafings and rocket-fire in the 1980s comics trench skirmishes, is all. Live and learn...

Al Nickerson

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Re: Platinum Studios and HERO BY NIGHT...
« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2008, 10:05:40 AM »
Accordingly to his blog, DJ Coffman states that he has finally been paid by Platinum Studios:

"Fed Ex showed up with a check from Platinum paying me up to date anything that was owed to me, so that whole issue is over with."

Good news! I am happy to see that Platinum Studios is starting to do the right thing. :)

Stephen R Bissette

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Re: Platinum Studios and HERO BY NIGHT...
« Reply #9 on: June 28, 2008, 03:41:30 AM »
While I'm glad the check(s) have finally arrived in the mail, this resolves nothing of the real issue(s).

My advice to DJ stands. He's now got a little financial wiggle room to get himself to the next level, away from Platinum, unless Platinum is offering a sweeter and fairer deal.

Al Nickerson

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Re: Platinum Studios and HERO BY NIGHT...
« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2008, 01:46:08 PM »
Got this letter in the mail from Dave Sim:



I also added Daveís letter to the Creatorís Rightsí website.

Al Nickerson

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Re: Platinum Studios and HERO BY NIGHT...
« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2008, 10:03:33 AM »
Now, this is an interesting article by Publishers Weekly: "Financial Challenge: A Close Look at Platinum Studios"Ö

Much of Platinum's financial challenges owes to the company's spending, which one former employee called "outrageous." The company's costs and expenses, including the lease on a floor of a Los Angeles executive office building, rose to $6.6 million last year, up from $1.6 million in 2005. So even though Platinum increased its earnings from $180,500 in 2006 to $1.9 million in 2007, it still lost more than $5 million.

Al Nickerson

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Re: Platinum Studios and HERO BY NIGHT...
« Reply #12 on: July 16, 2008, 11:47:05 AM »
Hereís Platinum Studioís side of things from their blog: "The full and complete Q&A interview between Platinum Studiosí President, Brian Altounian, and Van Jensen of Publisherís Weekly"Ö

Brian Altounian comments:

"DJ took a position that he felt was important for him to take for his family and the fans of Hero By Night Ė that he suspended his activity and ceased production on HBN because we were late in making the last few payments to him. "

AndÖ

"In fact, as a creator working on a work-for-hire basis, it actually wasnít his call to publicly announce any decision about the future of HBN and we asked him not to say anything until we could come to a decision about the future direction of the property."


And DJ Coffman responds on his blog...

DJ Coffman comments:

"I mean, I know theyíre mad that I rained on their bullshit tea party, but letís all use our brains a little here. What was the point of that? To say Ö. ĎHey guys, DJ made money, he shouldnít be angry.í"

AndÖ

"YeahÖ seriously messed up business ethics going on out there. I use to wish they would FIX this, but Iím afraid itís only gotten worse."

Al Nickerson

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Re: Platinum Studios and HERO BY NIGHT...
« Reply #13 on: October 11, 2008, 06:46:36 AM »
DJ Coffman gives us an update on Platinum Studios with "The Platinum Studios Perception".

Platinum Studios continues ití shenanigans with not paying creators, even a year past due nowÖ emails and quotes inside, and about 2400 more words if youíre interestedÖ