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.