10 Major Creator Disputes Throughout Comic Book History

<i>By Vaneta Rogers, Newsarama Contributor</I> <p>This past month, two major creator disputes have been the subject of much discussion in the comic book world. <p>On Feb. 9, <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/kirkman-moore-walking-dead-lawsuit-120209.html>it was reported</a> that original <i>The Walking Dead</i> artist Tony Moore was suing his former collaborator on the series, writer Robert Kirkman, over proceeds associated with that book (and the hit TV series it inspired). <p>Also earlier this month, the legal matter between former <i>Ghost Rider</i> writer Gary Friedrich and Marvel Comics received major publicity, with <a href=http://blog.newsarama.com/2012/02/09/marvel-demands-17k-from-ghost-rider-co-creator/>word that the publisher was looking for $17,000 from the creator</a>. <p>Of course, these are far from the only such instances in comic book history, and for those looking for a little historical background, here's a list of 10 notable creator disputes throughout the decades. Click "start here" in the upper-left corner to start the countdown. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>


When a comic-turned-TV show makes enough of a ratings impact that it even inspires <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2012/02/15/the-walking-dead-takes-a-ratings-bite-out-of-grammy-awards/">a write-up in <i>Forbes</i></a>, you know that somebody's making money. <p>In the case of <i>The Walking Dead</i>, the question is, who? <p>Robert Kirkman <a href="http://www.newsarama.com/comics/kirkman-moore-walking-dead-lawsuit-120209.html">made it pretty clear from the start of the comic</a> that he was the "creator" of <i>TWD</i> (and claims he has the legal documents to prove it). But his artist on the first six issues, Tony Moore, recently filed suit against him, claiming that he's owed as much as half of the proceeds related to the comic series. <p>The lawsuit has garnered lots of mainstream press coverage for the comic-inspired TV show, which just launched the second half of its sophomore season this week. <p>Whether Moore has a case or not, the development proves that creative disputes aren't reserved for big publishers even creator-owned comics can fall victim.


Three of Marvel's comics-to-movies characters have been the subject of much-publicized lawsuits that made waves among the industry and fans. <p><i>Howard the Duck</i> was a lawsuit that started in 1980, with Steve Gerber wanting creative control of the character. The agreement between Marvel and Gerber over the disagreement was not made public. <p>Over a decade later, when <i>Blade</i> was set to hit movie theaters in 1998, creator Marv Wolfman filed suit, alleging that he had not been bound by any work-for-hire contract when he created the character in 1972. Although he later lost the suit, the case showed fans that successful superhero movies do not necessarily benefit the writers and artists who created the characters. <p>Chatter over the issue has been renewed this week, on the eve of the theatrical release of the film, <i>Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance</i>. This time, writer Gary Friedrich's lawsuit over his rights to the character got a strange legal ruling attached to it. According to a final judgment in the case, <a href-"http://blog.newsarama.com/2012/02/09/marvel-demands-17k-from-ghost-rider-co-creator/">the creator actually owes Marvel $17,000</a> because he sold Ghost Rider memorabilia at conventions. <p>While Friedrich's lawyers will appeal the ruling, it has worried some comic creators that they can't sketch or sell merchandise featuring the characters they've created or a publisher may sue them.


More than one company has wanted to sink their teeth into Vampirella, and the disputes have kept lawyers busy over the years. <p>When the publishing company that originally owned Vampirella went bankrupt in 1983, Harris Publications acquired the company's assets, including <i>Vampirella</i> and other horror properties like <i>Creepy</i> and <i>Eerie</i>. <p>But over a decade later, in 1999, James Warren sued to get back the rights. A few legal battles later, Vampirella stayed with Harris, although Warren got <i>Creepy</i> and <i>Eerie</i>. <p>The lovely vamp's troubles didn't end there. At a 2007 convention, Fangoria Comics Executive Editor Scott Licina was instructed by one of the officers from the corporate parent company to announce that Fangoria had acquired Vampiella from Harris. <p>Unfortunately, while Fangoria was indeed trying to negotiate for the character, the deal wasn't done, and the premature announcement killed it. But Vampirella did eventually move on to its present publisher, Dynamite.


When DC has just started publishing <i>Action Comics</i>, with a new character named Superman, it didn't waste any time protecting the asset. <p>In 1939, DC sought an injunction to stop Bruns Publications from publishing its <i>Wonder Man</i> comic, drawn by the legendary Will Eisner. While Bruns and even <a href="http://thecomicsdetective.blogspot.com/2010/07/dc-vs-victor-fox-testimony-of-will.html">Eisner himself</a> claimed in court that Wonder Man was invented before Superman</a>, DC won the case, and Wonder Man was no more. <p>The result of the lawsuit was important not only for its protection of DC's property, but also because it likely encouraged DC to file its later lawsuit against Fawcett (more on that later).


DC Comics may be gearing up to publish dozens of <i>Watchmen</i> prequel comics later this year, but Alan Moore, the writer who came up with the original story, still claims the company "swindled" him out of the publishing rights when he signed DC's "draconian" contracts for both <i>Watchmen</i> and <i>V for Vendetta</i>. <p>The writer's disdain for DC's treatment of his characters has been the focus of heated debates between comic book fans for years. But it <a href="http://www.newsarama.com/comics/the-q-creators-on-before-watchmen-120201.html">reached a fever pitch when the Watchmen prequel was announced last month</a>. <p>Moore told the <i>New York Times</i> that the prequel is "completely shameless." But unlike most of the disputes in this list, Moore's goal is not the riches behind the rights, but instead the integrity of his creation. <p>"I don't want money," Moore said of the Watchmen prequel. "What I want is for this not to happen." <p>The altruistic approach isn't surprising, considering his role in the dispute about...


Marvelman may have been created way back in 1954, but it's still confusing just who owns the rights to the character. Portions of the rights have been owned, at one time or another, by Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Todd McFarlane and oddly enough the guy who actually created Marvelman, Mick Anglo. <p>Eventually, Marvel purchased rights from Anglo for his percentage of the character, and some Marvelman stories have recently been reprinted. <p>But for years, the rest have been tied up in disputes with Todd McFarlane, who was also being sued by Gaiman over rights to various <i>Spawn</i> characters. According to Gaiman, he'd reached a verbal agreement with McFarlane over shared ownership. The legal dispute, which began in 2002, was just settled this year.


In 2002, Stan Lee filed a $10 million lawsuit alleging that Marvel Comics was cheating him out of millions of dollars in movie profits for the characters he created. <p>The dispute specifically stemmed from the huge success of <i>Spider-Man</i>, the film that broke box office records but didn't make Lee a dime. And because Lee knew there were upcoming film versions of other characters he'd created, including the X-Men, the Hulk and Daredevil, he asked for millions in compensation. <p>In 2005, Marvel announced it had settled all outstanding litigation with Lee, although the terms were not disclosed. In 2009, shareholders in Stan Lee Media Inc. filed suit, claiming Lee had promised them a share in profits from the characters he created. That lawsuit was dismissed by the court.


This much publicized lawsuit was the first time comic fans saw Superman battle Captain Marvel, only it wasn't on the pages. <p>The question was whether Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family were being published in violation of DC's Superman copyright. <p>At first, DC lost the battle in 1950. But an appeal went the other way. Eventually, Fawcett had to stop publishing comics starring Captain Marvel and paid a settlement of $400,000 to DC. Although DC later acquired the Fawcett characters, the lawsuit resulted in the once hugely popular character being absent from comics for decades -- a circumstance that still haunts his popularity today, although DC is hoping to revive him yet again in March in <i>Justice League</i>.


The family of Jack Kirby, the man behind Thor, X-Men and other lucrative Marvel characters, has been trying to claim copyrights on his creations in a lawsuit that has some fans threatening boycott. <p>Kirby's estate is trying to terminate copyright grants of more than 45 characters that the legendary artist created, and that Marvel constantly utilizes in comics and films. Marvel claims the characters were created as "work for hire" and therefore are owned by Marvel. <p>In July 2011, the court sided with Marvel. But lawyers are vowing to appeal the ruling.


In 1948, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster started litigation against DC over the copyright to their creations, Superman and Superboy. While DC won the case for Superman, they lost the one for Superboy, and eventually they settled with the two creators. <p>In 1970, the initial copyright period expired, and they all returned to court, but DC won that time. But in 1976, Congress passed the 1976 Copyright Act that allowed creators to take back certain copyrighted works, which opened the door for more disagreements over the characters. <p>Most recently, Siegel's wife and daughter initiated a lawsuit against DC, and the window will open in 2013 for the Shuster estate to do the same. At one point a few years ago, DC even avoided using the name "Superboy" in its comics because of the pending litigation. <p>There have been a slew of legal maneuvers since, and DC even filed suit against the lawyer representing the Siegel and Shuster families, making the case one of the longest running and arguably the ugliest creative disputes in comic book history.

10 Major Creator Disputes Throughout Comic Book History

Date: 17 February 2012 Time: 08:55 PM ET