'Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness' Continues Marvel's Tradition Of Screwing Over Creators
Just in case you forgot that Marvel's America Chavez, the girl who can kick star-shaped portals between realities, is set to appear in the new Doctor Strange movie, Marvel Studios has been happy to remind you via character posters, teasers, promotional interviews, and merch -- the movie isn't even out yet, and she's already got her own official t-shirts, LEGO set, and obligatory giant-headed plastic figure. What Marvel isn't happy to do is pay her creators more than some pocket change.
Writer Joe Casey, who created America (the character) along with artist Nick Dragotta, says that despite her appearing in cartoons, video games, toys, and a now a major motion picture, when he reached out to Marvel to get his Official Marvel Studios "Thank You For Creating Something That Will Make Us Tons Of Money" Payout, he was offered "a pittance." Casey rejected the "insult of an offer" and went into negotiations with Marvel, but he says the company eventually stonewalled him.
Now, Casey also co-created Ben 10, a superhero deemed more deserving of substantial creator payouts simply due to appearing on a cartoon first, so he probably isn't hurting for cash, but he says he isn't speaking out because of money -- he's doing it because he can. "If I'm in a position where I can afford not to take their insult of an offer, and be able to talk about it, maybe the next guy -- where that kind of money could change their life -- would get a fair shot of receiving that money." Most comics creators probably take the lowball offer and sign a piece of paper saying they'll shut up about it. This might explain why we haven't heard from the Marvel artist who unknowingly drew this piece of Thor: Love and Thunder concept art, no doubt for less money than they pay concept artists:
One anonymous Marvel creator described the deal to The Guardian as "really, really terrible, but it was that or nothing. And then instead of honoring (the deal), 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.'" That figure narrows it down to ... holy crap, 10 possible Marvel movies.
Someone else who spoke out is former Captain America writer Ed Brubaker, who helped turn the Winter Soldier from a long-dead kid sidekick to a complete badass who directly inspired an MCU movie. Brubaker said that "for the most part all (artist) 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." And then there's Hawkeye artist David Aja, who created the whole visual identity of the Disney+ show, again without knowing it, and again without pay from the studio.
And remember when Thanos creator Jim Starlin said he got more money for a minor villain who cameoed in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice than for inventing the big baddie of two of the highest-grossing movies of all time? Marvel ended up readjusting his payment after he made a stink about it in the media. Sadly, that seems to be creators' only tool if they want to get a tiny fraction of the money these movies make before it gets thrown into the bottomless Uncle Scrooge money bin somewhere in Disney.
Top image: Marvel Studios