August 09, 2021
As the comics giants make billions from their storylines and characters, writers and artists are speaking out about their struggles for fair payment
Marvel and DC face backlash over pay: ‘They sent a thank you note and $5,000 – the movie made $1bn’
Watch any superhero movie and you will see a credit along the lines of “based on the comic book created by”, usually with the name of a beloved and/or long-dead writer or artist. But deep, deep in the credits scroll, you will also see “special thanks” to a long roster of comic book talent, most of them still alive, whose work forms the skeleton and musculature of the movie you just watched. Scenes storyboarded directly from Batman comics by Frank Miller; character arcs out of Thor comics by Walt Simonson; entire franchises, such as the Avengers films or Disney+ spinoff The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, that couldn’t exist without the likes of Kurt Busiek or Ed Brubaker.
The “big two” comic companies – Marvel and DC - may pretend they’ve tapped into some timeless part of the human psyche with characters such as Superman and the Incredible Hulk, but the truth is that their most popular stories have been carefully stewarded through the decades by individual artists and writers. But how much of, say, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) $20bn-plus box office gross went to those who created the stories and characters in it? How are the unknown faces behind their biggest successes being treated?
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