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DC Entertainment Criticized Over 'Despicable' Creator Credit Policy

The age of superhero cinema is upon us, as DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. get to building their Justice League universe one film at a time, Marvel Studios and Disney turn their Avengers universe into a blockbuster, cross-media enterprise, and other studios rush to gather up whatever independent properties aren't claimed already. But the growing popularity of comic characters doesn't necessarily mean better times for the writers and artists who created them.

The question of crediting and compensating comic book creators in the modern age - especially when said creations have taken on entirely new lives - has long been a problem for all comic publishers. But as DC Entertainment gains a head start on bringing their comic properties to the small screen as well as the big, their company policies have come under fire from some veteran comic icons.

Although most superhero fans keep their eyes trained on the printed page or the big screen, it's safe to say that there is always some form of dispute going on between a major comic book publisher/media conglomerate, and the creators or co-creators of a specific character, title, or series. Recent years have seen a number of disputes finally resolved, Superman co-creator Joe Shuster's estate's case against Warner Bros. among the most notable.

The morality, ethics, and of course, business of creator compensation have once again been brought to the forefront by writer Gerry Conway, a veteran of both Marvel and DC Comics. Apparently pushed to his breaking point, Conway took to Tumblr to clarify the reality now facing comic creators (of DC, specifically), and the "obnoxious" and "despicable" reasoning being used to keep profits out of the creators' pockets.

Conway's words have been construed by some as venomous, but the writer and creator of such characters as Firestorm, Killer Croc, Power Girl, and Jason Todd (the second Robin) set his emotion aside when explaining the changes in business practice that occurred when DC Comics became DC Entertainment, a "fully subsumed cog in the Warners Entertainment wheel." In short, when business-minded executives (not former writers/artists/publishers) began making the decisions to help build a multimedia empire of animation, comics, and feature films.

Some context is needed, so it's important to know that the age of writers and artists submitting their work to DC and forfeiting any rights to the content came to an end in the 1970s, when DC implemented a system to provide creators with compensation going forward - provided their creations were original, not "derivative" of another comic creation.

Unsurprisingly, the times have changed, with Conway explaining that the birth of DC Entertainment led him to discover that the publisher had modified its definition of "derivative," deciding that Power Girl (Superman's cousin, co-created by Conway) was now seen as derivative of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's Man of Steel, making them her true 'creators' - even though they are definitely not.

If you can already see how this logic is a tricky line to walk, then you, like Conway, know that his lump sum payment and notice of no further compensation was just the beginning. Soon came DC's decision to get less proactive with their payments, and only issue contracts for compensation if the creators requested one, in print, for each and every character that may one day be adapted (and must do so before said adaptation).

That's already questionable enough, although Conway had previously requested help from the fans to bring adaptations to the attention of creators, so they wouldn't miss out on their due compensation. Conway stated at the time that he understood DC's motivations, since their responsibility is to the shareholders and bottom line, not creators any longer.

But he's not alone in calling attention to the problem, as comic writer/artist Rob Liefeld soon took to Twitter to support Conway's growing frustration, and criticizing DC's policy from his own experience:

— robertliefeld (@robertliefeld) April 29, 2015

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