"We [Joe Simon & Jack Kirby] discussed this idea, about America. This was at a time when everybody was patriotic... and it was ridiculous not to do Captain America because there was an idea that would have been bought by everybody. So Joe and I did that. Our job was to sell comic-books. And we did.~ Jack Kirby, co-creator of Captain America, on a panel in Troy, Michigan on the 29th of May in 1988.
[after being asked about a current Captain America storyline:]
I receive the books from most of the companies... That's their prerogative. Whatever they do with Captain America is their prerogative. If you like it, fine... I say that Marvel has every right to put out the kind of book that they like. That's their business, to sell books."
This month, @DCcomics announced a series of prequels to Alan Moore's "Watchmen". Moore was quoted in an interview that this is: "shameless". The creators attached to the books defended their involvement in multiple ways including pointing out that Moore himself has used characters created by other people both for corporations ("Swamp Thing", "Superman", "Green Lantern") and in his own projects ("League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", "Lost Girls"). He dislikes the project and stands to make no money from it. (I've already covered this story myself here.) This page on ComicsAlliance.com summarizes the reactions.
Then, Ghost Rider creator Gary Friedrich was ordered to proffer to Marvel $17,000 he has made in selling his own Ghost Rider merchandise AND refrain from publicizing himself as the creator of Ghost Rider. Commenters have brought up Friedrich's health and financial problems as well as the fact that many, many professional comics artists supplement their careers with simple commissioned sketches of corporate-controlled characters at conventions or by mail. Some say @Marvel should settle with winning the case (i.e. not owing Friedrich any part of the earnings from the first film from 2oo7 or the new one opening this week) and rescind any request for damages or the somewhat ridiculous demand that Friedrich stop referring to himself as the character's creator.
And on top of all of this, original "The Walking Dead" artist Tony Moore is suing fellow co-creator Robert Kirkman claiming a proper half of proceeds from "The Walking Dead" TV show and merchandise has not been sent his way. The two were reportedly close friends who worked together on multiple projects before Kirkman (@RobertKirkman) became a part of the corporate structure of Image Comics (@ImageComics).
money + agreement = fair use of characters
but which part of that equation is more important? The compensation or the permission? And is there leeway for artistic relevance? Financial or health status? Even friendship?
Where do we draw the lines between business and ethics? Why do we draw lines there at all? Who is in the right: the creator or the copyright owner?
In this sudden rush of news in regard to creator's rights, it's interesting to me to remember that some of the most screwed over were also the most respectful. Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster sued DC several times. Kirby never sued Marvel. Was Kirby a fool or a gentleman?