Comic book movies are making billions if films like The Avengers and DC’s Justice League are of any indication. However, writers and artists who made these characters in the comic publications they’re respectively in are not seeing much returns for their hard-earned work.
The seemingly unknown faces who made Avengers heroes like The Falcon and Winter Soldier (like Kurt Busiek and Ed Brubaker) are not being treated well in spite of Disney earning over US$20 billion. According to multiple sources (via Guardian), when a writer or artist’s work is featured prominently in a Marvel film, the company’s practice is to send the creator an invitation to the premiere and a cheque for US$5,000. There is no obligation to attend the premiere or use the US$5,000 for travel or accommodation.
This has been a problem of ages past: creators need to “lawyer up” so that they get paid for their hard work through merchandising and movie/adaptation rights. Creators like Jim Starlin (who made Thanos) had to negotiate with Marvel for a bigger payout, while longtime DC creator Jimmy Palmiotti advises to always bring in a legal expert when it comes to comic book company contracts, and audit the returns of your creations for DC and Marvel whenever you can.
“They are not in the business of feeding you the math. I can count on one hand the number of creators who’ve actually audited a major comics company.”
You can read up more on The Guardian’s feature piece. Suffice to say, Disney and Warner Bros. do have a moral obligation to pay its creators a lot more from the billions of earnings they receive for their respective superhero films. After all, you don’t want well-respected comic book folks like Ed Brubaker blacklisting you if you’re out of ideas for your Captain America spin-offs, right?