Monday, June 23, 2008

Platinum Studios and HERO BY NIGHT...

When will comic book publishers learn? You might think that the abuse by comic book publishers ended with Jack Kirby. Well, think again. In this modern age when many people believe that comic book creators are treated fairly by publishers, the ugly truth of the matter is that some creators are still being burned.

Across the Internet, folks have been discussing the whole Platinum Studios versus DJ Coffman situation. Previously, DJ has mentioned that this isn’t a Creator’s Rights issue. However, I disagree (and I’ve told this to DJ). When a publisher does not abide by it’s contractual agreements, when it does not pay money-owed to it’s creators for work-completed, then this does become a Creator’s Rights issue.

As I can see, the brief history of this ugly mess began in 2006 when DJ entered his creation, HERO BY NIGHT, into the first annual Comic Book Challenge. DJ won the contest, and Platinum Studios began publishing the HERO BY NIGHT comic book mini-series. The mini-series was then reprinted in a hardcover collection. Soon after, a new ongoing HERO BY NIGHT series began. Platinum went public. Then, Platinum stopped paying DJ and (HERO BY NIGHT colorist) Jason Embury. Still, DJ continued to work in good faith. He continued to write and illustrate HERO BY NIGHT… despite not being paid. DJ blogged about some of his difficulties with Platinum, but continued to remain respectful toward the publisher. He was still hopeful to work out his problems with Platinum, and to continue on with the HERO BY NIGHT property. However, after waiting around to be paid, DJ eventually announced that he would be putting the HERO BY NIGHT comic book on hold. (DJ did create the property, after all. So, that’s his call.)

Since blogging about Platinum’s poor (IMHO) business practices and their scummy (IMHO) treatment of DJ and Jason Embury, Platinum threatened to hold the rights to HERO BY NIGHT over DJ’s head. Platinum’s attempt to punish DJ further to quiet him is horrendous (IMHO).

As DJ posted on his blog: "A long story short, I had emailed the folks at Platinum to inquire if there had been any movement about the rights issue so that I could possibly get moving and publishing at least the webcomic on my own before the audience that we built for 2 years completely dropped off."

In response, Platinum Studios sent DJ a letter containing the following: "…Please be advised that due to the controversy stirred up as a result of your recent blogging and interviews, all discussions between us regarding any potential licensing back to you of limited rights to HERO BY NIGHT are on hold. At this time, we cannot say when those discussions might be resurrected. - Brian Altounian"

From the start, I shared with DJ my concerns about working with Platinum Studios. I have heard some lousy things about the publisher, but DJ seemed happy about the deal. So, I remained hopeful.

Sadly, my worst fears about Platinum have come true. The publisher is taking advantage (IMHO) of a fellow comic book creator by not abiding by it’s (as far as I can tell) contractual obligations. If you say you’re going to pay someone for their work, then pay them.

What’s a comic book creator to do? A publisher owes you money. Money that could have gone to paying your mortgage and other bills. Money that could help feed your wife and children. If a publisher isn’t paying you for your labor, if they threaten to hold control of your creation(s), then I say hire the best lawyer you can and make sure that this type of thing doesn’t happen again.

The comic book industry has a long history of pooping on folks. I can’t believe stuff like this still happens today. One would think that publishers (and even creators) would have learned a lesson or two by now.

I pray that Platinum Studios comes to it’s senses. I pray that Platinum does the right thing and compensates it’s creators. I pray that Platinum returns DJ’s creation back to him. However, I’m not holding my breath.

For more on all of this up-to-the-minute mess, please continue to visit DJ Coffman’s blog.

I also posted this at the Creator’s Rights forum.

Above: A 2008 New York Comicon Hero by Night sketch by DJ Coffman.

Update: The great Steve Bissette (SWAMP THING, TYRANT) has added his insights into the Platinum Studios and HERO BY NIGHT mess at his blog (with the catchy title "Wake Up Creators Or You’re All Through!") as well as at the Creator’s Rights forum.

"Isn't it time for the creative community to aggressively pool resources and quit acting like Creator Rights isn't a war that was won, or somehow doesn't apply to them?" -Steve Bissette

Update: Good news! Accordingly to his blog, DJ Coffman states that he has finally been paid by Platinum Studios.

"Fed Ex showed up with a check from Platinum paying me up to date anything that was owed to me, so that whole issue is over with." -DJ Coffman

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