The word boycott has been floating around our universe a lot lately, and rightfully so in some cases.
“We should boycott The Avengers! Marvel’s treated Kirby like a second class citizen!”
“Everyone shouldn’t buy Before The Watchmen because DC screwed over Alan Moore!”
“People who are going to Ghost Rider should feel ashamed of themselves!”
And so on and so on.
And honestly, it’s something everyone has to think about in accordance to their own values and quite frankly how deep they want to go.
And while I’m going to talk to you about my feelings on these matters, in no way do I want to diminish your opinions on them If you want to counter me, please post in the comments below (although anything that is just name calling will be deleted). Quite frankly I think almost all the sides have merit in these cases.
What all of these situations boil down to are bad contracts.
Plain and simple.
As I’ve stated before, while Alan Moore’s contract may have been kind of bad, but quite frankly, he should have known better. I’ve had the opportunity to ask a lawyer about it. Now granted, I didn’t have the exact contract in hand and I can only go by what Mr. Moore has stated was in the contract but here’s what the lawyer told me.
“You know what gets you the rights to your book back? Put in the contract a definite time when you get those rights back.”
According to Moore himself, the contract was worded so when the book went out of print, Watchmen would revert back to Moore and Dave Gibbons. Moore has always claimed that DC pretty much lied to him about it ever going out of print which to be fair, I don’t doubt that DC suggested that it would only be in print for a period of time but as my lawyer friend stated, the easier way of making sure Moore got his book back was to put it in the contract. Give it three years or something. If the DC didn’t agree, take the book somewhere else.
Gary Friedrich signed a crap Marvel contract. Where he went wrong was he figured he owned the copyright and went after everyone involved with it. Best I can judge from reading about the case, he went way above and beyond what he should have (at least for an initial legal case) and Marvel blew him out of the water. I have really murky feelings about those “he endorsed the check” contracts that pop up anytime these cases go to court but legal precedent had already been well established (Marv Wolfman and Blade for instance). Not only has this caused a great amount of problems for Friedrich but this ruling combined with Rob Granito may cause huge headaches for the guys in artist alley at comic conventions.
While I don’t think this will be a major problem for most artists and writers, it does send a bit of a message doesn’t it? “We don’t have to come after you… but we can.”
For those of you who want to help Gary out and not take sides, Neal Adams has a great explanation on the hows and whys here.
Now in the case of Kirby, there wasn’t much choice or thinking of the future. Let’s be honest here, when Kirby began his career, I’m pretty sure he never bet on creating as much as he did or those creations and contributions would be so important to comics in general. That doesn’t mean Marvel’s treatment of Jack was stellar by any means, in fact many time in the past it was down right bullying especially when you compare it to the treatment of his Marvel partner, Stan Lee. But does that mean we should boycott The Avengers film?
Does that mean I like how Kirby was treated? No. Does that mean I don’t think he (and by that virtue his estate) deserves recognition and probably a lot more money then they currently get? No. Kirby and my extension, his estate deserves a lot more than they are getting in terms of financial compensation but at the same time he signed off on it and the courts currently back marvel up on this.
I’m also of the opinion that just not going to see The Avengers doesn’t really hold water. If you are going to do it, I think the only true way to protest Kirby’s treatment is to boycott all Marvel products having to do with Jack’s work. Comics, mugs, movies, cartoons, the whole nine yards (as suggested by Steve Bissette).
Nothing related to The Fantastic Four, The Avengers, Captain America, Black Panther, The X-Men and many more. Even Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy is a Kirby creation.
My best guess would put most of the Marvel line off limits. As a comic book reviewer, it’d be really, really hard to just shut Marvel out. As a fan, it be equally as hard and honestly I’m not sure I can just turn away from Marvel completely like that.
Comics are a part of my life. I grew up reading comics, especially Marvel books and to just stop buying any book where there is a Kirby connection, I’m not sure I’d be able to do that.
Maybe it’s selfish, maybe I’m a jerk but at least I’m being honest. I can’t call upon you to do it if I’m not going to and it’s an idea I’m still sort of wrestling with. But I do think if you are going to boycott the Avengers film for the sake of the Kirby estate, I think you have to go the whole way.