Marvel Comic Creators Accuse Company of Payment “Bait and Switch”

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Disney and Marvel have come under fire in the last year over talent compensation. First we had Scarlett Johansson upset about not getting the money she claimed Disney promised her for ‘Black Widow’ and now we have Marvel comic creators coming forward to report the same thing, albeit a much smaller scale.

Johansson had Hollywood backing, and a lot of clout so Disney caved, but what do these creators have?

What happened?

Yelena Belova creators Devin Grayson (writer) and J.G. Jones (artist) are speaking out after they believed they would receive $25,000 each for the appearance of their character in Black Widow. Instead they each got about $5,000, with no explanation.

According to The Hollywood Reporter the duo was led to believe that they would each receive a sum of $25,000 for Disney/Marvel use of the character they created in 1999 in the Black Widow film.

This prompted Grayson to try to find an answer to why the sum was much smaller than what they believed they had agreed to when they signed Marvel’s “Special Character Agreement.”

THR explained that this agreement is “a Marvel-initiated payment system should Yelena appear in other media. The agreement, signed in 2007, seemed to state that Grayson would receive $25,000 for a theatrical film appearance, $2,000 for an episode of TV over 30 minutes, and $1,000 for an episode of TV 30 minutes or less. For action figures, the agreement entitled her to $5,000 for one figure released in a single year, $10,000 for two, or $25,000 for three or more. For video games, there would be a maximum of a $30,000 pot to be shared among all the creators who had characters in the game.

However, this is where it gets, in my opinion, scummy. Marvel also buried language in the document that gives Marvel the option to lower payments, even with the $25,000 supposedly being “listed prominently in the paperwork.”

Of course after Grayson received 1/5 of what she expected, she enlisted the help of an attorney and here is what they discovered.

$25,000 is the amount to be divided among both the writer and the artist and whomever other creators would be involved in characters being used. So instead of even $12,500, Disney gave money from the $25,000 to people involved in the creation of other characters in the film. Whittling it down even further.

But Disney thinks it’s fair according to a Marvel “source” THR says they spoke to: “A Marvel source notes that there is no ceiling to the total money paid to creators for a project, and it might be raised depending on what is deemed fair. Given this, it likely paid more than $25,000 in total to artists and writers with a claim on Black Widow.

Disney makes millions if not billions on these properties and they feel giving creators $5,000 is a fair exchange. I bet they paid their lawyers more than they paid the creatives, just to come up with hidden ways to pay less, while the creators seemed to believe they were getting much more.

Grayson’s partner J.G. Jones confirmed similar payment and was the one to call it a “bait and switch” saying: “Having spoken to a number of creators, Marvel’s financial offerings seem a bit of a bait and switch. They throw out a large number, then little by little they whittle down the actual payout.”

The article goes on to show how the creators can get shafted with creative wording or timing of character usage. Showing a cameo, where they might not get as much, being any appearance that is less than 15% of the film. By that measurement a character like the Winter Soldier would be considered a cameo in a film like “Avengers: Civil War.”

Marvel also makes it hard for a creator to get video game payments by only paying for console games and not mobile gaming.

Grayson said that Disney/Marvel has even offered her only $300 an episode for Yelena’s appearance in the Disney+ ‘Hawkeye’ show, when the agreement had stated $2,000 for an episode greater than 30 minutes. Instead they tried to hell her it was $300.

At the end of the day, they signed these contracts, but it does seem that there may have been some misleading information given to these creators to gain consent. Who in their right mind would agree to a measly $5,000 when Disney is pulling in millions on these characters?

There is the argument that the creators are work-for-hire and they were already paid. However that is short sighted on Disney’s part. What incentive does anyone at Marvel have to create new characters or epic stories if they are going to be nickel and dimed by the powers that be?

Just another example of the current year “Disney difference.”

Also, I thought Disney was pushing diversity and inclusion for minority groups. Grayson is a female Marvel writer. I guess they only care about those things when they can leverage it for publicity. It’s a completely different story when they actually have to pay out.

What do you think? Comment and let us know!

Source: The Hollywood Reporter


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