“Just Pay Ditko!” Part Two — Who’s Getting What From Dark Horse For The Warren Reprints?

Posted: August 4, 2013 in comics
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Anybody else remember this interesting Steve Ditko one-shot published by Dark Horse back in 1993? It was a brisk little tale that spoke in the kind of didactic, black-and-white (even though the story was in color), morally absolutist terms for which latter-day Ditko work has been praised by some, reviled by others — but there’s no doubt that it was a crystalline, unfettered look inside a unique artist’s mind that, love or hate it, positively brimmed over with integrity.

I’m hopeful that the same can be said of its publisher, particularly on the specific subject of the reprint rights they’ve obtained to the old Warren Publishing back catalog via the material’s rights holders, an outfit called New Comic Company. I mentioned yesterday in the first posting in this series that I’ve been in contact with a party at Dark Horse with direct knowledge of what’s going on with the Creepy/Eerie/Warren situation, and that I would divulge more as I was able to do so, so with that in mind here’s what I’m able to specifically relate as of right now —

1. Again, Steve Ditko has been paid. I have no idea if he’ll receive royalties from future sales of the work bearing his name, or if it was a one-time courtesy payment, but a letter was included with the check asking the artist to cash it, since he’s been known, on occasion, to apparently refuse payment for work he already did on ethical grounds — ethics that stem from his fundamentalist interpretation of the philosophy espoused by Ayn Rand. Since the Warren work is not in the public domain unlike, say, his Charlton stuff, and is in fact owned by a group of rights-holders who should, in fact, be paying artists to reprint their work, I’m hopeful he will accept the remuneration and cash the check.

2. I had raised in the last post an issue Steve Bissette had also brought up on facebook about payment being made to Archie Goodwin’s widow, who is still very much alive even though her husband,sadly, passed away many years ago now. This is important for several reasons  : first, as stated in previous postings, Goodwin authored 15 of the 16 stories showcased in Creepy Presents Steve Ditko, which makes him, in the view of most reasonable observers, the co-author of the book.  Secondly, these stories are a prime example of what two creators who are absolutely “on the same page” in terms of their ideas can achieve when working together. When we think of classic creative duos in comics history, teams like  Siegel/Shuster, Englehart/Rogers, Simon/Kirby, Lee/Kirby (or, as I see it, Kirby/Lee),  Wolfman/Perez, Claremont/Byrne, Moench/Gulacy, Moore/Gibbons, etc. come to mind quite easily — and for good reason. These were pairings where each person brought out the best in the other. The comic book version of Lennon/McCartney. I would humbly suggest that the Goodwin/Ditko tandem stands proudly with any of them. and there is no doubt that Goodwin instinctively understood, and played to, Ditko’s strengths as an artist better than any other writer with whom he worked, either before or since, in his career.

Unfortunately, I was not able to obtain from Dark Horse any assurances that a check was sent to Goodwin’s estate for his contributions to this volume. My source within the company has told me that he hopes that there was,  that he’ll look into it,  and that if he finds such payment has not been issued, he will try to see to it that the situation is corrected. I appreciate the forthright nature of his response and will be personally following up with him to see that this is taken care of.

3. Richard Corben, specifically, has also received compensation for his work in conjunction with the Warren reprint volumes (althhough it’s fair to point out that he also contributed a new cover to one of them), and furthermore has given these books his enthusiastic and heartfelt endorsement. He’s praised the skilled production and restoration work brought to the series by Jose Villarubia and everyone else at DH, and he’s tried to make it very clear in as public a way possible that not only is he satisfied with the treatment he’s received in conjunction with this project, he’s downright thrilled with it.

4. As stated earlier, when I said “nobody” had been paid for this reprint work, that was quite incorrect, but when word went out from someone at Dark Horse that “all” creators whose work had been represented in the series had been compensated, that was also incorrect. I have been able to obtain specific assurances that Ditko and Corben were paid, along with Villarubia (for restoration work he’s doing on them currently), but beyond that, at least as of yet, I haven’t been informed of any specific artists and writers who were issued checks. Dark Horse’s official — and understandable — editorial policy is not to comment on payments issued to creators, but in an effort to clear this matter up they did authorize me to relate, specifically, the information that I just did. If more assurances are given about other creators being paid, and permission is granted to me to share such information, I will do so here right away. It’s probably important to state as well that just because my source within Dark Horse hasn’t been able to confirm that payments have been made to various other creators doesn’t mean that checks have not, in fact, been sent out to some, any, or all of them. It also doesn’t rule the possibility out, however, that no one else apart from those mentioned has been compensated. I just plain don’t know yet — but when I do, you will, too.

On a related note, there was apparently some confusion as to whether or not Mark Evanier was paid for his introduction to Creepy Presents Steve Ditko. I had initially said he was, then was informed via the comments section of the post from a friend of his that he wasn’t, but I now have it on good authority that he was, and that Dark Horse will be sending him a communication reminding him to cash the check, or will be happy to issue a new one of he either lost or never received it.

This might all seem like a lot of haggling over some really old work, but it’s actually a pretty vital issue. A lot of creators have been shafted pretty badly by various Warren rights-holders over the years, and I’m hoping that Dark Horse/New Comic Company are as determined to reverse that historical precedent as they seem to be. Mike Royer recently related a story about how many artists who worked for Warren never received their original art back, and that a previous legal “owner,” or executor of some sort, of the material auctioned it off to help defray his costs for obtaining what remained of the company and often received substantially more for the pages at auction than the pitiful rates the artists who drew them were paid. Needless to say, this former owner/executor/licensee/whatever didn’t see if to share those proceeds in any way with anyone other than himself.

So I guess we’ve diverged a bit today from the promised “Ditko-centricity” of the proceedings here, but I felt it was important to get this information out there since the Warren stuff, and what’s being done with it, was the impetus for this series in the first place. In the next couple of days I’ll be back with the next segment, wherein we’ll be discussing what the artist himself is doing now, why it matters in relation to the reprinting of his work, how to support his very worthy current creative efforts, and how I think so many of the folks who are proclaiming their “respect” for him the loudest are actually saying a lot about how they really feel about the man and his work when they flat-out refuse to publicize this material even though it would be no sweat off their back to do so.


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