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How DC Comics Is Causing Big Problems For Warner Bros.’ Film Plans

Money.  It’s an important thing to all of us, whether we like to admit it or not.  We need to to pay our bills.  We need it to eat.  We need it to have fun.  Plus, it’s nice to get paid for the work that you do, right?  Especially if you’ve already done said work.  Some cry foul when comic book writers and artists get in a tiff over not being paid what is owed them.  I am not one of those people.  Everyone should be paid fairly and in a timely fashion for services rendered, no matter their job.

Someone should really tell DC Comics this.  The publisher is unsurprisingly behind on paying their past (and probably present) artists and writers.  So much so Warner Bros. is having to get creative to work around the headaches and roadblocks caused by the lack of proper payroll operations.  Yes, this is where I start telling you that certain characters and storylines will be off limits for the DC Cinematic Universe in the near future. All information, by the way, comes from anonymous sources within both companies.

It’s frustrating, but that’s what happens when you don’t pay people like the Kirby Estate, Gerry Conway, Jim Starlin, Frank Miller, etc. what they are owed.  It costs you the usage of their creations, from Darkseid to Jason Todd to Carrie Kelly.  Sure, we are getting some heavy elements from “The Dark Knight Returns” in next year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but don’t expect a lot of Miller beyond that.  In fact, some of it was even scaled back during production due to the above issues.

This has been a problem for awhile now, but what most reminded me of it was the revelation yesterday that Jena Malone is playing Barbara Gordon in Batman v Superman.  There were rumors circulating last year that she was playing Carrie Kelly and while they ultimately proved untrue this week, that wasn’t originally the case.  In both the discarded David Goyer draft and the early Terrio draft, Malone was meant to be Carrie Kelly.  Issues with owing Frank Miller money caused that to be changed.

Will the film be declaring that the dead Robin is Jason Todd?  Probably not, and it has nothing to do with the crazy fan theory that Jared Leto’s Joker is a now-insane Jason Todd.  It’s simply because DC owes both Gerry Conway and Jim Starlin money.  Until they pay up, usage of Todd as a character is not possible*.

This doesn’t mean that the film will instead declare Dick Grayson or Tim Drake to be the dead Robin.  It just means that we probably won’t get a name for said deceased Boy Wonder at all, at least not in BvS.  Perhaps they will have something worked out by the time Ben Affleck directs his solo Batman film?  Perhaps not.  Only time and DC’s cheapskate nature will tell.

Bottom line?  Until DC Comics gets their collective heads straight, expect this to become and issue for Warner Bros. more and more often in the coming years.

* – POTENTIAL SPOILERS: Before anyone brings up Todd in relation to his usage in the Batman: Arkham Knight game that just came out, I ask you this:  Is his never ever directly spoken as “Jason Todd”?  Or is he simply referred to as Robin or Jason?  You’ve gotta love legal distinctions like that which allow DC to use a character juuuuust enough, but not so much as to have to cut a check to someone.  Are you shaking your head at cheapskate shenanigans right now?  Because I am.

36 Comments
  • Cliff Foster

    Jason Todd is referenced, using his full name, in Arkham Knight. You can find it under his specific bio entry, as well as in the Red Hood entry.

    He’s expressly referred to as Jason Todd…but not in dialogue, because that’s not how people talk when they’re discussing people they know very well.

    • Actually, he is referred to by his full name in dialogue. And even in a song.

  • about_faces

    Well, I guess now we know why all traces of Carrie Kelly were suddenly erased from the New 52 with no explanation on the cusp of her upcoming big story arc that would have probably turned her into the next Robin. I really do have to wonder what the original plans for Carrie Kelly were in Peter Tomasi’s big Two-Face story in “Batman and Robin” before everything was changed at the last minute.

    • kory stephens

      His love of Damian

      • about_faces

        His love for Damian… what? I… assume that you were giving some explanation as to why Carrie was scrapped, yes? Even if that were the case, it doesn’t explain why Carrie’s big origin story was scrapped, especially given that the original covers and solicits with Carrie (for “Batman and Robin” #24 and #25) are still up at DCcomics.com’s site.

        • Terrell Allen

          It was more than likely that Damian’s revival took up too much time, the Carrie story was more than likely dropped. The decision probably came from over Tomasi’s head that Damian couldn’t stay dead so there was no need for Carrie to become Robin.

          • Darren Hood

            The same thing happened in 1989. Anarky was originally designed to be the new Robin, but unknown to the Detective Comics team, Denny O Neil, Marv Wolfman and the Batman team, were creating their new Robin in the form of Tim Drake. The original plans for Anarky were scrapped and the character faded into obscurity.

    • Calvin Loyal

      Carrie sucks. I assume that’s why she was scrapped.

    • Patrick_Gerard

      None of this influences the comics because the participation checks apply to media adaptations. Carrie Kelley was likely dropped either because she was just there to throw people off the scent of Damian’s return, creative plans changed, editors changed, etc.

  • Abhishek

    This is bullshit, WB and DC aren’t different companies, they are divisions of one giant company Time Warner.

  • richjohnston

    Frank Miller is working with DC on a new Dark Knight series, and is drawing new pages, his first for years, for the book.

    • Greg Ranzoni

      They’ll be interesting. Seeing how Miller is becoming a right wing hack.

      • Why is there always some douche who has to make things about politics? WHO GIVES A DAMN WHAT HE BELIEVES?! As long as his stories are GOOD, he can sacrifice babies to Rush Limbaugh for all I care.

        S
        T
        F
        U

        • Greg Ranzoni

          No, never, EVERYTHING is about politics.

    • Darren Hood

      Except that payment won’t count towards the royalties earned from various DC works of the past. Essentially DCCOMICS did not pay Frank royalties for the Carrie character when it came to merchandise. Why do you think there hasn’t been any Carrie merchandise since the mid 2000s?

      • richjohnston

        Apart from this one? http://amzn.to/1IEoOot

        There have been others.

        • Darren Hood

          Official merchandise? I don’t remember much other than books and pin backs

          • richjohnston

            That’s official. Also of recent days http://amzn.to/1MEnGTF and http://amzn.to/1KK5VCP

          • Darren Hood

            Those are all at least 10 years old. That loose figure is the same Carrie figure from the first link. There has only been one Carrie figure and statue and they were all released in 2002-2003. Aside from that there have not been any other Carrie merchandise.

  • Do you have sources for any of this, or are you just making it up as you go?

    • Calvin Loyal

      He just made it up. Carrie Kelley appeared numerous times and Jason is referred to as Jason in his current series.

      • Terrell Allen

        Carrie Kelley was inthe Batman and Robin as a minor character, she was friends with Damian. It was really clever how she showed up too.

  • Calvin Loyal

    You obviously have no idea what you’re talking about. Frank Miller doesn’t own Carrie Kelley in any way. in fact she’s made several appearances in The New 52.

    • Calvin Loyal

      Also, Jason has his OWN SERIES right now. And before you ask, yes he is referred to as Jason Todd in it. So again, you have know idea what you’re talking about and obviously just made this up.

    • Patrick_Gerard

      No. But there were contracts made after around 1986 or so where they agreed to pay creators whenever the characters they created get used in other media.

      DC Comics isn’t behind on paying Frank Miller. Frank Miller doesn’t own Carrie Kelley. Frank Miller may have a contract saying that he gets a cash bonus for non-comics projects that use Carrie Kelley. They may be scared of using newer characters because of these bonus agreements.

      Jason Todd probably resulted in a cash bonus for his creators in Arkham Knight. However, my guess is that the check owed was much smaller.

      For a video game (actually, I’m not sure if there is a bonus for video games) or a TV show, these checks tend to be a few hundred or a few thousand dollars. For a movie, the check may have to be much larger if the budget of the movie is big.

  • kilkandark

    The most un informed article ever written. Does Daniel Baldwin have a deal with Marvel or something?

  • dave_worrell

    Not only is Miller currently working for DC, Gerry Conway is, too. They wouldn’t if there were payment issues. And even if there were, there’s nothing that would preclude the movies from using their characters. It simply doesn’t work that way.

  • Even if DC wasn’t paying their creative participation fees (and all indications are that they are, even to people they don’t regularly work with: ask Chuck Dixon about the nice check he got for Bane in Dark Knight Rises), they still wouldn’t lose the use of the characters, because they own them alright. Creative participation in WFH contracts are just a way for a company to reward their creators. It is in no way something that if DC violated they would lose the rights to the characters. They MIGHT get sued for lost money, but that’s about it. Even if they lost such a suit, the creators would not get any rights to the character they signed away back.

    • Patrick_Gerard

      The only way I could see this happening is if the value of the lost participations was greater than the value of the character. A sharp lawyer and a creator who wanted those rights might demand the character as compensation for the lost revenue. Something like that played out with Neil Gaiman, who sued Todd McFarlane for not paying him and wound up with ownership of two characters out of the whole mess: one he created while working for Todd and one Todd bought from Gaiman. Their deal was complicated and involved them bartering rights for characters as part of salary negotiations.

      However, there might be a case made that some characters created under WFH were created or assigned to DC based on the understanding of the participation agreement and that failure to oblige the participation agreement may invalidate the WFH agreement and be considered a breach that could be remedied by reassignment of the work they did for hire.

      • Patrick, you should know enough about copyright law to know these are vastly different issues. DC Comics signs contracts up front that say creations designed by creators are owned outright by DC from the beginning. Todd and Neil signed nothing like that, which is why a court could only find the aspects of the book had to be split 50/50%.

        Gaiman ended up with control of Cog and Angela because it allowed McFarlane to avoid paying as much as he would.

        • Patrick_Gerard

          I am aware of that. I’m saying that the creators might argue that they only signed the contract because of the participation agreement and that failure to honor a participation agreement might count as a breach of the original WFH agreement. I’m not going with what is true or even “right” but I’m just saying what I think a lawyer MIGHT try to argue.

          If the creator signed the WFH agreement aware of the participations or if the participations came up in a WFH contract negotiation, then it might be argued that DC didn’t keep up its end of the WFH agreement.

          It’s kind of moot because the article is, I think, wrong about DC being behind.

          Now, DC did have some recent debates over what qualifies for the participation check when it comes to hybrid or derivative characters but I think they worked pretty hard to settle with that, at least with Gerry Conway if not with Brennert. There are a few folks out there who have mentioned that before like Mike Wieringo but he’s passed on and I don’t think Waid is pressing the issue.

  • If Warners can’t use Conway creations because DC owes him money, explain the prevalent use of Firestorm on THE FLASH and the upcoming LEGENDS OF TOMORROW?

    • Darren Hood

      Conway is back writing the character for DC Comics that could mean something.

  • Patrick_Gerard

    This article makes it sound like DC is behind on paying these creators. It’s not. DC has a contractual agreement to pay these creators when they use their creations in film. It’s a participation check they WILL be owed, not an old debt that is past due.

  • David Grant Lloyd

    Grrrrr! Just pay them the money they’re owed

  • Charles Lupula

    They say “Jason Todd” in Arkham Knight. First name and last name, at least twice.

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