I need your help.
DC Comics is a great company.
It was the first major publisher to offer creator contracts on a regular basis, allowing the men and women who create characters for DC books to share in the profits those characters generate in other media. You may say, that’s only fair, but until the mid-1970s it was standard policy for comic book publishers to buy all rights in perpetuity upon payment for a single story. Writers and artists received no further payment for their work after that first check — no money for reprints, no money for toys based on characters they’d created, no money for movies or TV shows or games or trading cards.
Nada, zip, zilch.
DC Comics changed that.
Starting in the mid-70s DC offered creators an opportunity for what they called “equity participation.” With the appropriate paperwork submitted and signed, DC creators would receive a share of the profits generated by their creations. Like I said, you may think this is only fair, but in the ’70s it hit the business like a revelation. And for more than thirty years it’s given quite a few creators an extra bit of income — in some cases, for some older creators, the only real income they receive from comics.
So, to repeat, DC Comics is a great company.
But, like all companies, it’s a business, and its first priority is to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and maximize profits. So tracking which character was created by which writer and artist team thirty or forty years ago isn’t part of their business plan. It’s just too much work, and it requires a dedication and devotion to detail that only one group in the world has in abundant quantities:
You, the fans.
A personal note. I started this site because some of my fans alerted me to the use in the TV series “Arrow” of characters I co-created in the late 1970s, early 1980s. Without those fans I wouldn’t have known those characters were appearing. I wouldn’t have filed equity participation paperwork with DC. And neither I nor the artists I worked with would be eligible to receive money for the use of those characters. DC does not make payments retroactive. If a creator wants to claim equity participation in a character he or she co-created, they need to do so proactively.
Which is where you come in.
If you’re a fan of DC comics published since 1975, you can help your favorite pros — not just me, but any writer or artist who worked on DC’s titles. Go through your collection. Look for the first appearances of any character, major or minor, hero/villain/sidekick/bystander from the years 1975 on. Download and fill out the DC Comics Character Equity Request form (you’ll find the link below) and email it to the creators involved. Most creators have an active presence on the web, either on Facebook, or Twitter, or through their own web sites or fan pages. Reach out to them. Encourage them to file the paperwork you prepared with DC.
Help them get their fair share.
Obviously, I include myself (Gerry Conway) in this list. I can use your help, too.
Between 1975 and the mid-80s I wrote literally hundreds of comics for DC and created dozens of characters. FIRESTORM, JUSTICE LEAGUE, LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, BATMAN, SUPERMAN, WONDER WOMAN, on and on and on. There’s no way I can single-handedly track down each and every character who made their first appearance in a story I wrote. But all of you working together, each doing one or two characters — you can crowd-source it.
Download the form, fill it out, attach a piece of art identifying the character, and send it to the email link below with the subject line EQUITY. To prevent duplication of effort by fellow fans (and to claim credit for your help!) post a comment to this blog identifying the character you’ve discovered.
On behalf of all the DC creators who would otherwise never know, literally, what they’re missing, thank you!
And here’s the email where the filled-out forms for characters co-created by Gerry Conway, with the subject line EQUITY: email@example.com
Here’s a look at that form…
REQUEST FOR CHARACTER EQUITY
To:VP – Business Affairs, TalentDate:
Creators: Requested by:
Eligibility: Character equity must be requested by a freelancer through his or her editor. The determination of whether equity will be granted rests in DC’s sole discretion, and is based primarily on the “newness” or originality of a character’s name, powers, appearance/costume, and origin, and function of the property. The creation should not be derivative of preexisting DC characters.
Character name and any aliases:
This character’s first appearance was/will be in which publication? (If character’s first appearance has not yet been scheduled, please provide proposed date):
Title:Issue: Cover/Publication Date:
Please provide a brief description of the character, including its powers, origin and, if applicable, its derivation from any existing DC character or property:
An illustration of the character must accompany this request.