Gail Simone Says Something Complicated About Social Media Silence Contracts For Writers

Posted by March 27, 2017 Comment

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In the past, we’ve told you how writer Scott Edelman, when signing a new contract with Marvel after writing a forward for one of their books, was asked to promise never to say anything derogatory about Marvel on social media. Edelman’s statements were on Brian Keene’s Horror Show podcast, and here’s what he had to say at the time, back in June of 2015 (Keene’s comments in bold):

I just had an issue with Marvel in that I was asked to write an essay to go with the Marvel Masterworks for Captain Marvel. They just got up to volume #5. And they said, “Would you like write about it?” because of the twelve issues, I think I’d written eight of them or something like that. So I said fine. I started writing the essay, because I remember buying the issue of Marvel Super Heroes that had the original Gene Colan and Arnold Drake, if I’m remembering correctly*, Captain Marvel in it with the old costume. The green and white costume. And so I started writing the essay and the contract shows up, which is, I don’t know, eight, ten, twelve pages, and it included such clauses as… The clause that really leapt out of me is I would not say anything derogatory about Marvel or its employees or anything like that.

In the introduction.

No, no. Ever. Because this was not a contract dealing with this one thing. This was a contract dealing with the entire relationship and talking about who owned characters, talking about how I couldn’t put any of my original comic book artwork on exhibition without the permission of Marvel Comics.

Whoa!

I contacted people like Roy and a bunch of other people and said “Did you guys sign this kind of thing?” And they all said no. But this was all pre-Disney that they signed it. I asked Neil Gaiman, and he said no, of course, but he’s Neil Gaiman. They don’t ask him to sign that. And I have to admit, when I had a conversation with them, they did remove the clause, because I said, “If I tweet that I hated an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., that’s saying something derogatory about Marvel Comics. So I wouldn’t want to be in breach of contract by having an opinion about a movie.

That’s insane.

But I ended up never signing it. They were willing to take that out, and I did get a phone call saying “we don’t want old creators to be angry at us” and that kind of thing. I don’t want to nitpick it, but I have original artwork from the seventies and I don’t want to be asking permission, and I finally said, look, what I would like is just a contract that says “I’m selling you a 2000 word essay, you’re paying me X hundred dollars, it’s about this one thing. It’s not a whole relationship. We’re not doing a relationship. We’re just selling the one thing. Can there be a contract like that. And they really don’t do things like that. It would be one thing if I was trying to write five monthly books or something, and even then I would have to think about it.

Would you ever go back to comics?

Well I don’t think I can. Not with the way the rights situation is.

We’ll I’m blacklisted from DC.

There’s always that tug of doing stuff like that. Sure, it would be fun to do things like that again. Certain characters that you would enjoy playing with. But the idea of selling everything away for all eternity is one thing. It would be different if I was writing a comic book. I can understand you wanting to protect Spider-Man. I’m not gonna say I own Spider-Man. But to say a 2000 word essay about how I wrote Captain Marvel, can’t we just make it a handshake thing?

We haven’t heard too much about this since then, but the subject came up today on Twitter when real-life superhero and comics luminary Gail Simone got to talking about the subject, or something close to it. Simone didn’t name names or companies — or even say she was talking about comics specifically, so it could technically be any industry in which writers work — but she had some comments about social media clauses in writers’ contracts, and how they might affect writers who disagree with the decisions of a media company:

Thank goodness for that!

Following up on her thread, Simone responded to a question about whether any specific comics companies were notorious for this behavior:

A few instances of companies handling public criticism by employees come to mind. Most recently, there was the cancellation of Legends of Wonder Woman after outspoken tweets and interviews by Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon. In another article on that same topic, Bleeding Cool Rumormonger-in-Chief Rich Johnston noted:

When iZombie creator Chris Roberson criticised DC Comics on Twitter for commissioning the Before Watchmen series, he was instantly removed from writing the Fables Cinderella comic.

When Dwayne McDuffie talked about the ins and outs of writing superhero comics for DC on their message boards, he was fired off Justice League Of America.

When John Layman talked about the micromanagement of The Authority comic by Paul Levitz, his feet didn’t touch the ground.

But on the existence of the problem in comics and other media, Simone says she thinks it’s worse elsewhere:

Finally, we are contractually obligated to point out that, in the course of investigating claims of a social media clause in Marvel contracts in the past, the claims were denied by several Marvel freelancers and executives.

(Last Updated March 28, 2017 12:20 am )

About Jude Terror

A prophecy says that in the comic book industry's darkest days, a hero will come to lead the people through a plague of overpriced floppies, incentive variant covers, #1 issue reboots, and super-mega-crossover events.

Scourge of Rich Johnston, maker of puns, and seeker of the Snyder Cut, Jude Terror, sadly, is not the hero comics needs right now... but he's the one the industry deserves.

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