Since the ruling in the Kirby vs. Marvel case last week, there’s been a fair amount of discussion in the comics blogosphere as to whether we, the readers, can take positive action to help get Marvel finally to start addressing its shameful history of exploitation, of Kirby, Ditko and the other founding fathers, but also of all the other artists whose underpaid work built the brand and has generated billions of dollars in revenue for their shareholders, especially those published before 1976 when the law and Marvel contracts were made clearer.
Steve Bissette has mounted a passionate call for a general boycott of any Marvel or Marvel-related product as one small thing each of us can contribute, and suggests further that fans get together to name and shame Marvel into action, on the internet and at public events such as Comicon.
It may seem utopian to get Marvel to change its ways, but its nearest competitor has made some progress on the issue, paying royalties to creators from films in which their characters or concepts appear. Their track record is far from perfect, but they’re doing a hell of a lot better than Marvel and its corporate overlords at Disney, who are raking in that box office moolah over assorted Kirby-derived superhero movies as we speak. And, as Tom Spurgeon has pointed out, Kirby’s collaborator at the inception of the Marvel Age in the early 60s, Stan Lee, won himself a lucrative deal with the publisher with just as little legal claim to his work for Marvel. Why can’t Marvel do something similar for Kirby’s family?
I think Bissette’s suggestion is worth taking seriously and have decided to join his boycott. I’ve been enjoying superhero comics from both Marvel, DC, and elsewhere for a number of years now and think there are a lot of talent in the business right now, and I shall be sorry to give up on some of my favorite creators, but thinking things through I just cannot bring myself further to support a company with policies as rotten as Marvel right now.
I went to my local comics store today, passed over the superhero comics I would usually consider and picked up the latest issue of The Jack Kirby Collector. It felt good. You should consider it.