That silly annual dead-celebrities-with-the-highest-income list came out this week, and yes, they listed Sparky Schulz again, but to me that list is largely a potent mixture of dubious accuracy and none-of-my-business.
But it does set me thinking about how creativity gets rewarded, or doesn’t. Schulz and his family, yes, no matter how accurate they have certainly made a nice chunk of change off of the deservedly successful creation, and yes, I suppose Schulz does count as a celebrity; he was visible. Comic strip creators tend to have a fair fraction of the visibility of their creations. In the world where I more often work, the comic books, it’s not so true. Part of that is because syndicates either choose to or are contractually required to keep the original creator with the successful strip for as long as the creator wants; that is not the default case in the comic books.
Those of you who are into comic books probably know who I’m about to talk about; those of you who merely go to the movies featuring superheroes probably don’t. Perhaps you’ve got the name Stan Lee in mind; Stan has gotten a lot of due attention – and many millions of dollars – as the writer who co-created the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, and so forth.
But Stan’s no artist. He worked with a number of talented artists… but all of those characters I just named were co-created by one guy, a guy named Jack Kirby (in the case of Iron Man, co-creator credit can also be split with artist Don Heck). And far from just being a shadow of Stan, Kirby created or co-created many other characters… including Captain America, which Stan had no hand in (it predates his entry into the comics field.) So Kirby’s characters and concepts have featured in more than a dozen films in the past decade alone, films that have grossed billions of dollars in the box office, and much more once one piles on the DVD release, the TV rights, and oh, heavens, the toys and other licensing. And how much have Kirby’s heirs (the man himself died a while back), the family he cared for and worked long hours to support, made off of those movies?
Not a cent.
I think that’s wrong. I think creativity should be rewarded better than that. So I’ve started a campaign called A Buck For Jack, to encourage people to throw a dollar towards the Kirby legacy every time they go see a film based on his work. Take a look, and consider throwing a buck into the kitty when you go see Avengers.