The difference between enjoyment and respect

Enjoying a creative work and being respectful to the talented folks who created it are two different things, and that conflict shows up a lot these days. It shows up in all forms of intellectual property abuse… which in this Internet age most obviously includes piracy of music and movies and such, but also includes things like this: a theatre group performing A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown at a church. Did they have permission to do this commercial event? Given that Peanuts.com specifically points out that theatrical rights are not available for A Charlie Brown Christmas, I’d have to say no, that they were merely exploiting the copyrights and trademarks to their own benefit. Did they do it respectfully? Seeing that they chose to rewrite Easter Beagle to include whatever they felt the message of Easter was, rather than the version of Easter Beagle that Schulz and his collaborators created, that looks like a “no” as well. The people putting on this performance may consider themselves fans of Peanuts, but they are not friends of Peanuts.

This is on my mind because this weekend there’s a big movie coming out (in North America; it’s already a blockbuster in much of the rest of the world.) It’s got a great cast, and is directed by Joss Whedon, whose work I have a real weakness for (well, except Dollhouse.) And it’s got characters created by the American comic book field’s closest equivalent to what Schulz was in the strips: Jack Kirby. He co-created the Avengers. Admittedly, the Avengers is mainly a big team of characters who had existed previously… but Kirby had co-created Captain America, and Iron Man, and the comics version of Thor, and the Hulk. So, does Jack get a nice big credit somewhere on the work? No, he gets a teeny tiny credit somewhere in the end. Does the film at all benefit the family he cared for? No, the Kirby’s are not slated to see a penny from this, any more than they’ve seen a cent from all the films made off of the characters he created – not the ones listed above, nor the Fantastic Four, nor the X-Men.

Do I want to see The Avengers? Yes. I’ll confess to that, although I certainly understand those who are choosing to boycott the movie. But I will show my respect for Kirby as well, by throwing a buck for each film ticket I buy toward the Jack Kirby Museum, there to maintain awareness of his work. I encourage other people to do this as well. You can learn more about it at ABuckForJack.com.

Added later: I am seeing comments suggesting that the Kirby credit on the movie may not be as small as was at first suggested; I have not verified for myself.

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