Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Creator's Rights & Lefts

I've had Steve Ditko on the brain lately. Not "The Amazing Spider-Man Ditko," but a Charlton Comics Ditko who's mind brought us the beautiful weirdnesses occupying The DC Universe. The former Charltonians, The Question, Nightshade, Captain Atom, Blue Beetle and yes, Punch and Jewelee. Over on the venerable Scip's blog, The Absorbascon, he posed the question, "Are The Charlton Heroes due to exit The DCU?"

Here's why Ditko's been on my brain lately: If The Charltonians are due to leave, where do they go? Precedent says the rights COULD revert back to the creator and who created them?

Steve Ditko.

Most people don't remember one of the characters DC Comics "absorbed" in its' acquisition of The Charlton characters was a little remembered character by the name of Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt. Four of the Charlton acquisitions were awarded solo series. Those four being Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, The Question and...Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt. The series itself was largely unremarkable except for the precedent it set. The rights to Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt reverted back to its' creator, Peter Morisi.

Could DC Comics, twenty years ago, have signed a deal we'll soon see expire, sending the rights to Blue Beetle, The Question, Nightshade, Capt. Atom and Punch and Jewellee back to their creator, Steve Ditko?

Let's look at the evidence:

Capt. Atom: Dead
Blue Beetle: Dead
Nightshade: Due to take on The Spectre.....Dead.

Is DC preparing to do what Marvel would never do and give a creator back his creations, even if they're bit worse for wear?

Only time will tell because The Question ain't commenting.

Ye gods, I'd forgotten Ditko was still ALIVE.

But he is. Brilliant theory, DVS!

Ditko's Hawk and Dove have just brought back, but I assume they don't count because Ditko would have created them as work-for-hire when he was at DC.
It's a good theory, except that Ditko worked for hire at Charlton, under the draconian they-own-it-all industry assumption of the times; even if it hadn't been WFH, his Blue Beetle was a derivative creation, which can be tricky to make a clean rights return; Captain Atom and the other Dtiko characters were largely created in collaboration with writer Joe Gill; and P.A.M. only got his Thunderbolt rights back because he made a point to get them back from Charlton -- which none of his fellow creators did, so there's no viable precedent there. There is a chance that the material's ownership will revert back to its creators, but that window of opportunity doesn't open for 20-odd years.

Blue Beetle is just as much DC's property as Sue Dinby is, and they have a firmer hold on the Charlton material than they have on Superman right now. DC is being mean to the poor Action Heroes because they're intermittently beloved but permanently fourth-string characters.
Is it possible that we're seeing some variation on the Roger Corman Fantastic Four movie, here?

I dunno. Corman made his ersatz FF movie because he'd bought the rights to make a movie, and the rights automatically reverted to another party if the movie wasn't made. I don't think comic universes work in quite the same way.

Besides, Peter Cannon basically just showed up in 1986 to be CRISISed out of existence, right?
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