DC Avoids Writer/Artists

I’ve heard talk about this for a while, but Eddie Campbell goes on the record:

[DC Comics] said they didn’t allow a situation where a creator would both write and draw the same book unless he was ‘incorporated’.

Kyle Baker pops up in the comments to add

Other ways to be allowed to write and draw a DC character story for DC:
1) Become an employee for the duration of the comic book.
2) Credit your wife as writer.

I wish I remembered the name of the guy who talked about doing the second — all I recall is that he normally draws strange alien rabbit-like things.

The question is asked “why?” My best guess is that having different writers and artists helps DC prove that a book is work-for-hire, and thus they own the copyright. If they hire one person who does all of it, than that excuse goes out the window, as it’s clearly that one person’s artistic creation. But if they hire a company to do the work, then the legalities (and the copyright terms) are different, and presumably more favorable to them. But I Am Not A Lawyer, so I’m only speculating.

7 Responses to “DC Avoids Writer/Artists”

  1. Nat Gertler Says:

    There are legal limits to what could be legal work-for-hire from non-employees:
    contribution to a collective work
    part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work
    supplementary work
    instructional text
    answer material for a test
    It’s hard to find a category that a single-creator comic obviously fits (although I know one relevant lawyer who claims that they qualify as “audiovisual work”, but I find that unconvincing on the surface; if a comic fits, then so would an atlas, yet that needed its own category.)
    Having multiple creators -may- qualify it as a “collective work”… although I’m not convinced it does. A “collective work” is generally used to describe something with separate sections, such as an encyclopedia or a typical magazine, so an anthology comic would likely easily qualify… but the typical single-story comic seems more collaborative than collective to me on the surface.

    Does this mean that some things that comics companies have assumed over the years to be “work made for hire” really weren’t? Quite possibly.

    –Nat “definitely not a lawyer” Gertler

  2. Johanna Says:

    Like you, I’ve wondered the same thing when I’ve seen that legal language quoted. But I don’t have a dog in the fight or expensive lawyers to test the theory.

  3. Nat Gertler Says:

    Sorry about the formatting of the prior message; I had tried using HTML list markups, not realizing that wasn’t supported in your comments.

  4. Johanna Says:

    I went back and added line breaks for you — hope I got them in the right places!

  5. Nat Gertler Says:

    Looks right, thanks.

  6. Tim O'Shea Says:

    “I wish I remembered the name of the guy who talked about doing the second — all I recall is that he normally draws strange alien rabbit-like things.”

    You’re talking about Michel Gagne. In addition to doing Spore, the wackiest back-up story in Detective Comics ever (which I absolutely panned in my initial review only to be contacted him and strike up a friendship as a result)-he worked with Brad Bird on The Iron Giant years ago, and more recently worked on Ratatouille, as he discussed recently with PULSE’s Jen Contino

    Gagne actually re-runs Spore here and briefly discusses it:

    We discussed the work later, and he had something interesting to add about the DC work.

    O: Do you envision doing more work with DC down the road or do you prefer the freedom afforded by self-publishing?

    MG: I’d be up for doing some “alternative universe” story, a Bizarro tale or something along those lines.

    As far as freedom, well I can’t complain there. DC gave me absolute freedom to do anything I wanted. I created the pages from start to finish without interference. The first time the editor saw anything was when I sent him the files in Quark X-Press, along with a set of color proofs. Matt Idelson really took a chance with me on this one. I emailed him, after the whole thing was published, to thank him but he never responded. I’d love to hear from him.

    The only thing I feel sad about is the fact that I don’t have the publishing rights. If I did, I’d add 16 more pages of narrative to wrap it up properly, I’d do a cover for it, write an introduction, add a sketch gallery, and package it as a hardcover. I think it would sell quite well.


    I always love to interview Gagne. In addition to giving interesting answers (if you have never seen him in a panel situation, his level of candor in person is absolutely even more refreshing and stupefying…), he supplies art for the interview. Not just any art, but pieces that are relevant to the discussions. To people who do these interviews, you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say that level of detail and assistance is rare.

  7. Johanna Says:

    That was the name, thank you!




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