Sourcing DC Comics heroes: How fans and collectors can help creators get paid
Felicity Smoak originally appeared in The Fury of Firestorm #23, a comic book published in 1984. Smaller characters come and go in the comics, but all the sudden Smoak popped up once again on the TV show Arrow, in the third episode of the first season. It was a neat Easter Egg for ultra-hardcore DC Comics fans, but the use of the character is also important because it means her creator is owed at least a little bit of money.
DC Comics started a program for “equity participation” in the mid-70s, and this allowed the creator of any comic book creator to receive payment for the use of that character in different forms of media. Smoak creator Gerry Conway only found out about the character’s use of the show due to fans contacting him, and he’s since filled out paperwork to claim his equity in that character. It was a good move, as Smoak is set to become a larger character as the show goes on.
Conway is now asking fans to help other creators.
Finding, and sourcing, the characters
“Without those fans I wouldn't have known those characters were appearing. I wouldn't have filed equity participation paperwork with DC. And neither I nor the artists I worked with would be eligible to receive money for the use of those characters,” he wrote in a blog post. “DC does not make payments retroactive. If a creator wants to claim equity participation in a character he or she co-created, they need to do so proactively.”
Conway doesn’t blame DC Comics for the oversight, as the company isn’t likely to track down the creator of each and every character used in a movie, TV show, comic, what have you. So he’s asking for eagle-eyed comics readers to go back into their collection and to help the creators of these characters file paperwork before the same situation happens. Even a background character can lead to a steady stream for revenue for creators if they pop up in a new property.
“If you're a fan of DC comics published since 1975, you can help your favorite pros—not just me, but any writer or artist who worked on DC's titles. Go through your collection. Look for the first appearances of any character, major or minor, hero/villain/sidekick/bystander from the years 1975 on. Download and fill out the DC Comics Character Equity Request form (you'll find the link below) and email it to the creators involved,” Conway wrote. “Most creators have an active presence on the web, either on Facebook, or Twitter, or through their own web sites or fan pages. Reach out to them. Encourage them to file the paperwork you prepared with DC.”
“Help them get their fair share,” he continued.
Some writers have created dozens, if not hundreds of characters, and this effort will help them earn the royalties they've earned from that creation. DC Comics may have done a good thing by beginning this project, but unless fans and creators come together to make sure the proper paperwork is filled out the money won't be paid to those individuals. It's an odd situation, to be sure, but in the age of ultra-budget superhero movies, TV shows, and tie-ins, even small characters can suddenly become a big deal.
If you're interested in partipating, you can find the details and papers in Conway's post.