‘Hawkeye’ Promo Art Lifts Artist’s Design Without Paying for It
Disney and Marvel have a bad reputation for not adequately compensating comic book creators– and they’re speaking up about it.
Marvel’s newest Hawkeye promo poster isn’t the first bit of design the MCU has ripped from the pages of comic books. And while fans appreciate tributes to the source material, it’s important to let The Mouse know these artists deserve to be paid appropriately for their work.
Fans of the iconic Hawkeye run written by Matt Fraction easily recognized Marvel’s latest promo poster. After all, it’s a direct riff on David Aja’s Hawkeye #6 cover art. And when a Twitter user posted the two images side-by-side, Nightwing artist Bruno Redondo reminded the world that the artists are just as much to credit for how we see our favorite characters on the big screen.
While verbal and written credit is important, Aja weighed in on the more concerning aspect of comic book film credits. His response brought up a long-standing point of contention with the MCU: the embarrassingly low pay rates creators receive for their adapted works.
Even better: Stop crediting, start paying, haha.
— David Aja (@davaja) October 25, 2021
Artists Aren’t the B-Team
First things first: Redondo’s point is still very valid. The history of comic books is littered with the erasure of artists from creator credits. Stan Lee, for instance, is a household name– but it took years for artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko to get credit for designing some of the most memorable characters we know today.
In virtually every circumstance, character designs are a collaboration between the writer and the artists. Sure, plot and characterization are important. But what’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone says ‘Spider-Man’? The mask and the suit.
And when we look at visual media like merchandise, marketing material, and TV/film adaptions, we see just as much of the artist’s influence as the author’s. And this is certainly the case in the Hawkeye promo art.
This promotional poster is undeniably taken directly from the art. And it won’t be the only bit of the series that pulls from Fraction’s story, or Aja and colorist Matt Hollingsworth’s hard work on the comic book’s panels.
Do Marvel Creators Get Paid for their Contribution to MCU Films?
Let’s call these films what they are– adaptations. And from the looks of the latest Hawkeye trailer, the adaptation is going to stay very true to the source material in the story, characters, and aesthetic.
Hawkeye isn’t the only Marvel property pulled directly from the pages of legendary comic book runs. Multiple sources have spoken with writers and artists about the low-ball, one-time payouts they’ve received for their creative labor.
Comic Creators All Say the Same Thing: The Mouse is Cheap
An article in The Guardian has taken the most technical approach, releasing details of the standard contracts and payouts these creators are offered by The Mouse. And it doesn’t look good. Especially when you compare it to the millions of dollars made by the films.
On the Fatman Beyond podcast, Ed Brubaker told Kevin Smith and Marc Bernardin that he made more money from his cameo in Captain America: Winter Soldier and the Screen Actor’s Guild residuals than he did from creating the comic book the film was based on. The standard flat rate offered to creators is usually just $5,000.
Ta-Nehisi Coats shared similar feelings about Black Panther with Polygon. Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter documented more artists speaking out about the discrepancy.
For example, Jim Starlin posted publicly that he made more money off of a minor character’s appearance in Batman vs. Superman than he did from Guardians Thanos, Gamora, and Drax altogether.
But here’s the thing: after he went public, Disney renegotiated his deal and offered him more. Starlin told the Hollywood Reporter:
“The cliche is that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. The way these agreements are written up, Disney can be more generous if they want. It is written right there that they can change the terms to make it better.”
But it shouldn’t be a creator’s responsibility to cause a fuss. The fact that Disney’s precedent is to pay as little as possible is the glamorizing of the ‘starving artist’ at its most insidious. It’s not a good look, Disney, and it needs to change.
So Before Hawkeye Jingles All the Way to Disney+…
The network should pay the creators for Lucky Dog. They should shell out cash for the Tracksuit Mafia, Clint Barton’s hearing aid, and the promo art they lifted.
But most importantly, Disney needs to re-evaluate the standard by which they pay creators. And we should use social media and our other platforms to pressure them to do it.
All I want for Christmas is for Disney & Marvel to compensate creators fairly.