DISNEY MINUS by Kevin H.
Last month I wrote a column about how excited I am that Aliens and Predator will be arriving at Marvel. It will be cool to have new fans for old properties find a ton of excellent old, and (hopefully) excellent NEW books. Should be a no-brainer, right? If you haven’t seen them, there will be a TON of Marvel/Alien crossover covers in January done by some artists who are clearly inspired by the license. Woo.
The DAY, the literal DAY after I wrote it, the cover was released? leaked? for the Greg Land cover for the first Aliens Omnibus. Shouldn’t be a big deal, right? Wrong. It turns out Greg Land borrowed almost all of the imagery he used for the cover from other artists or sources. The biggest victim was an Australian artist named Tristan Jones. He did an Aliens series for Dark Horse and a bunch of covers after that. His work is excellent, and Marvel has no interest in using it. That’s not the best, eh?
He noticed that very specific parts of Land’s drawing lined up with very specific parts of some of his work. You can see below, you can look at the fine articles on Bleeding Cool or Comic Book Resources. This was going to be a mea culpa article, and the swipe was going to be the focus of this column. (There’s lots of reading out there if this is of interest.) Why change it up? Things got worse.
I’d have apologized for making a mistake about here, and suggested that you can still get this work with a clear conscience by buying the version with the reprinted cover. Can’t do that now. You see, in addition to not pulling the Land cover, clearly cribbed as much of his work seems to be, Marvel had an extra little asterisk at the end of this particular situation: They would not be paying royalties to the original writers and artists who worked on the reprinted Dark Horse material. This was confirmed by Mark Nelson, the Aliens artist who started it all for Dark Horse back in 1988. He posted on Facebook that this was the case, and he’d know, because the other cover being used for the omnibus is his.
That would have been enough to write about. Marvel is owned by Disney. They’re doing quite well financially, even with a pandemic rolling. Surely, there’s enough petty cash to parcel out to the people who had the original contracts to do the work, right?
Just today, science fiction novelist Alan Dean Foster came out to say that Disney has been doing the same thing with him, and presumably other creators as well, with work acquired during various purchases or mergers. They get the benefit of the work, they are not obligated to take on any of the contracts as originally written. Can you imagine? You write for years, Disney buys the companies you wrote for, and your work is now just their work no matter how your contract was negotiated? This shows the incident with Nelson and his Aliens work is not a fluke, but the company line. Its wrong , and its leaving creators wondering if this isn’t an attempt to change the rules of ownership.
There isn’t much to be done about it at the consumer level, besides making choices and voting with your dollars. With an industry that has a complicated past about paying creators for the value of the work created, it really seems we should be past this sort of thing in 2020, instead of soaking in it like some acidic Palmolive for the past five years.
The SFWA, or Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America did get some good press today bringing this issue to light, but Disney hasn’t responded. Hopefully, that’s a ‘yet’ waiting to happen. I’ve got a winter of Cubs ownership crying poor to deal with. I can’t take it from Disney too. They can do better, and should.