Re Marvel and DC comic writers:
Comic creators are “work-for-hire”, so the companies they work for owe them nothing beyond a flat fee and royalty payments.
Work for hire often doesn’t even include royalty payments. Those few pieces I did for The Guardian were bought out – all rights – for £85 each, for example.
Bestselling author Ta-Nehisi Coates, who wrote a run of Marvel’s Black Panther and followed Brubaker and Epting’s Captain America run with his own a few years later, says that he believes Marvel has moral obligations to its artists and writers that go beyond contracts.
“Long before I was writing Captain America, I read [Brubaker and Epting’s] Death of Captain America storyline, and Return of the Winter Soldier, and it was some of the most thrilling storytelling I’d ever read,” Coates says. “I’d rather read it than watch the movies – I love the movies too – but it doesn’t seem just for them to extract what Steve and Ed put into this and create a multi-billion dollar franchise.”
Coates says he feels fairly treated when it comes to his own work, but he is adamant that lesser known names deserve better treatment from the big studios, no matter what their contracts say: “Just because it’s in a contract doesn’t make it right. If I have some kind of leverage over you, I can get you to sign a contract to fuck you over. It’s just legalist.”
The contract is the demonstration of the leverage you have at that point in time. That’s actually what it’s for, to register these things frozen at that point in time.