Marvel Studios has created the biggest media franchise in the world. The MCU brings in billions in ticket sales alone every year, but the studio behind this media empire keeps failing in one key aspect: paying creators.
Drama surrounding the studio is constantly bubbling. For example, a number of VFX artists recently boycotted the studio for terrible working conditions and low pay. However, Marvel is also failing to
Marvel doesn’t pay comic creators… Again
In a damming piece by The Hollywood Reporter, it’s revealed that Marvel Studios is failing to pay comic character creators for their creations’ use in the MCU. The studio has been criticised for this before, and many believed they had changed. That’s not the case.
In July, 2021, as Scarlet Johansso’s Black Widow lawsuit stole headlines, Yelena Belova creators Devin Grayson and J.G. Jones had a lawsuit of their own going. As per their contract, both creators are entitled to $25,000 for each appearance of the character. They were paid $5,000.
In the creators’ Special Character Agreement contract, they’re entitled to the following payouts. $25,000 for a theatrical film, $2,000 for TV episodes over 30 minutes, $1,000 for less than 30 minutes. There are also payouts for action figures and video games.
However, the values listed in the Special Character Agreement contract are consistently cut down. But why? For starters, Marvel splits the funds for creators. As Yelena has two creators, the most each creator could’ve earned is $12,500. However, the best part is more troublesome.
Instead of paying each creator fairly, the studio uses that $25,000 as a maximum payout for all characters in the movie. With Yelena alongside the original Black Widow, Red Guardian and more, that pot becomes split across many hands. However, sources at the company say the maximum amount in this pot constantly alerts depending on what the studio deems is fair. This was exacerbated in Hawkeye, a series which Yelena also appears in, when creators were paid just $300 each.
America Chavez creator speaks out
Yelena’s creators may have been lost in the noise of the other Black Widow lawsuit, but they’re far from alone. America Chavez co-creator Joe Casey had their character used in a $954 million movie. They received nothing.
Speaking to THR, Casey explained that the money Marvel does pay out to creators is not enough. With the comics industry being as low pay as it is, characters’ movie appearances should be good payouts for writers and artists.
“Maybe $5,000 means something to some kid in his early 20s that doesn’t have a career,” Casey said . “For a lot of us who have been in the business for decades, it comes off as an insult.”
The MCU is only as big as it is because of the characters created by comic writers and artists. Without them, Marvel would be nothing, and they deserve to be paid a fair share — a percentage even — of revenue from the movie empire. Otherwise, it’s a slap in the face.