Black Panther and Captain America writer Ta-Nehisi Coates recently called out Marvel Comics as well as Marvel Studios for they way they treat comic book creators.
In a lengthy interview discussing his final issue of Black Panther with Polygon, Coates made clear that the corporate side of Marvel is “not pretty.”
While discussing how Marvel was unable to convert Black Panther filmgoers into comic book readers, Coates turned the conversation towards a critique of Marvel Comics.
He stated, “I’m not even so much talking about the writing, I’m talking about the marketing. I wish that more had been done on that level. Can I say something else, too?”
“I’m not talking about myself here, because I feel like I’m somebody who is fortunate in the sense that I’ve been able to make a living in all kinds of other ways. But there are people who make their living off of comic books. And I wish that Marvel found better ways to compensate the creators who helped make Black Panther Black Panther. I wish that they found better ways to compensate the folks who made Captain America Captain America,” Coates stated.
He elaborated, “I’m talking very specifically here, I wish they found ways to compensate the author of the greatest Winter Soldier stories that you’re ever going to read. I don’t love that there’s a Falcon and Winter Soldier show on TV and I’m hearing from Ed [Brubaker] that he can’t even get in contact with … I just don’t love that. I don’t love that.”
Coates added, “Look, I had a great time. I had a tremendous, tremendous time writing for Marvel. I am indebted to Marvel. I love my editors, Wil, Tom, Alana, Sara, Martin … Chris. I had great people working with me.”
He then turned his ire on the corporate side of Marvel Comics, which is owned by Disney, “The corporate side of this, though … the corporate side of this is not pretty. It’s not pretty at all. How you treat people who create the basis for this, I don’t love it.”
Coates continued to critique Marvel Comics, “And so you can start from a position of not ‘what my contract says,’ but ‘what is right, how I would want to be treated.’ And again, not to go off, but I know specifically with Ed…”
“I mean, look, the three Captain America films are, to me, like … they are probably, short of Black Panther, my favorite Marvel films. Frankly, when we start talking about sci-fi, genre movies, and all of that, one of my favorite trilogies. I mean, it’s just really great, consistent quality. But I also know what’s at the root of that,” he said.
He continued, “And I know, reading Ed’s take, how good he was for Bucky and how much just pathos, and sadness, and … Look, I just talked about how I don’t like killing characters. I’m sorry I’m going on this rant. I know we’re supposed to be talking about Black Panther.”
Coates then shared his love for The Death of Captain America, “The Death of Captain America is just one of the greatest stories I’ve ever read. I’m talking about the volumes. It is f***ing incredible, ridiculously good.”
He continued, “When I was going on Captain America, I thought about that. I was like, if I could get anywhere near this, I might have done something. I didn’t. I didn’t, by the way.”
Coates then returned to critique Marvel for the way they treat creators, “But to have that, and to have him bleed into that book, to have Steve Epting bleed into that book the way he did, to see folks making billions over top of billions, and for my man to say he can’t get a phone call returned.”
He concluded, “I don’t know what the relationship will be like in the future, but as a creator, you think about that. You think about how people treat other people. You think about how corporations treat other people. And I just don’t love it, dude.”
In a newsletter published in March, Brubaker expressed his thoughts about the Falcon and The Winter Soldier show on Disney+.
Brubaker started off his commentary about the show expressing his happiness for Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie. However, he quickly revealed that Marvel has given him the cold shoulder for the most part.
He explained, “For the most part all Steve Epting and I have gotten for creating the Winter Soldier and his storyline is a ‘thanks’ here or there, and over the years that’s become harder and harder to live with.”
“I’ve even seen higher-ups on the publishing side try to take credit for my work a few times, which was pretty galling (to be clear, I’m NOT talking about Tom Breevort, who was a great editor and really helpful),” he continued.
Brubaker elaborated, “So yeah, mixed feeling, and maybe it’ll always be like that (but I sure hope not). Work-for-hire work is what it is, and I’m honestly thrilled to have co-created something that’s become such a big part of pop culture – or even pop subculture with all the Bucky-Steve slash fiction – and that run on Cap was one of the happiest times of my career, certainly while doing superhero comics.”
He then detailed, “Also, I have a great life as a writer and much of it is because of Cap and the Winter Soldier bringing so many readers to my other work. But I also can’t deny feeling a bit sick to my stomach sometimes when my inbox fills up with people wanting comments on the show.”
Coates and Brubaker aren’t the first creators to bring this up. Chuck Dixon sounded the alarm back in October 2019 in the lead up to Warner Bros. Birds of Prey film.
He detailed that the original creator of the team editor Jordan Gorfinkel would not even get credit in the film’s credits.
Dixon explained why Gorfinkel would not be credited, “Why is he missing? Because DC Comics has these weird rules about things and they’re rules that they made up. They’re not rules that if you break them the FBI is gonna bust the door down. Nobody cares about these rules but them.”
“And one of the rules is, if you’re on staff, which Gorf was — he was an editor — and you create something, you don’t get acknowledged. You don’t get credit, you don’t get cash, you get nothing,” he added.
Dixon then detailed that neither he nor Gorfinkel would see a dime from the film because they didn’t create the creators despite creating and developing the team dynamic.
“He created it, I developed it. We’re not gonna see a dime out of it…because we didn’t create the characters in the book, we only created the group they belong to.”
“DC sees this as merely, you know, musical chairs. We just sort of rearranged things they already had in place,” Dixon explained.
He went on to say, “They do not acknowledge that we are owed anything, either credit or any kind of a remuneration and that’s wrong and that’s part of what I am ringing a warning bell about…multinational entertainment conglomerates not acknowledging the work…comic book freelancers put into this.”
What do you make of Coates’ comments regarding Marvel Comics and Marvel Studios? What about Brubaker’s and Dixon’s comments?