Which Rule Of MCU Makes Comic Creators Angry?

A picture of MCU COMICS

Marvel Comic legend Stan Lee

Since the Marvel Cinematic Universe launched in 2008, it has featured several prominent guest stars. Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee is the franchise’s most prolific cameo star, appearing in every MCU movie from “Iron Man” to “Avengers: Endgame.”

Overall, the MCU’s cameos are a fun and exciting way to introduce new characters, bring in current notable pop culture names, and, in Lee’s case, honor Marvel’s history. However, word has it that Marvel Studios has twisted the definition of cameo quite a bit in its legal paperwork, much to the understandable dismay of comic creators.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, comic writer Devin Grayson, who created Yelena Belova alongside artist J.G. Jones, was under the impression they would each make $25,000 for the character’s MCU debut in “Black Widow.” They ultimately only took home around $5,000 each, so Grayson dug deeper with the help of an attorney to figure out why.

Kevin Feige surrounded by Marvel characters

They uncovered multiple shady maneuvers Marvel Studios has allegedly employed, including its warping of the definition of cameo. If a character appears for less than 15 percent of a film’s total screen time, that’s considered a “cameo.” While Florence Pugh’s Yelena is above this threshold in “Black Widow,” creators receive diminished pay for adapted characters that aren’t.

This supposed cameo rule is a pretty bad look, and the other alleged legal moves Marvel Studios has used to reduce royalty costs to comic creators are pretty bad too.

Marvel Studios used all kinds of legal technicalities to reduce creator payouts

There’s no denying that without the talented artists and writers who have made Marvel Comics such a print juggernaut, Marvel Studios and the MCU wouldn’t exist. Be that as it may, as claimed in THR’s article on the matter, the minds behind so many beloved and influential superhero adaptations have gone above and beyond to shrink comic creators’ payouts for using their characters.

In addition to the aforementioned “cameo” tactic, Marvel Studios has reportedly pulled some other strategies out of its bag of tricks to reduce the amount on the checks of Devin Grayson, J.G. Jones, and others.

First and foremost, the $25,000 Grayson and Jones were each seemingly promised when they signed their Special Character Agreements — contracts creators sign with Marvel to handle payouts based on character use — back in 2007 was actually split between them. That leaves them both with roughly $12,500, but, as established, that number dropped significantly.

In the event, a Marvel film, like “Black Widow,” features multiple Special Character Agreement-attached characters, that $25,000 is supposedly split among all creators, not just those tied to a single specific character. Funds are stretched thin, and everyone gets a very small piece of the overall pie.

One can only hope that someday those responsible for the many heroes, villains, and stories that have been adapted for the MCU will receive fair compensation for their hard work and creativity.

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