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Marvel artist says character royalties are ‘bait and switch’ for creators

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Marvel’s Black Widow has once again become the scene of a legal battle between Marvel and its talents.

Yelena Belova’s co-creators say they thought they had signed a contract that entitles them to $25,000 for the Black Widow movie and various other related tropes, such as figurines and video games. Instead, they were paid only $5,000.

“After talking to a number of creators, Marvel’s financial proposals seem like something of a bait and a switch,” artist J.G. Jones told The Hollywood Reporter. “They throw away a large amount and then slowly reduce the actual payout.”

“It’s like the Publishers Clearing House lottery,” said writer Devin Grayson. “You can win $1 million, but you won’t.”

In essence, the contract seems offer very clear payment terms. Her agreement, signed in 2007, states that Grayson will receive $25,000 for a character appearance in a theatrical film, $2,000 for a television episode over 30 minutes, and $1,000 for a television episode 30 minutes or less.

There is even an agreement to sell toys and other merchandising, including the sale of figurines: $5,000 for one figurine released within one year, $10,000 for two, or $25,000 for three or more. When it comes to video games, there should be no more than $30,000 between all creators who have a character in a game.

Not quite huge amounts for real estate, which regularly brings the company billions of dollars. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the contract includes language that would give Marvel broad powers to cut payments significantly.

One way to do this is to split the $25,000 amount between the artist and writer, meaning that Grayson and Jones were only ever entitled to the maximum amount of $12,500 each. To make matters worse, if the film features more than one character covered by the Special Character Agreement, the company has the right to split the prize between them. all film makers.

Essentially, that initial $25,000 will be split among all stakeholders, including those behind characters like the Red Guardian and Melina Vostokoff. However, a Marvel source says there is no payout ceiling in these cases – it is likely that the studio paid out more than $25,000 to all of the artists and writers involved in the film.

How much remains a mystery

Another way Marvel is allegedly cutting its payouts is by classifying some appearances as cameos. If a character appears for less than 15% of the film’s run time, it counts as a cameo and it also reduces the amount the creators are entitled to.

Funnily enough, as THR notes, Captain America will be considered a cameo in Avengers: Infinity War after he appears for less than 7 minutes and 30 seconds.

Who is Elena Belova from Black Widow?

In addition, the Special Character Agreement — the contract at the heart of this dispute — is said to include an NDA that prohibits writers and artists from speaking out. In many ways, creators who refuse to sign the agreement are in a better position.

One such creator, Joe Casey, says he did not receive any payment for using his character, America Chavez, in the recent comic book film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

“Maybe $5,000 means something to some guy in his 20s with no career,” Casey said. “For many of us who have been in business for decades, that sounds like an insult.”

Unfortunately, $5,000 sounds like a huge amount compared to a later payment.

After Yelena Belova appeared on the recent series Hawkeye, Grayson expected to be paid $2,000 per episode in accordance with her contract. Instead, Marvel only offered her $300 per episode.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Black Widow has been the source of legal battles with star Scarlett Johansson accusing Disney of breach of contract in a lawsuit following the film’s release on Disney+. Johansson’s lawsuit has since been settled.

Want to learn more about Black Widow? Check out our roundup of the recent Marvel Comics movie and see where its villains rank on our list of the best big villains.

Ryan Leston is an entertainment journalist and film critic for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter.


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