A while back, as iZombie was wrapping up (a series you can and still should pick up in trade paper back format), Chris made a statement about wanting to see companies do right by creators, and that he did not feel that was happening in mainstream comics.
Of course my fandom for Superman feels increasingly tainted by the ongoing litigation between the Siegels/ Shusters and Warner Bros., who own and operate DC Entertainment. And you don't have to look further than Steve Ditko or Bill Finger to see how credit and financial compensation rarely goes where it could or should in the realm of intellectual property.
Chris and Allison understand the change in access and the opportunity presented by digital comics and platforms like Comixology. They also understand fair agreements with creators. They launched Monkeybrain Comics not so long ago in order to provide a home for creators where they could have a shake at publishing their own work with a fair deal in place and be on the digital shelf with other books.
Very cool. I was excited, and I'm a fan of a large chunk of Monkeybrain's output.
Now, however, Chris and Allison took it up a notch. For the month of November, they're giving all profits headed for Monkeybrain to The Hero Initiative. I'll let their press release describe what this is and what it means, but I will say: It's nice to see the rare opportunity for comics folk on the business side do something far above and beyond what business is usually willing to do for their own contributors, let alone contributors who never worked with or for the company. Monkeybrain is supporting the folks who gave us, as readers, the stories and characters we've loved since childhood by supporting The Hero Initiative.
This is what heroism looks like. Other publishers, especially those who have built their companies upon stories and characters taking steps beyond human to help others, who became empires built on the work of those they never offered anything beyond the next check for the next story... they haven't quite sorted this out yet. I imagine a legion of attorneys advises against any acknowledgment of contribution. In any case, they aren't famed for stepping up and doing the right thing.
Monkeybrain is a new publisher. This decision should tell us all a lot about what they value, and that they've built a moral compass directly into the DNA of their company.
Below the jump: the press release
Monkeybrain “Giving Back” through the Hero Initiative
An open letter from Chris Roberson, co-founder of Monkeybrain Comics
October 30, 2012 - Portland, OR
Over the decades, countless comic creators have given us excitement and inspiration, entertained and educated us. And we need to give back.
For most of the history of American comic books, the only income that creators received were the page rates for the work they did. Writers, artists, letterers, and colorists would be paid a flat rate for the pages they turned in, without any royalties for sales or equity for their creations. If a comic were to be reprinted, the creators would not receive any additional payment, nor would they be compensated if characters and concepts from their work were used elsewhere, whether in other comics, in other media, or in merchandising. And since the overwhelming majority of comic creators were freelance employees, there were no pensions or retirement funds for them to look forward to.
In more recent decades, comic book publishers have instituted new policies for comic creators. Some began to offer royalties and bonus incentives for creators, so that if their work sold well or was reprinted, they would participate in those profits. Some publishers instituted creator equity deals, so that if a creator’s concepts and characters were to generate profits in other media, the creator would reap some of the benefit. But few if any of these policies have been made retroactive, and as much as later generations of creators have benefited from the improved financial arrangements, generations of creators who came before them have not.
There are far too many stories of well-respected, talented writers and artists who created successful and beloved comics in previous decades, and who now are living in reduced means—unable to afford health care, unable to find paying work, some even homeless. At the same time, characters created and co-created by many of these same creators have gone on to appear in major motion pictures, on television, and in toy aisles.
The American comic book industry was built on selling morality tales to young readers, stories of men and women who fought for justice and stood up for what was right. And the writers, artists, and others who created those stories deserve better than they have received.
Thankfully, they have the Hero Initiative in their corner.
For more than a decade, the Hero Initiative has provided a safety net for comic book veterans who need assistance, whether in the form of financial support, emergency medical aid, or an avenue back to paying work. In that time, the Hero Initiative has granted more than $500,000 to over 50 comic book veterans. But as a not-for-profit corporation, the Hero Initiative relies on donations and contributions to continue its work.
Throughout the month of November, Monkeybrain Comics will be donating all of its income to the Hero Initiative. Our creators will still receive their cut of the profits, but the portion of each sale that we retain as publisher’s profits will be donated in its entirety to the Hero Initiative.
As we in the United States prepare to celebrate the American holiday of Thanksgiving, please consider giving thanks to the veteran creators who have given us so much over the years by donating to the Hero Initiative. And we encourage other publishers to join us in supporting the Hero Initiative through direct donations. Unless and until creator royalties and equity participation policies are made retroactive, charities like the Hero Initiative are the only support many veteran creators have available to them.
To offer your support directly to the Hero Initiative, or to find out more about their work, visit them at http://www.heroinitiative.org
To find out more about Monkeybrain Comics, including previews, reviews, creator information, and links to purchase our titles, visit http://www.monkeybraincomics.
About Monkeybrain Books and Comics
Owned and operated by Chris Roberson and Allison Baker since 2001, Monkeybrain Books was originally founded as an independent press specializing in science fiction & fantasy and nonfiction genre studies. Print titles from Monkeybrain Books are distributed to the book trade by National Book Network, and are available from wholesalers like Diamond Comic Distributors, Baker & Taylor, and Ingram, and from finer booksellers everywhere. In 2012, Monkeybrain launched a new creator-owned digital comics line, Monkeybrain Comics, which is distributed exclusively digitally by comiXology.