Comic Book Questions Answered #7

If you have a nagging comic book question that you'd like to know the answer (or at least AN answer) to, just ask me, and I'll see if I can't answer it (and if I can't, then hopefully I can find an expert on the subject who CAN). Sounds cool, right? Remember my e-mail contact info here.


Reader Kane Anderson (nice to see Dramaturgs out there!) had a whole boatload of questions, so I guess I might as well devote this week's installments solely to him!

I have always wondered how the creator-owned comic characters work. Do the big companies "rent" them for a series? Is that how Fallen Angel, Powers or the Boys can move around? Does a creator get commissioned for something or just shop it around until someone wants to use it?

Yep, that's basically how it works. The comic companies essentially "rent" the use of the characters, but they are owned by the folks who own the copyrights.

This is usually how Vertigo works, too, in the sense that, if DC decides that they want nothing to do with Jason Aaron's The Other Side story, then eventually, Aaron can take the completed story to another comic book company.

That is what Jamie Delano did with his late 90s comic book series, 2020 Visions. Part of his deal with Vertigo allowed that, if Vertigo decided not to do anything with it, Delano could take it elsewhere, and that's what he did in 2004.

Perhaps a separate issue, but is it easy for licenses to move back and forth? The Phantom was published by DC and Marvel and Moonstone (I think...) and Buffyverse books are split between IDW and Dark Horse, right?

It's easy enough.

I mean, any time you get involved with licenses, there are lots of annoying paperwork to deal with, but yeah, technically-speaking, it is pretty easy to take a license from one comic book company to another.

More interesting are the examples from the past of the comic book companies who worked their licensed products into their Universes, most notably Marvel with their Micronauts and Rom line of comics.

They were both integrated into the Marvel Universe, but are not actually Marvel characters. So when they lost the license to those characters, Marvel then was in a weird situation where they could not then refer to past stories, except those various creations from the comics that were NOT part of the licenses!!

For instance, Marvel can write about the Spaceknights that they invented, just not about Rom the Spaceknights.

Likewise, IDW can reprint the Transformers issues that were published by Marvel, but they cannot use the ones where Spider-Man guest-starred, for example.

It's pretty amusing stuff.

What goes into an inter-company crossover? DC and Marvel have had their successes and challenges with that sort of thing but it seems the smaller imprints can crossover easier. Are there less legal issues with Dark Horse, Top Cow and Image?

Again, it's a lot of paperwork.

The smaller companies have less paperwork to deal with, so they are easier to do crossovers with.

Also, remember that Marvel is a public corporation and DC is part of a huge public corporation, so you can imagine that they'd be more difficult to coordinate things with.

It's a real testament to their staff that they make as many inter-company crossovers as they do!!

Is anyone digitizing comics for archival purposes? I imagine that bigger companies scanned a lot of their old books for posterity but that many books simply decayed and can't be found. Does anyone have a library/museum/archive of comic books?

This is a tough one. I am pretty sure that both DC and Marvel have extensive digital archives, but I am not positive about that.

Does anyone out there know for sure?

Is there historical reason for the predominance of superhero books? I get that Superman and such have been published for nearing a century (I'm so old...) but what about the comics that are less fantastical and tell stories?

Superhero comics were not really predominant for a long stretch in comic book history. They were the main comic book genre of the early 1940s, but after that, comics went through many different stretches with different top sellers, from war comics to romance comics to westerns to horror to science fiction, for a long time, superhero comics were just one part of a few different genres.

Since the 1960s, though, superhero comics have become the predominant genre at DC and Marvel, where it used to be one of many, it is basically the sole genre.

I honestly cannot think of a historical reason for why that is - I am sure our readers out there do, though, so come on folks, send us in your thoughts on the subject!

That's it for Kale's questions! Thanks, Kale!

That's it for this week!

Please feel feel free to send in any more questions you have wanted an answer to!

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