Tonight’s Big ‘Supergirl’ Reveal. No, Not That One. The Other One. (Spoilers)

There will be spoilers ahead, especially for West Coast viewers who have yet to see tonight’s episode. Though I’ve tried my hardest to put a bit of space between you and the spoileriest photo that ever spoilered, you have been warned.

If you watch Supergirl regularly, then tonight’s episode, for many of you at least, was a bit of a shocker. And I’m not talking about the revelation that…

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Hank Henshaw was this guy all along.

So yeah, that happened. Henshaw in the comics becomes Cyborg Superman, and that’s what many of us were expecting. The red glowing eyes in an earlier episode keeping that fact in our thoughts. And then, nope. J’onn J’onnz. What a great twist that still leaves the possibility of Cyborg Superman appearing as a possibility. Fans went crazy on social media, many not because of the reveal but in how they found out about it. In fact, many only found out by careless or thoughtless comic “news” websites posting articles on Facebook with the spoiler right there in the title. One even had an accompanying photo, just in case the reader skimmed the title and missed it. Shame on you for that. And yeah, that’s a pretty cool reveal, that I for one didn’t see coming. But it’s not the revelation I want to talk about.

Tonight’s episode of Supergirl listed creator credits, which is a good thing. The creators of all of these characters deserve to have the viewers know their names, and that people put in the work of not only creating them, but of giving them life, and giving the television networks and studios something to put on the screen. So it was nice to see Siegel and Shuster get the recognition they deserve.

credits

Except they didn’t create Supergirl. They created SuperMAN, two decades earlier. No, Supergirl was the creation of Otto Binder and Al Plastino first as Super-Girl in 1958 in Superman issue #123, and as Supergirl almost a year later in Action Comics #252. So why do Siegel and Shuster receive credit when they didn’t create the character? Well, that comes down to the way DC Comics defines “creation”. Gerry Conway was the first to show the fans and those outside the industry how DC handles their Royalty System in a blog post six months ago entitled Who created Caitlin Snow on #TheFlash? According to @DCComics, nobody.

It seems, once Paul Levitz left DC as Publisher of DC Comics, and DC became DC Entertainment, things changed in how the royalty system would work going forward. Conway received a letter from DC Entertainment’s new President, Diane Nelson, informing him that he is no longer entitled to equity payments for Power Girl, as DC has decided she is a derivative of Supergirl, who was derived from Superman, and technically wasn’t created by anybody because she already existed? It’s an interesting, if not baffling read as Conway lays out the details of how DC decides if something is derivative or original creation. He continues…

The next thing I learned about DC Entertainment’s new approach to their comic creators equity program was just as distressing, given how many characters I created for DC over the decade-plus I wrote for the company: if I wanted to receive an equity participation contract for a character I created, I had to request one, in writing, for each character, before that character appeared in another media, because DC would refuse to make equity payments retroactively.

So DC wouldn’t pay their creators royalties on characters they created unless the creators requested it? This seems like a strange and backwards way for a corporation to work, unfortunately it’s not. Conway estimates that he probaly created more then 500 characters during his time at DC in the 70s and 80s, many of them minor characters who only appeared in a handful of books, others only making a single appearance. How is a guy supposed to remember all of them three decades plus later? And how is he supposed to know that one might take on an all new life on television, such as Arrow‘s Felicity Smoak? But there’s more.

Even if Conway, or any creator, spent the time and effort to track down every character they ever created AND fill out the request forms, DC could still decide that the character or characters are derivative of another earlier creation, and therefore the creator is owed nothing. DC, and Marvel, and others, have never had the best creator credit track record, but this? This is a crazy length to go to deny creators their due.

What, exactly, is DC’s definition of a “derivative” character?

It’s a character that DC decides was “derived” from some other previously existing character.

For example, Power Girl– “derived” from Superman, because, like Supergirl, she’s a relative of Superman. Which means I can’t claim to be her co-creator because Superman is a pre-existing character. Fair enough, I suppose. The logic here is that Superman is the original creation, so Power Girl is derived from that original creation, so in effect, Power Girl is an extension of Superman, which means, by this tortured logic, that Power Girl was more or less created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Which brings us to tonight’s episode of Supergirl. And the Siegel and Shuster creator credit. Many websites, some you may visit, have written about DC’s “derivative” definition and how it affects creators when it comes to royalties. Even I had previously touched upon it. But few of us saw this one coming. Much like the reveal of our green friend up above. It’s nice that DC and the people behind Supergirl are giving creators credit at the beginning of the show, but they’re giving the wrong creators credit. Even as weird as the policy is, I kind of get it, in a greedy, corporate way of thinking. Wait, no I don’t. I don’t think like that. I like to give people their due.

So I propose a compromise. People obviously connect Superman and Supergirl. Right? They both have the big red “S” on their chests, which is kind of a dead giveaway they’re connected. Why not have a “Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster” credit followed up by a “Supergirl created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino” credit. It’s win win, right? Wrong. Because then they’d have to give “equity payments” to the estates of four creators instead of two. And that’s just not good business.

Now don’t get me wrong, the comic industry has made leaps and bounds in creator rights over the decades, thanks to popular, outspoken creators using their power at the time to make a stand for others. Social media has also made the industry smaller as well, allowing the fans a better look into publishers’ practices, putting more pressure on them to do the right thing. And many on the inside are working to get creators the rights, credit, and royalties they deserve. Oh, and Gerry Conway kind of apologized to Geoff Johns, Dan DiDio, Jim Lee, and Larry Ganem for that blog post because they are championing creator rights at DC. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a distance to go, as shown in the opening credits of tonight’s Supergirl.

 

Oh, and Martian Manhunter FTW!!!!!1!!!!!

 

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