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Marvel Artist Says Character Royalty Payments For Creators Are ‘Bait and Switch’ – IGN

Marvel’s Black Widow is once again a legal battleground between Marvel and its talent.

The co-creators of Yelena Belova say they thought they had signed a contract entitling them to $25k apiece for the Black Widow movie and the various other appearances that came along with it, such as action figures and video games. Instead, they were paid just $5k.

“Having spoken to a number of creators, Marvel’s financial offerings seem a bit of a bait and switch,” artist J.G. Jones told The Hollywood Reporter. “They throw out a large number, then little by little they whittle down the actual payout.”

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

Essentially, the contract seems to offer very clear terms of payment. Her agreement, signed in 2007, states that Grayson would receive $25,000 for a theatrical film appearance of the character, $2,000 for an episode of TV over 30 minutes, and $1,000 for an episode of TV 30 minutes or less.

There’s even an agreement for toy sales and other merchandising, including action figure sales – $5,000 for one figure released in a single year, $10,000 for two, or $25,000 for three or more. When it comes to video games, there was a maximum of $30,000 to be shared among all creators who had a character in the game.

Not exactly huge amounts for properties that regularly make the company billions of dollars. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the contract includes language that would grant Marvel broad discretion to dramatically lower payments.

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One method of doing so is to split the sum of $25,000 between both artist and writer, meaning that Grayson and Jones would only ever have been entitled to a maximum of $12,500 each. Worse still, if the film features more than one character covered by a Special Character Agreement, the company is entitled to share the pot among all creators involved in that film.

Essentially, that original $25,000 would be shared between all stakeholders, including those behind characters such as Red Guardian and Melina Vostokoff. However, a Marvel source states that there is no ceiling to payments made in these cases – it’s likely that the studio paid more than $25,000 to all the artists and writers involved in the film.

Quite how much, remains a mystery,

Another way Marvel allegedly reduces its payments is by classifying some appearances as cameos. If a character appears for less than 15 percent of the film’s runtime, that’s considered a cameo, and this also reduces the amount creators are entitled to.

Hilariously, as THR points out, Captain America would be considered a cameo in Avengers: Infinity War after he only appeared for less than 7 minutes and 30 seconds.

Who Is Black Widow’s Yelena Belova?

Additionally, the Special Character Agreement – the contract at the heart of this dispute – is said to include an NDA, stopping writers and artists from speaking out. In many ways, creators who refuse to sign the agreement are better off.

One such creator, Joe Casey, says he received no payment for the use of his character, America Chavez, in the recent comic book movie, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

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“Maybe $5,000 means something to some kid in his early 20s that doesn’t have a career,” said Casey. “For a lot of us who have been in the business for decades, it comes off as an insult.”

Unfortunately, $5000 sounds like a huge amount compared to a more recent payment.

After Yelena Belova appeared in the recent Hawkeye series, Grayson was expecting a $2000 payment per episode as per her contract. Instead, Marvel offered her just $300 per episode.

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

Want to find out more about Black Widow? Check out our review of the recent Marvel comic book movie, and find out where its villains rank on our list of the best big bads.

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



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