So here is the sitch, as I understand it (brought to my attention by Journalista):
Mike Strang creates a webcomic for Drunk Duck called "Adventures In Unemployment."
Strang is fired, Drunk Duck hires a new person to continue strip.
Drunk Duck can do this because of the contract they had with Strang.
Strang complains on Comixtalk:
"Having your creation which you worked so hard on and basically RAPED like that is what can happen when you sign a work for hire contract with a corporation like I naively did a few years ago."
And is told in a post by new "Adventures In Unemployment" artist Brandon Carr:
"Just know that the property you created is breathing new life, getting people's interest, and has had a fantastic number of hits so far for a start-up online comic. Even though you're not attached to the project, it couldn't have been done without you."
I guess this guy meant well, but...it just sounds like he was better off saying nothing.
Then Strang gets the usual barrage of "you're a dolt I don't feel sorry for you you should have read the contract better."
A couple of things that came to my mind:
1. Having a new person hired to write & draw something that is as personal (at least to me) as somebody else's webcomic or a comic strip creeps me out. I'm sure the ethics and whatnot are faaaaar more complicated, but I'm just describing my immediate gut reaction.
2. How much more different is this situation from one where somebody creates a superhero for a comic book publisher and then somebody else writes & draws the character? Like Howard the Duck or Black Lightning or whatever? Does the similarity between the two situations mean that Strang should have been more realistic about the business of comics? Or does it simply bring up larger issues about creators' rights for all different types of comic works?
3. I understand how some feel it is acceptable to be harsh and blunt about the Strang case and use his example as a "cautionary tale" and tell him that he was "foolish" and "too bad." But that sort of approach leaves a bad smell. It's not constructive.
As time goes on, and as the gold rush for cutting-edge IPs to fill online content and spur movie options continues unabated, this situation will come up over and over again.
But even more concerning to me: if, as Strang has been "advised" by segments of the online community, the creator shouldn't pitch their most "heartfelt" and personal pieces to companies anymore, for fear of losing the rights -- how does this impact the quality of the properties & projects that are being pitched?
Because Jack Kirby, in things like the Fourth World saga, did pitch his most heartfelt and personal piece. Perhaps the same for Siegel & Shuster. And so many others.
If comic creators are afraid to put their best foot forward because they don't want to lose their material...