There’s a scene in Hunter Thompson’s Hells Angels where a guy’s vehicle breaks down on a deserted road. Just as he’s wondering how to get to his destination, a band of bad-ass bikers come over the hill. They pull up and surround this unfortunate fellow, hop off their bikes and, much to his surprise, fix his rig in a jiffy. Then they mount up and ride off again. But before they do, one biker flips the guy a business card. It reads, “When we do right, no one remembers; when we do wrong, no one forgets.”
When the news first broke that Marvel had settled with Dave Cockrum, Tony Isabella?who had just one day earlier declared “International Dave Cockrum Day” on his website?called me in double awe: First, that Marvel had given us anything, and second, that the story had received only the thinnest fig leaf of coverage on the industry webzines.
I’ll admit I was a little surprised myself. But only at the second part.
SBC had the story first, front and center, just minutes after Marvel’s official announcement. Hell, this was big news. But Newsarama buried its single-paragraph coverage, and some of the other web-tabloids didn’t even pick it up.
Letters and phone calls of kudos poured in from the pros? Harlan Ellison, Alan Moore, Marv Wolfman, Frank Brunner, others. Stan Lee told me I got the blood-from-a-stone award. But everyone expressed the same bewilderment at a story of this importance being downplayed or ignored by the comics press.
When the print publications began their second-day angles, that’s when the reality hit. No one was anxious to say anything nice about Marvel.
CBG just ran its coverage of the Cockrum-Marvel settlement. Wizard‘s will be out in two weeks. I was interviewed by TCJ yesterday and knew right off by the nature of their questions the type of article to expect. Now, it’s no skin off my nose, friends?I don’t work for Marvel. But in the name of responsible reporting, I offer the following:
When I first brought news of Dave Cockrum’s illness here at SBC, I was angry at Marvel?angry because Cockrum had not received the same treatment (read: royalties) as Chris Claremont and Michael Golden and John Byrne and others who had created characters for the company. Cockrum’s plight was a matter of timing. The work he did pre-dated the expansion of the copyright law and Marvel’s “new character agreement incentive” response. And now, here was Cockrum, in critical condition, flat broke and unable to pay medical expenses, to say nothing of living expenses.
So I came out swinging. I began my column here, contacted peers in the press, discussed the matter with my pal Gary Dell’Abate at The Howard Stern Show, and began plans for a news conference at the V.A. Hospital where Cockrum resided. I was prepared to do whatever it took to bring attention to my friend’s plight. And anyone who knows me will tell you: I can be a serious pain in the ass.
Perhaps because of these efforts?and perhaps in spite of them?the media blitz became unnecessary. From the get-go, Marvel was cooperative. Joe Quesada visited the V.A. Hospital with me as Marvel’s ambassador of goodwill and he, Dave and I discussed the matter very candidly. Joe told us that day that Marvel wanted to help.
From there on in, it was just a matter of coming to terms. Dave had serious needs. Marvel had needs, too; they didn’t want to hand something to Dave only to find themselves in court with us a year later. So we negotiated, and we did so in good faith. Eli Bard, Marvel’s senior litigation counselor, was candid and amiable. And, at the end of the day, when an agreement was reached, it was smiles all around.
Will there be more such agreements between Marvel and other creators in the future? Only time will tell. But to those who say Dave Cockrum didn’t get a fair shake, Dave and I say they have no clue what’s shaking. No one outside of we two and a few Marvel insiders have seen the contract. There’s a non-disclosure clause that we have no intention of violating.
So that’s the real story, folks. Marvel did a good thing. They did the right thing. And no matter what anyone may tell you later, this story has a happy ending.
And Dave Cockrum will be released from the hospital and fly home to South Carolina next week.
And there’s some serious money waiting for him when he gets there.
[Editor’s Note: Marvel has also given its blessings to The Uncanny Dave Cockrum Tribute, a portfolio that will include work from Will Eisner, Joe Kubert, Frank Brunner, Neal Adams, Michael Kaluta, John Romita Sr., Stan Lee, Harlan Ellison, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and just about everybody else. This book is an event you don’t want to miss.]
© 2004, Clifford Meth