I had a series of conversations about royalties today and as the evening smog settles over North Jersey, they’re starting to jell. It went something like this:

Dave and Paty Cockrum called?said they were concerned that they hadn’t received their royalty check from Marvel. “This quarter’s royalties?” I asked. “Full year’s worth,” Dave answered. “Full year?” I repeated. Hmm. How odd. I told the two that I’d call Marvel and shake the tree. “Peachy,” said Paty.

Those of you who’ve followed this thread since this column’s inception recall that Neal Adams and I ironed out a favorable settlement for the Cockrums nearly 18 months ago. If you missed the story, visit the archives and get caught up; we’ll wait right here for you?

Back? Okay?so Marvel’s deal included a royalty that I’d assumed was being paid out as regularly as my own bowel movements. Dumb assumption. But a quick call to the House of Ideas and a conversation with the right person over there put everything right again. I was assured that a proper check for the proper amount was on its way to the proper address (and if it isn’t, you can bet your Official Captain Video Decoder Ring that I’ll be screaming about it next column?)

Then I called Neal to chat about the little episode. Neal chuckled, but it wasn’t a happy chuckle. He told me Jack Kirby’s kids are still struggling to get a piece of the pie their father baked (corny analogy, yes, but try finishing a sentence that begins “struggling to get a piece of the pie that their father?” and you’ll end up with baked, too.) The part that got on Neal’s teat?even worse than Marvel “not doing the right thing”?was how poorly advised Jack’s family was. “A lawyer told Jack to sign away his rights in the first place just to get his artwork back,” he bemoaned. “Jack could have had his art without doing that. It was his art. But his lawyer didn’t care?he just wanted to settle and get his fee. Now, years later, it’s the same thing: Lawyers are telling Jack’s kids not to talk to anybody. How can you accomplish anything without talking to anybody?”

Next up, I called Johnny Romita. I was actually calling to tell him I couldn’t make it to Baltimore for his and Dick Ayers’ ACTOR signing/benefit?I’d hoped to be on hand to help out?but when John asked how Dave and Paty were holding up, I shared the royalty story. It was bittersweet for John; he’s delighted that his old pals are finally getting theirs. Sadly, he’s not getting his. No royalties for the man who designed MaryJane, the Kingpin, Wolverine, and a platoon of others for Marvel. Work for hire, they claim. Go pick cotton. But Johnny Romita isn’t complaining. He’s competing with Joe Kubert for the title Nicest Guy in Comics. Nicest Cotton Picker.

As usual, John ended the conversation on a high note. I can’t remember how he signed off, but I said, “Nifty” and we hung up. Then I thought, nifty? Did I just say nifty? So I called Casa Ellison and Susan picked up.

“I think he’s on deadline,” she said. “Should I buzz him anyway?”
“No, no,” I said, never ever wanting to risk that. You’re better off attempting to butt-fuck Paris Hilton’s guard dog. “I’m just irked because that archaic word nifty slipped into my vocabulary again.”

“That would be Harlan’s doing,” she said. “Wait a minute?here he comes now…”

Harlan and I chatted about the royalty thing. He had a different take. “I can’t get myself worked up about this,” he said. “Jack made a bad deal and that’s it. He’s gone now. It’s over? These are all terrific people, but they shouldn’t be amateurish about their profession?they can’t say, ‘Oh, I’m just happy to see my name in print’ because that’s all they’ll get! So what did you name the baby?”

“Izzy,” I said.

“Think that’s Jewish enough?”

“I wanted to set him up in the event that the Bug and Meyer Mob ever make a comeback.”

“Better chance of WASPS resettling New Orleans,” said Harlan.

I told him about a call I recently received asking me to stage a benefit auction for yet another artist down on his luck. I didn’t know the guy who called me. Never heard of the artist either. I suggested that the guy calling me stage the benefit himself. I’m trying to find another profession.

“Aren’t we great?” asked Harlan.

“Peachy,” I said.

Then I thought, peachy? Did I just say peachy?

© 2004, Clifford Meth

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