Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Creation Conundrum

Posted by Don MacPherson on November 22nd, 2010

The Canadian channel that carries Batman: The Brave and the Bold seems to boast an erratic schedule for the show is far behind when it comes airing newer episodes. As a result, I watch episodes of the show online, as I quite enjoy the campiness and the spotlight on the diverse and weird array of characters in the DC stable. Recently, I was watching an episode in which I had a particular interest: “The Mask of Matches Malone!” The reason I was so interested in this Batman/Birds of Prey episode (which has yet to air in the U.S.) was that it was penned by long-time Birds of Prey comic scribe Gail Simone.

The concept and execution were a lot of fun, and aside from a somewhat forced and pained musical number, I enjoyed it a great deal. But the aspect of the episode that I found most intriguing was a nugget of information that flashed on the screen through the credits:

We’ve seen creator credits, both in DC comics and other-media adaptations of its super-hero properties, for Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and Batman creator Bob Kane for years. More recently, credits have shown up for Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston and for Jack Kirby for his Fourth World characters. But as a character and a contribution to DC’s super-hero mythos, the Huntress really isn’t in the same league as those other characters, and Levitz, while a long-time presence and influence in the comics industry, certainly hasn’t achieved the same level of noteworthiness as Siegel, Shuster, Kane or Kirby.

Paul LevitzI wondered if this was representative of a new creator-credit policy developed either (a) specifically for Levitz, as he recently stepped down as the president of DC Comics, or (b) as part of a wider-reaching approach to character creator credits by DC Entertainment.

I checked out the credits from the most recent issue of Birds of Prey, the only ongoing DC title to feature the Huntress prominently month after month. There’s no mention of Levitz there.

So with this information about the inconsistently applied Huntress creator credit in hand, I emailed a couple of DC Comics’ public-relations officials about the issue, informing them I was planning to write a piece for this website about it.

DC spokesman Alex Segura originally told me company officials were looking into the issue and that he’d have some answers for me after a few days. When I checked back in with him after those few days, I learned no answers would be forthcoming.

“Hey Don, We’re declining comment. Thanks for checking with us,” Segura wrote in a Nov. 19 email.

After reaching that PR dead end, I contacted the man himself. Levitz referred inquiries to DC Comics.

Another aspect of the Huntress creator credit from the Brave and the Bold cartoon that’s a bit puzzling is that it only lists Levitz. The Huntress debuted in two comic books the same week All-Star Comics #69 and DC Super-Stars #17 (both cover dated November-December 1977). While Levitz was the writer on both, the All-Star issue and the Huntress origin story in Super-Stars were illustrated by artist Joe Staton. He’s generally considered the co-creator of the Huntress.

I reached Staton online, and he said that he was unaware of Levitz’s creator credit on The Brave and the Bold, though he didn’t seem put out by his exclusion.

“I didn’t even know that there were creator credits on B&B. At the time of the Huntress’s creation, the rule was that whoever did the first six appearances of a character was considered ‘vested’ in the character and was considered (co-) creator, so officially, Paul [Levitz], Bob Layton and I are listed as the creators of the Huntress,” he wrote.

“In any event, I get royalties, which is cool.”

When contacted for comment, Batman: The Brave and the Bold series producer Michael Jelenic said he and the other producers of The Brave and the Bold don’t know why Levitz was singled out for this new creator credit.

“DC determines which creators we give onscreen credits to. Don’t know what their criteria is though. I don’t think it’s an exact science,” he said.

Unfortunately, I’m left with just as many questions after making my inquiries as I did before, if not more.

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21 Responses to “Creation Conundrum”

  1. Comics A.M. | Comic-Con sales, credits mystery and women creators | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment Says:

    [...] Creators | Don MacPherson attempts to find out why Paul Levitz is credited on the Batman: The Brave and the Bold animated series as the creator of the DC Comics character Huntress, and why artists Joe Staton and Bob Layton were not. He doesn’t get very far. [Eye on Comics] [...]

  2. Chad Says:

    Having had some dealings with DC’s PR department myself, I really don’t understand the thought process over there. No comment? It’s a pretty straightforward question, and not answering it just makes a bigger deal of it than it probably should be.

  3. Jer Says:

    No comment? It’s a pretty straightforward question, and not answering it just makes a bigger deal of it than it probably should be.

    If this were just DC, I’d agree with you.

    But the creator credit was put on by the folks in charge of the Brave and the Bold cartoon, not DC. Which would be Warner Animation, IIRC. DC may not have a comment because their only comments might be expletives that one branch of the company is doing something and never asked them about it. And when two parts of the same company are fighting, the “if you can’t say anything nice” rule tends to come out in full force. At least until you work things out between the two branches.

    I’m not saying that’s what is happening here. But given that Don has tried multiple avenues and each of them has resulted in a pointer back to DC with their lack of comment, if I were placing a bet the good money would be on internal squabbles.

  4. Atomic Kommie Comics Says:

    Considering DC’s official policy is to credit Bob Kane as the sole creator of Batman, while everybody unofficially acknowledges Bill Finger as co-creator, is the PR department’s attitude surprising?
    Come to think of it, does Jerry Robinson get a co-creator credit for The Joker?

  5. demoncat Says:

    not surprised with the no comment.for dc has always played fast and lose when giving credit to all the creators of their characters. like bill finger as co creator for batman. so not surprised dc said no comment on why Paul was credited as creator of the huntress. on brave and the bold. as for jerry getting credit for co creating the joker. dc keeps saying bob kane as sole creator for him too

  6. Thad Says:

    Actually, Matches hasn’t aired in the US yet, either, just Australia. Jelenic said that when the musical number went viral and everybody interpreted it sexually, they had to rework it for American TV.

  7. Chad Says:

    It’s been my impression that Paul Levitz has always been a pretty stand-up guy when it comes to creator credit and resulting compensation, so I’m just surprised he’s not clarifying this issue. Jer’s explanation seems plausible, and in any case, if Joe Staton’s getting royalties and he’s OK with things, I guess we can leave it there. (Unless Bob Layton has an issue.)

    As for Bob Kane, I believe there are legal issues involved in officially listing anyone else as a co-creator on those characters. Not sure if it has to continue after his death, but I’m fairly certain Kane had a contract requiring the Bob Kane creator credit on Batman material.

  8. Matt Says:

    Maybe they realized their mistake but did not want to admit they were wrong.

  9. Don MacPherson Says:

    Chad wrote:
    No comment? It’s a pretty straightforward question, and not answering it just makes a bigger deal of it than it probably should be.

    Well, I’d categorize it as an unusual question, connected to an as-yet unaired episode of a cartoon. But I still think it was a valid question. If I’d asked about the history of the Siegel-Shuster credit, I assume DC would have answered.

  10. Don MacPherson Says:

    Jer wrote:
    If this were just DC, I’d agree with you. But the creator credit was put on by the folks in charge of the Brave and the Bold cartoon, not DC. Which would be Warner Animation, IIRC.

    As Michael Jelenic points out (thanks to an update in the feature itself — see above), WB Animation takes its character-creation credit cues from DC Entertainment.

    But given that Don has tried multiple avenues and each of them has resulted in a pointer back to DC with their lack of comment, if I were placing a bet the good money would be on internal squabbles.

    There’s no evidence of “squabbles,” and I think it’s a bit of leap to go there.

  11. Sijo Says:

    Thad wrote:
    Actually, Matches hasn’t aired in the US yet, either, just Australia. Jelenic said that when the musical number went viral and everybody interpreted it sexually, they had to rework it for American TV.

    Oh, it was THE FANS who interpreted it sexually? It WASN’T meant that way? Yeah right. I saw the original and there was no way those weren’t double entendres. They should not have tried to get away with that in a show like TB&TB in the first place.

    As for creator credits: I’m always iffy on this, because while writers contribute ideas to a concept, an artist just usually interprets them visually. Did Staton work out the details of who The Huntress was with Levitz, or just draw her costume (which she’s not using anymore.) There HAVE been exceptions, mind you- The Silver Surfer WAS Jack Kirby’s idea, he added the character to the comic on his own as Stan Lee later admitted but Lee got the credit as co-creator for a long time. Obviously we need behind-the-scenes facts to decide here. (Note I mean no slight to Staton, his costume designs are some of the best in the business- but the visual is the least important part of a fictional character concept, in my opinion .)

  12. Chad Says:

    Don wrote:
    If I’d asked about the history of the Siegel-Shuster credit, I assume DC would have answered.

    Don’t be so sure, given that Siegel’s heirs are currently involved in a huge lawsuit over Superman. ;-)

  13. Ken Raining Says:

    DC’s response to this is very strange. I wonder if Paul negotiated this as part of his leaving DC as publisher, and that’s why they’re being quiet about it. It will be interesting to see if he gets a similar credit for any other characters he created in the future, though I think that’s probably only a handfull of LOSHers.

    As for the Kane question, I believe MEN OF TOMORROW mentions that Kane negotiated sole creator credit in exchange for never trying to take back Batman after the Siegel/Shuster lawsuit. Ironically, I remember reading something by a fellow pro (I want to say Mark Evanier) who knew Levitz back when he was a fan; he used to say that, if he were ever in power at DC, the first thing he’d do would be to properly credit Bill Finger as creator of Batman. Obviously, some things were outside of even the President/ Publisher’s power.

  14. Don MacPherson Says:

    Ken wrote:
    DC’s response to this is very strange. I wonder if Paul negotiated this as part of his leaving DC as publisher, and that’s why they’re being quiet about it. It will be interesting to see if he gets a similar credit for any other characters he created in the future, though I think that’s probably only a handfull of LOSHers.

    In a previous draft of the essay, I noted a few other characters that Levitz had a hand in creating. A few Legion characters were among them — Quislet and Tellus came to mind immediately — and a web search revealed that he was the writer on a short-lived 1970s series from DC illustrated by Steve Ditko: Stalker. The Stalker character recently turned up in a Wonder Woman story arc featuring a few obscure ’70s sword-and-sorcery characters, including Claw the Unconquered and DC’s incarnation of Beowulf.

  15. Mike Rhode Says:

    Re the Stalker and other characters, I think the appearance of these and other minor characters either in animation or the comic books is related to trademark renewal – http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/process/maintain/prfaq.jsp – probably looked at more regularly since the 1960s when Marvel Comics got Captain Marvel trademarked and DC has to call their character Shazam.

  16. Don MacPherson Says:

    Mike wrote:
    I think the appearance of these and other minor characters either in animation or the comic books is related to trademark renewal

    Creator credit in this context is something separate from trademark or copyright rights.

  17. Thad Says:

    Sijo wrote:
    Oh, it was THE FANS who interpreted it sexually? It WASN’T meant that way? Yeah right.

    Just paraphrasing what Jelenic said.

    They should not have tried to get away with that in a show like TB&TB in the first place.

    I don’t think it’s a big deal; those references will sail over the heads of the five-year-olds in the audience. It’s not without precedent — in Batman: TAS Harley made a reference to Bullock having a “small subpoena”, and on Spectacular Spider-Man, Black Cat got away with the jaw-dropping line, “You better not get your sticky stuff in my hair.”

    Frankly TB&TB has gotten pretty uneven in what age group any given episode is appropriate for. I watched last week’s with a three-year-old and it was a bit much for him — though that was really about violence and a generally dark tone; I’m not worried about double entendres.

    @Mike Rhode: A small correction: DC has to call the book Shazam, but still refers to the character as Captain Marvel. But as Don said, that’s a separate issue from creator credit.

  18. Bytowner Says:

    Seeing as they’re contractually obligated to leave Robinson out of the credits, small wonder that there’s a park, a street, a passenger rail terminal and a major traffic hub in Gotham all named for the man.

  19. Doctor K Says:

    DC recently started crediting Gardner Fox as the single creator of Zatanna in her series and The Atom in his Adventure Comics backups. I don’t know what Murphy Anderson’s claims might be for co-creating Zatanna, but Gil Kane had a strong and well-documented case to be considered the creator of the Silver Age Atom. I don’t know if this is related to the Paul Levitz/Huntress situation, but these new creator credits for writers only are curious.

  20. Atomic Kommie Comics Says:

    If the writers are being credited for Silver Age revamps, so should the artists (if the costumes are totally new) as in the cases of Gil Kane for Green Lantern and Atom; Carmine Infantino for Flash; but not Infantino for Batman or Joe Kubert for Hawkman.

    And if writers are getting credit…where’s Bill Finger’s Batman credit?

  21. Bytowner Says:

    Contractually prevented from giving credit where it’s due, as noted above.