When it comes to other-media adaptations of notable (and more obscure) Marvel and DC characters, there’s a growing push toward providing creator credits with such movies and television shows. Marvel’s movie and television arms seem to have settled on an opening credit of “Based on the comics by XX and YY,” generally referring to the writer and penciller who worked on a titular character’s first appearance, with a “special thanks to…” closing credit for creators whose characters and/or stories were included or mined to construct the filmed fare. Those credits, while a positive step forward, nevertheless still fall short, given their non-specificity (and one could easily argue a real acknowledgement of such past creative efforts should come in a monetary form).
When it comes to DC Comics characters on the big and small screens, character-creation credits have definitely gone a bit further. The list of comics creator credits showing up in the closing credits of DC films, live-action TV shows and animated productions has been growing steadily in recent years. I recently watched the direct-to-video Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay animated movie, and I was struck by the creators listed in the closing credits, giving a nod to those who conceived of and introduced a dozen characters in DC (and even Charlton) comics in years past.
Though initially impressed by these acknowledgements, I quickly realized it was sadly lacking as well. Look at this list…
Here’s the problem: missing are creator credits for nine other characters used in the story. And I’m not talking about cameos. Most are pivotal players in the plot. There absolutely no acknowledgement of the creators of the following characters (creator credits gleaned from Wikipedia):
Two-Face (Bill Finger & Bob Kane)
Blockbuster (Gardner Fox & Carmine Infantino)
Black Manta (Bob Haney & Nick Cardy)
Dr. Fate (Gardner Fox & Howard Sherman)
Professor Zoom/Reverse Flash (John Broome & Carmine Infantino)
Knockout (Karl Kesel & Tom Grummett)
Scandal Savage (Gail Simone & Dale Eaglesham)
Vandal Savage (Alfred Bester)
The other thing that strikes me odd about this omissions is that lack of any consistency or pattern. If late creators had been left out or those who crafted characters before DC started including renumeration and credits as part of their agreements with writers and artists in the Bronze Age of comics, it would make sense. It wouldn’t be right, per se, but at least one could understand why certain names would be absent.
But that’s not the case. The creators who do get credit at the end of the movie span do so for work that ranges in date from the Silver Age to the 1990s. Those left out crafted key characters from the Golden Age to the 2000s. There’s no apparent rhyme nor reason to this credit list.
Also noteworthy about the movie’s silence on such subjects is credit for the core concept of the story. The plot is built around three factions scrambling to find and retrieve a mystical “Get Out of Hell Free” card. While the machinations of how that story unfolds here are quite different from the source material, that concept was one developed by the afore-mentioned Gail Simone, and the story features a lot of the same characters involved in the mad dash for the prize. The storyline unfolded in the first story arc from Simone’s ongoing Secret Six series in late 2008 and early 2009, illustrated by penciller Nicola Scott and inker Doug Hazlewood. Simone has publicly posted about her disappointment over the lack of acknowledgement, while at the same time expressing her appreciation of DC as an employer.
Simone gets no credit for the premise here. Now typically, adaptations of DC properties haven’t specifically given the nod to writers who have developed plots as opposed to characters, but they have included “special thanks to…” credits for those who have told stories that have provided either inspiration or direct content. I recall that numerous writers and artists from various Wonder Woman stories over the years got such mentions at the end of the Wonder Woman movie last summer, and George Perez was singled out, given how his 1980s Wonder Woman reboot appeared to inspire the movie’s story, at least in spirit.
Hell to Pay doesn’t draw from the spirit of Simone’s Secret Six run; it’s completely rooted in her ideas. Without Simone, this movie doesn’t get made. Sure, Warner Bros. Animation would have done something else, maybe even another Suicide Squad story. But not this one.