Last year I drew the Wolverine ABCs. When it was done, I printed out around 200 sketchbooks of them to hand out to industry friends. I knew enough about copyright law to know that I was in the gray area, even though they were only meant to be given away as gifts. I also gave them to people and editors who worked at Marvel–clearly I wasn’t trying to hide what I’d created. Because I was a pro and because I wasn’t selling them, I figured I’d be fine. After three conventions of EVERYONE telling me I should sell them, I broke down and sold some. At the last show that season, I sold the remaining 40 copies or so.
Then Marvel called. I explained that I didn’t have a warehouse of sketchbooks, I only made around 200 (or close to that) and mostly I gave them away. I explained how none of the Marvel editors complained when I handed them one, and my lack of hiding the ABCs should show the innocent nature of my endeavor. I even offered to sign a Cease and Desist, and pay them the money I made selling the last 40. But Marvel wanted the rights to the ABCs–they wanted to own them and pay me nothing. I wasn’t willing to do that, so I got a lawyer. And we eventually came together and agreed to drop the subject if I simply removed them from my site and promised not to make any more sketchbooks.
He goes on to say “My mistake was thinking that it was no big deal … because most people in comics don’t think it’s a big deal. But most people haven’t dealt with Marvel like I have, and that’s what fueled my involvement in this entire issue. I know people think I’m overreacting–I don’t care… I’m changing my sketch policy because I’m imagining the worst-case scenario.” It puts a new spin on Joe Quesada responding to concerns about the Gary Friedrich lawsuit affecting artists’ sketches by saying “Marvel is not looking to make any new policy announcements through this lawsuit,” when you learn Marvel was looking to claim ownership of sketches earlier, doesn’t it…?