It’s well and good to create your own characters, but great care must be given when looking for a publisher. There are still plenty of “old world” beliefs in the world of Philippine publishing including the belief that the publisher owns whatever you create.
For many decades creators simply were not aware that they were entitled to such ownership, considering what they do simply as a “job”. They write, they draw, the draw a paycheck and that’s it. A few creators probably don’t even think about it. They’re happy enough to have a paying job. And I think that’s perfectly all right. People didn’t know they were entitled to so much more for such a long time.
Now in 2014 though (and for many years now), creators can demand the right to own the stories and characters they create. And I think it’s really up to them to demand such things from their publishers. You can consider this a job if you want, but if you want a legacy, you have to demand it. I understand that you might not want to ruffle feathers, you just want things to go on as they are, but if you want something more for yourself, buckle up, ride the storm, and grab what’s rightfully yours.
For my entire career I’ve always avoided working for publishers who demand ownership of my creations, even if they say they simply own only 50%. I always refused. I own my work, 100%. In my view, the publisher only has the right to exclusively publish and distribute your work. All other rights belong to you. This includes movie and tv rights and other adaptations to other media.
There are publishers out there who are willing to accept such terms, but there are others who won’t. More often than not, I end up publishing my own work because that’s one of the ways I can ensure that I have complete control over what goes on with my creations.
And if you ever do find the right publisher for you, make sure you scrutinize your contract very well. It might help to consult a lawyer to help you understand completely what’s being offered.
Just make sure that the publisher only holds publishing and distribution rights. Other media adaptation rights belong to you. Make sure that you ask for a time limit to how long the publisher has your work. Three years, six years… whatever works best for you. Just make sure it’s in there.
Also pay attention to what’s written down with regards to their commitment to promote your work. Do they schedule signings, panels, and invite you to join conventions, festivals, etc? Promotion is one of the things that the publisher needs to commit to. You can help by doing promotions yourself. Every little bit counts.
And lastly, the contract works both ways. If they do their part, you also need to make sure you uphold your commitment to the terms of your contract. I think that’s only right and fair.
Whenever I attend a local comic book convention like KOMIKON, I feel so excited because I see so many young (and maybe not so young) people creating their own comics, using their own characters. The amazing variety of creativity is sometimes just breathtaking. Me and a bunch of guys back in the early 90s who began creating our own comics have no idea that this thing will be much much bigger today, 20 years later.
In this time, I’ve created lots of different characters like Eric from Wasted, Johnny Balbona, Humanis Rex, Timawa, the Elmer Gallo family, and Rodski Patotski. I plan on creating so much more.
Of course, there is the option to create new stories for classic characters, and I have done so previously with Lastikman and the little Darna story that Arnold Arre and I created. Working on Mars Ravelo’s characters was so much fun and also thrilling knowing that you are working on such iconic characters with so much history.
A lot of people hope that Arnold and I continue the work we did on Darna Lives! We actually have the option to do it if we wanted to. But I want to say right here that I was the one who decided that I didn’t want to. What Arnold and I did was simply to show the potential of what can be done with a Darna story. Hopefully, it would give future Darna writers ideas on how to do things differently, how to perceive and develop the character from a different and fresh perspective.
I wanted to create my own characters. I wanted to create my own Darna. When I work on characters by other people, I ensure the future of not only that character, but that character’s copyright owners. I get a one time paycheck and that’s it. Nothing more. I want to ensure MY future by creating characters that would act as my legacy, that would hopefully be something I can benefit from in the future. Characters I create become a personal creative investment. If a movie of ELMER or any of my works would be made in the future, it would be me who would benefit from it. If one day I can no longer work, they would be taking care of me. At least, that’s the plan.
I admit I do still continue to work on other people’s characters at Marvel and DC. That of course, is what I would consider my day job. I love doing it so it’s more than simply a day job, but with the money I earn from it, and the free time I have outside of it, I would create my own characters and comics.