The story so far: Dynamite Publishing, headed by Nick Barrucci, appears to have licensed a property, Lady Rawhide, originally published by now defunct Topps Comics in 1995-97. The project was announced about two weeks ago in a press release by Dynamite, including a cover image by Joseph Michael Linsner.
Lady Rawhide was created by Don McGregor and Mike Mayhew. Don McGregor is widely credited with having written one of the better series in comic book history, Black Panther; one of the first modern time graphic novels, Sabre; and being a key creator to opening the door to independent publishing at Eclipse Comics.
The press release from Dynamite announcing Lady Rawhide made no mention of the character being created by Don McGregor. However, some web sites announcing the project, such as Bleeding Cool, were far more gracious than the publisher and did make mention of it.
Don McGregor, hearing for the first time about the project late last week, from a Facebook friend, began to respond. His posts expresed his attachment and dedication to the creation of Lady Rawhide, and his dismay at not being informed about it. Heidi McDonald at The Beat and Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool both posted articles about McGregor’s rumblings on his Facebook page, both also suggesting that it would have been nice for someone to have informed Don about it. Both apparently also contacted Nick Barrucci for a response, which was then posted at both sites. Instead of a conciliatory note regretting the way a great and pivotal comics creator was slighted by no mention of his original authorship in the press releases and by not even being informed about it, Barrucci went on the offensive:
I’m running around the city in meetings. Funny coincidence – Last night I had a meeting with two comics creators, and the interesting thing about when they talk about royalties. They get them after the book ships and after the end of the reporting period. You know, the way the world works. They don’t seem to get paid based on an announcement. Now, a book gets announced and Don is already being screwed out of any financial compensation that he has an agreement on? I doubt it. I’ve worked with the Zorro Property Owners for 4 years, and they always honor not only their contracts, but their word. I’m not speaking for them, but saying what in my experience and what I can comfortably say for the experience that I’ve had with Matt Wagner and others.
Don talks about “honest failure” to the audience. I guess it’s ok if he lets them down. I have a lot of respect for Don. But this was unfair to Zorro Properties to go out there and make these claims without asking anyone what the release schedule was, the book ships, etc.
It would have been nice if Don would have been professional and asked honest questions before making wild assertions. And then complain if he’s not happy. Which he is happy to do.
Don – feel free to drop me a line directly to answer any questions – email@example.com
The forum discussion at Bleeding Cool, and the comments at The Beat, though somewhat divided, mostly began by buying into Barrucci’s strategy and blaming Don for having jumped the gun because royalty monies are not traditionally made at the announcement of a project – but only after it’s been published. Nick Barrucci’s cynical ploy to turn the tables on the creator whose work he intends to exploit, entirely disregarded the fact that Don made no mention of payments, only the basic professional courtesy failings of keeping the creator out of the loop and not even mentioning his name in the promotional material. As has been the case in such internet discussions, which I’ve commented on at Tom Spurgeon’s Comics Reporter, the talk quickly lost focus, giving way into bickering over the legal responsibility of the publisher. I’ve joined a few good members at both venues, trying not to lose track of the unprofessional and disingenuous way that Nick Barrucci responded – and the effective attempt to insult Don McGregor, most likely to cover up for his own failing in how the affair has been handled.
Don McGregor has been posting at his Facebook page about his own approach to writing, and the dedication with which he’s promoted these projects for the publishers. One of these postings included a photo of himself and his daughter Laurel, in a Lady Rawhide-like costume, when they traveled voluntarily and at their own expense, to the GENE AUTRY MUSEUM in order to promote the Zorro/Lady Rawhide comic books from Topps. That’s the photo used as inspiration for the cartoon at the top of this article.
One of the points I’ve made repeatedly about such incidents is that publishers will only become swayed to change their tone towards creators when they feel a serious enough public relations fallout. It seems too easy for someone like Nick Barrucci to get away with such disingenuous tactics and disrespectful treatment of a creator who deserves a little better. I hope this incident is enough to sound a warning bell that it’s time for the comics community to assert that this attitude should not be tolerated and will not be left unanswered. That we should be able to expect a little better from publishers who make their livelihood by the grace of the creators who give their soul blood, sweat and tears to this medium.
The cartoon at the top is offered freely to everyone to spread around and help promote the idea that we should not be silent about such behavior anymore, and that Don McGregor is owed a sincere apology from Nick Barrucci for his distasteful and abusive response to Don’s justified grievance.