Marvel Studios Under Fire For Paying Comic Creators As Little As $300 For Using Characters In Film And TV

The creators of Black Widow and Hawkeye's Yelena Belova aren't happy, as the money they were promised by Marvel Studios for the character's live-action debut ended up being considerably less than expected.

We've heard on countless occasions that Disney doesn't adequately compensate the comic book writers and artists who dream up the characters we see in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, The Hollywood Reporter has shared another damning story, this time focusing specifically on Black Widow and Hawkeye's Yelena Belova, played by Florence Pugh. 

The trade explains that writer Devin Grayson and artist J.G. Jones anticipated being paid $25,000 each for Belova's big screen debut. That's what the "Special Character Agreement" they signed with Marvel said, anyway, but the small print tells a different story. 

It turns out that amount is split between creators, and is simply the maximum they can receive. As a result, they only got $5000 each without explanation. The deal states that they would also get $2,000 for an episode of TV over 30 minutes and $1,000 for an episode of TV 30 minutes or less. For an action figure, it's $5,000 for one figure released in a single year, $10,000 for two, or $25,000 for three or more. When it comes to video games, it's a maximum of $30,000 between all creators.

Unfortunately, it sounds like Marvel has a number of questionable, albeit legal, tactics to lessen what they pay creators. For example, they classify any character with less than 15% of screentime a cameo, meaning The Winter Soldier only had a "cameo" in Captain America: Civil War. The same also applies to Steve Rogers in Avengers: Infinity War

"It’s like the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes," Grayson says. "You could win $1 million, but you won’t." Jones adds, "Having spoken to a number of creators, Marvel’s financial offerings seem a bit of a bait and switch. They throw out a large number, then little by little they whittle down the actual payout."

So, what did Grayson receive for Yelena's appearances in Disney+'s Emmy-nominated Hawkeye? Well, while her agreement makes it sounds like she should have received $2000 per episode (or at least $1000 if split with Jones), she was awarded a paltry $300 per appearance. 

Remember, even at the height of the pandemic with a Disney+ Premier Access release, Black Widow earned just shy of $500 million before its DVD and Blu-ray release.

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