It’s a sad fact of comic fandom that the pioneers who created the most beloved characters often were compensated to such a small degree for their work for hire that in their later lives, they need financial assistance.
That’s where the Hero Initiative comes in.
The lawsuits regarding Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s compensation for the creation of Superman are likely the most famous example of creators demanding further compensation, but the family of Jack “King” Kirby, who co-created the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, and other characters too numerous to mention, has tried to obtain copyright to some of Kirby’s most iconic creations from Marvel Entertainment, claiming ownership. Marvel won a summary judgment in that case in July of 2011.
Whatever the merits of each of those lawsuits or your opinion on work for hire versus greater compensation, it’s clear that the millions being made now from iconic Marvel and DC characters often don’t trickle down to those who first wrote and drew them, leaving many in financial distress due to medical bills or other emergencies. It took artist Dave Cockrum’s serious illness and financial distress before Marvel agreed to compensate him on his extensive work with the X-Men.
For those creators, the Hero Initiative is their safety net. Here’s artist Gene Colan, talking about how he was helped:
If every person who went to see The Avengers donated the price of a movie ticket to the Initiative, it would go a long way toward ensuring that creators there at the beginning will get the help they need during a crisis.