Reading Noah’s thoughts on work-for-hire, I’d like to add a few words on the upside of corporate ownership vs. creative. The Batman I see around in today’s comics is more notable for his personality than anything else. He’s an odd duck, a fellow who’s good at his job but really needs to relax. It makes a kind of sense for him to finish this way; back when we first saw him, in 1939, he was a kid doing pushups over and over because his parents had been killed. But Bob Kane and Bill Finger didn’t see him as a neurotic. Left in their hands, he might have stayed simply a dark avenger of the night, or the square-jawed, stalwart fellow we know from the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s. One reason he didn’t, a very big reason, is that he belongs to DC.

The current Batman is the creation of who knows how many writers and editors spitting into the same pot over the past few decades. Our Batman is a communal creation, and the community was hired and organized by a corporation. Which doesn’t do away with the downside of the situation, including the possibly discombobulated branding Noah describes. But taking control out of the individual’s hands opens the way for new possibilities. The people who invented Batman did deserve to control him and reap the financial rewards. (Kane got a nice cut, not control of the property.) But for the rest of us it may be just as well that they didn’t.

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