God Does Not Own This World
"...I have a territorial instinct that exhibits a kind of knee-jerk negative reaction to seeing other people controlling the destiny of my characters. (That's the main reason why Goliath Chronicles was so painful for me to watch.)"
So the author of this fictional work is considered to be the ultimate authority of it. Maybe they are the creator, director, or producer of this work. They had the initial idea of this work (or at least this version of it) and most ideas are theirs, not to mention that they are the final authority regarding canon
. They must own
this work, right?
Except not. The main difficulty of creating a work is not always a creative issue. Very often the creator of a work is unable to produce their work the way they want without money. Other times, they want to use characters they don't own. The only way the author is able to produce their work, or using the characters they like but don't own, is by giving all the legal rights of their hard work to some big company in exchange for getting their work financed
While this removes all the production costs, it can backfire for the author for the following reasons:
- The author is subject to executive meddling and can't do anything about it, losing their absolute creative control of the work.
- If "the work" becomes successful thanks to their input, even if the company gains a fortune thanks to it, the author won't be able to become rich themselves or earn more money beyond their salary.
- The author won't be able to use their work independently without executive approval. And even if the author gets permission, the author will most likely be obliged to pay royalties for using their own work/creations.
- The author's Word of God can be demoted to fanfiction, while the executives can arm someone else with canon to change the work or "interpret it differently".
- If the company doesn't want the original author, they simply replace/fire their from the project.
On a related note, a creator who's the driving force behind a particular incarnation of a franchise, but was not involved in the original incarnation of same, won't have any of the rights to the franchise.
This can be very painful for the author losing all their "control" of their work despite being the main creative force behind it and the ultimate authority of it. However, some fans may still consider them as "Word of God
" in spite of this, and even hold them in higher regard.
Sometimes, a creator may try to Torch the Franchise and Run
in response to this situation.
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- One of the best-known examples in anime is Gundam; after working on the franchise constantly for 14 years, creator Yoshiyuki Tomino (suffering from severe Creator Breakdown at the time) sold the rights to the franchise to Sunrise before moving on to other projects. Sunrise would go on to produce the Alternate Universe shows: G, Wing, X, SEED, SEED Destiny, 00 and AGE). For years, legends persisted that Tomino absolutely despised what Gundam had become without him; in published interviews, he admitted that he was upset at first but mellowed out after realizing that he should be more supportive of up-and-coming directors. Eventually, Tomino gave his indirect blessing with ∀ Gundam, which is supposed to be the Grand Finale of the entire franchise and suggests that all of Gundam (both his and Sunrise's works) are part of a single, massive timeline.
- For Sandman there is an interesting semi-exception in a medium (American comics) where it is very common: DC Comics own the work, and can use characters from it without consulting Neil Gaiman in any way ... but it wouldn't occur to anyone currently working there to do so, mostly because Gaiman's portrayal of them is so iconic that any appearance by a Sandman character written by anyone else would be considered Canon Discontinuity at best.
- To date, due to a reluctance to include characters from the Vertigo line in the 'mainstream' DC universe, the only appearance of a Sandman character in the main DC line since the original Sandman series concluded was the Daniel version of Dream. They had no need to ask permission but at least gave the courtesy of a heads-up to Neil Gaiman, who looked the dialogue over and thought it was pretty damn good. A reference to the Green Lantern Ring as a "wishing ring" is one he wishes he thought of himself.
- Paul Cornell also ran his use of the Endless version of Death during "The Black Ring" arc by Gaiman and got approved. Generally, the only one of the Endless that is used without Gaiman's permission is Destiny, the only member of the family not created by Gaiman. Destiny predated The Sandman by many years (and was host of one of DC's horror anthology comics) and was retconned into the Endless by Gaiman. His personality has stayed pretty consistent, so it's not seen as any problem.
- Likewise, no one would use Starman characters without at least giving James Robinson a heads-up.
- Pat Mills created a whole bunch of strips for 2000 AD, but he owns none of them; however, due to his influence, it's very rare that anyone else is allowed to write any of them. Mills famously blocked the publication of an ABC Warriors strip by Alan Moore for decades, and also got pissy at Andy Diggle for commissioning a new Satanus series from Robbie Morrison, despite the fact that Mills had originally resurrected Satanus in story he wrote for Judge Dredd, for which he came up with the name and nothing else.
- The creators of Superman sold the rights to him early on (for $65, for each of them), but later fought tooth and nail just to get some recognition.
- This was standard practice in comic strips until the 1980s and Bill Watterson's famous fight to prevent Calvin and Hobbes merchandise. Today, creators generally own all rights to their strips, or have a contract that reverts all rights back to them after a certain number of years.
- The creators of W.I.T.C.H. were screwed out of their comic only halfway through the first arc, leading the story to go in a very different direction than what was originally intended.
- Rob Liefeld was annoyed that Peter David revealed that Shatterstar (a character he created) was gay, and posted that he couldn't wait to revert it (back to "asexual, and struggling to understand human behavior", not straight). Joe Quesada responded that Liefeld would have to get permission from the next editor-in-chief, and Peter David has since confirmed Shatterstar's bisexuality.
- And a new Editor in Chief has come, and still no sign of Marvel changing it.
- Another semi-exception exists in the case of Judge Dredd. It was originally conceived by John Wagner (writer) and Carlos Ezquerra (artist), but copyright and publication rights lie with Rebellion (at present). Plenty of other writers regularly write new material, but an unofficial understanding exists that only John Wagner is allowed to alter the status quo.
- Marvel Comics owns all of its characters and their have been many legal battles fought by the likes of Jack Kirby, Steve Gerber (creator of Howard the Duck) and even Stan Lee himself over compensation.
- Steve Ditko reportedly left the Spider-Man franchise because he did not like the directions co-creator Stan Lee was taking with the character.
- One of the reasons for founding Image Comics was that artists and writers working for Marvel and DC wanted to own their own properties, avoiding this very trope.
- A bit ironic when one of Image co-founders, Todd Mc Farlane, decided he owns characters Neil Gaiman created for one issue of Spawn, most notably Angela, the same way Marvel would own any character created for their comics. Ongoing legal battle over the rights lasted years and ended with Gaiman coming victorious. He would then take Angela and loan her to no one else but Marvel Comics.
- Some time when you're bored, Google "Before Watchmen reactions". Alan Moore does not own the Watchmen, and man, is he pissed about DC's prequels (which is kind of funny, given some of the stuff Moore himself has done with characters someone else created).
- Watchmen itself, of course, was originally going to involve a radically different take on characters other people had created; the only reason it has original characters instead is because of executive meddling.
- This is why it took so long for Groo the Wanderer to be published — Sergio Aragones did not want Groo to be owned by anyone else but him, but in the late '70s, the default assumption was that comics had to be "work for hire". It was only with Destroyer Duck and the advent of "creator-owned labels" that sprung up in the wake of Steve gerber's protests over Marvel's ownership of Howard the Duck that Aragones found an imprint that he could feel comfortable publishing Groo with. (Ironically, Groo's longest-running imprint was actually a subdivision of Marvel, their creator-owned "Epic" imprint.)
- The Fourth World series by Jack Kirby were his distinctive DC Comics creation, but he was never able to tell his stories the way he intended and its concepts and characters like Darkseid were integrated into the The DCU completely instead.
- Some people belive Brian K Vaughan killed Gert at the end of his Runaways run because he didn't wanted anybody else write her. There is also an unconfirmed rumor that he made Marvel Comics sign a contract forbidding them from killing, maiming or in any other way harming Molly, whom he based on his younger sister. However, given that he never expressed having any problems with his characters being written by other writers, this seems pretty unlikely.
- There is a Buffy the Vampire Slayer remake film under discussion, which is being planned without Joss Whedon's input. None of the TV characters (except Buffy) will appear. Whedon has actually refused to help with it. Alyson Hannigan, Anthony Stewart Head and others from the show have all said that it's a bad idea and, in the case of Head, that he imagines it will be "quite like watching a car wreck." Fortunately, it appears shelved for now.
- Happened to Gene Roddenberry with the Star Trek film series. After Star Trek: The Motion Picture went way over budget and past schedule, Paramount Pictures had Roddenberry Kicked Upstairs to "executive consultant", a position entitling him to make as many suggestions as he liked, and entitling everyone else to ignore these suggestions if they so pleased, and ignore him they did. But Tropes Are Not Bad. The films that followed are considered some of the best work in the Star Trek canon. When Star Trek returned to the small screen with Star Trek: The Next Generation, Roddenberry got to be in charge of that, though he continued to have no control over the Trek movies. During this time, Roddenberry dispensed some Word of God regarding what elements of the films he considered to be non-canon.
- Many of Marvel's most popular characters can't be brought into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, due to Fox and Sony still having the movie rights to them.
- James Cameron no longer has the rights for the Terminator franchise. He regretted selling them and made sure not to repeat this mistake with his subsequent films.
- Tying into the below-mentioned Tabletop Games, R.A. Salvatore doesn't own the rights to the stuff he's written based off Dungeons & Dragons. He tried to end The Legend of Drizzt, but backed down after being told that a different writer would continue the story. It's suspected by some that the series's recent decline in quality is an attempt to Torch the Franchise and Run, but another theory is that he's simply out of ideas (which, of course, would explain why he tried to end it in the first place.)
- L J Smith was fired from writing The Vampire Diaries by the company that owns the rights, allegedly because she disagreed with them about who the heroine should be romantically paired with at the end. The company intends to get someone else in to write it the way they want.
- Dungeons & Dragons hasn't been owned by its original creators in well over twenty years, ever since Gary Gygax had control of TSR wrested from him in the mid-1980's. Strangely enough, despite being the Trope Codifier for the entire RPG concept, Gygax has had very little effect on advancing the game's canon since it was first created. He created the original Greyhawk setting, but was involved very little with it afterwards before eventually leaving the company because of massive Executive Meddling. Very few gamers would actively prefer Gygax's game mechanics to what is produced today, though there is a certain flavor in classic adventures like Temple of Elemental Evil and the Tomb of Horrors made during his tenure that make for fun throwbacks.
- Likewise, Ed Greenwood had originally created the Forgotten Realms setting through a series of articles published in TSR's Dragon magazine in the late 80's. TSR eventually bought the rights to the setting outright, publishing it in a comprehensive campaign boxed set. Since then, it had been a playground for authors like R.A. Salvatore to publish mostly original novels based in the setting's backdrop, almost turning it into an Expanded Universe. As for the setting itself, Greenwood continued to have some gradually decreasing input, or at least the right to complain, all the way until the release of 4th Edition, where the Spellplague and other interdimensional weirdness caused The End OF The World As We Know It against his explicit objections.
- Dragonlance is currently owned by Wizards of the Coast, and not by Tracy Hickman, Margaret Weis, or Jeff Grubb, all three of whom (Among many) who contributed greatly to the setting.
- Bungie Studios: The creator of the Halo franchise. After they were bought by Microsoft, all the legal rights of their franchise is now were owned by Microsoft. This is despite the fact that Bungie is the ultimate authority of the franchise, and created the Universe Bible and all the important elements of the franchise itself. Now that they are independent, all their work after their separation now belongs to the studio. By all accounts, this is a rare amicable example, as Bungie simply decided they had definitively wrapped up the franchise for themselves, and wanted to do something different after 10 years, and so Microsoft created a new studio called 343 Industries (based on the Arc Number styling of the series) that would be the ones in charge of the Halo property.
- It should be noted that 343i has a number of former Bungie employees in its employ, alongside those who worked with the late Pandemic Studios. That means that Bungie as a studio may no longer be involved with the franchise but most of the mainstays of 343 are people who have years of Halo development experience anyway.
- It happened to the creators of the F.E.A.R. series. It got to the point where another company made a sequel to their series, while they had to rename their own canon sequel for legal purposes. When they got the F.E.A.R. name back, they immediately put the other games into Canon Discontinuity.
- This happened to Al Lowe when the post-Williams Sierra decided to create new Leisure Suit Larry games without consulting him. He doesn't care for either of them and considers them canon discontinuity.
- Also happened to Toys For Bob with Star Control 3, although unusually for this circumstance, Toys For Bob do retain the rights to the setting itself, just not the right to create Star Control branded games.
- This happened to Toby Gard with Tomb Raider when he objected to making Lara Croft bustier and ended up leaving during the development of Tomb Raider II. He came back as a consultant after The Angel of Darkness tanked, but Eidos Interactive (and its parent company Square Enix) still holds the rights to Lara.
- This is a big aspect of the fiasco involved with the Call of Duty series and the fighting between Treyarch and Infinity Ward over proper royalties.
- Happened to Keiji Inafune with Mega Man X. Inafune wanted the series to end at X5, and indeed the end of that game suggests a solid conclusion to the X story arc. But then Capcom, insistent on milking the cash cow for all that it was worth, proceeded to make X6 behind Inafune's back, thus explaining why much of the backstory of the Zero series only makes sense if you ignore all of the X games past X5.
- Kingdom Hearts: While the series is often considered to be a Square Enix series with Disney characters, Tetsuya Nomura has made clear that it's still owned by Disney and that all the original characters qualify as Disney characters.
- Every Fire Emblem game since the GBA entries had been developed by Intelligent Systems without the involvement of original creator Shozo Kaga, who quit the company after Fire Emblem Thracia 776 and went on to work on his Fire Emblem clone for the PS titled Tear Ring Saga.
- Hideki Kamiya, director of the original Devil May Cry and Ōkami, has expressed disappointment that Capcom produced sequels to these games without his involvement. With Okami in particular, Kamiya lamented the fact that the game's universe was no longer his after Capcom announced Okamiden for the DS, since he already had an idea for an Okami sequel in his mind before someone made it first.
- Zigzagged with Felix the Cat; while the character is now known to be created by Otto Messmer, he never owned the rights to his own creation, and was never once recognized as his creator until very late in his life, with Felix being considered and marketed as Pat Sullivan's character—and even though Pat Sullivan claimed before his death that Otto is the owner of Felix, Sullivan's estate secured the rights to the character while Otto worked on the comics. Eventually, Otto's assistant and friend Joe Oriolo would inherit the franchise, and the franchise today is owned by his son, Don Oriolo.
- Greg Weisman, despite being the creator of Gargoyles, doesn't own anything of all the stuff he made. Disney owns all of it. First he, along with all his team, were replaced by other crew. When his show got cancelled, he tried to continue it via comic books, but was unable to pay the high royalties to Disney.
- It happened to Weisman again with The Spectacular Spider-Man. When Disney bought Marvel, the former gave Spectacular producer Sony the choice of keeping the TV rights or the film rights. Sony decided that the movies print more money than Spectacular, and so it got axed.
- Regardless of whether you believe John Kricfalusi was fired from it for constantly conflicting with Nickelodeon BS&P or repeated failure to meet deadlines, The Ren & Stimpy Show is likely the most triumphant example. Bob Camp and much of the original team from the first two seasons would stay with Nick to work on Ren and Stimpy, which created major schisms between former animator friends that last to this day.
- Of all people, it happened to Walt Disney himself. In 1928, he lost the rights to his first hit character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit after contract negotiations broke down with his distributor Universal Studios, who proceeded to sign away most of his animators to a new in-house studio under the control of his former boss Charles Mintz. Disney was so shaken by the incident that he vowed to never lose the rights to any of his characters again. This might explain why the Walt Disney Company so jealously guards their own intellectual property.
- Don Bluth never really owned the rights to any movie he made (save for perhaps Banjo the Woodpile Cat), resulting in both the sequelitis of his more profitable films, and the executive meddling of his films in the '90s (which were made Lighter and Softer and played Follow the Leader with Disney). Bluth still gets Mis-blamed for it.
- Pixar originally didn't plan on making Toy Story 2, and only began to work on the film after Disney told the studio that they were planning on making a sequel to the original film, and would make it with or without them.note
- The banner atop the blog of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird makes it clear that the franchise is now owned by Viacom, who made a new cartoon in 2012 and plans a new movie. Laird's company Mirage still does the original comics every now and then.