As reported over the weekend, the estate of Wally Wood is campaigning for Wood to be mentioned in the credits of Marvel's Daredevil show on Netflix for his contributions to the character. The estate, via their Facebook page, has been talking about this months, noting that the list of creators credited seems to include everyone except Wally Wood:
If Brian Bendis is first on your list, you have some room for Wally Wood.
Seems pretty cut and dry. Wood, a legendary comics artist, deserves to be on that list, and it would have to be an oversight that he isn't. As the estate pointed out in an open letter, which first gained attention on Bleeding Cool:
Netfix and Marvel Studios made history with their recent online hit TV show Daredevil, which was immediately renewed for a second season. But with all the fanfare has come a major controversy among comics fans and top professionals alike. Amazingly, though over a dozen Daredevil-related comics professionals were acknowledged in the series credits, the late, legendary creator who, most in-the-know people say, did as much as Stan Lee and Bill Everett, who first launched Daredevil in 1964, is outrageously slighted. No one is more important to Daredevil than Wallace "Wally" Wood! After leaving his historic 12-year hit run on MAD Magazine, in 1964, Wood took over the then foundering, near-cancellation fledgling Daredevil comic after issue #4. Wood created the RED Daredevil character design, the interlocking double-D logo (which inspired the nickname "DD"), developed the visualization of the Radar Sense, created the grappling-hook cane/Billy-club cable, technological enhancements to DD's senses, themes used through the Frank Miller run, and beyond. Lee and Everett are acknowledged at the opening of the Netflix-Marvel series and many more comic-book talents are thanked in the Netflix Daredevil show but not "Kid Daredevil Himself, Wally Wood" as Marvel sometimes called him! — To people familiar with Wood's contributions, the slight is Unacceptable!
When Wood took over Daredevil, the half-developed character was dressed in a yellow acrobat's costume. Wood found it ridiculous to dress "the Man Without Fear" in yellow, the color of cowardice and took it upon himself, without Marvel's request or approval, to change DD's outfit to the all-red suit he has donned lo, the past 50 years. Wood's design inspired all red Daredevil designs since, including those in the 2003 Daredevil movie staring Ben Affleck and the new Netflix series alike. Wood plotted his DD stories, often uncredited — which inspired him to leave Marvel after one year — and that character development is inherent in near all Daredevil including Sin City creator, Frank Miller's famous run. That is why Roy Thomas, Denny O'Neil and other all-time top comics industry pros are speaking out, in favor of Wood being listed at the beginning of each episode with Stan Lee and Bill Everett (not at the end for individual episode contributions).
In his one year developing Daredevil, Wood brought sales from a near-cancellation bi-monthly to a hit monthly. The success continued through Romita's handful of post-Wood issues but soon slipped back to a bi-monthly where it soldiered on for years afterward, only to return again to Wood's hit monthly level of sales, over a decade later, under Frank Miller. Miller's famous latter run on Daredevil revived many themes that were originally created by "Kid Daredevil himself," Wallace Wood. Elsewhere, Miller has paid tribute to Wood in SIN CITY (including in the credits to the SIN CITY movie) and his comic, Tales to Offend, including "Lance Blastoff" which was a total homage to Wood.
Comics legend Wally Wood, too dead to care about any of this since 1981.
The letter then quoted a bunch of comics professionals seemingly advocating for Wood to receive credit, and then listed Wood's contributions to Daredevil:
Wood's Daredevil Contributions:
1) DESIGN MODEL SHEETS: Contemporaneous to Wood's RED Daredevil redesign, Wood created character turnaround model sheets for: Daredevil, Matt Murdock, Karen Page, Foggy Nelson, and design schematic of Daredevil's Cane Billy-Club with grappling hook cable.
NOTE: NO other such character design model sheets are known to have been produced for ANY Marvel characters by ANY other creator in the 1960s.
2) WRITING: While officially credited as fully writing only Daredevil issue #10, Wood plotted many — if not all — of his Daredevil issues under the "Marvel Method" same as his collogues, Fantastic Four co-creator, Jack Kirby and Spider-Man co-creator, Steve Ditko. VIA HIS PLOTS, WOOD DISTILLED THE ESSENCE OF DAREDEVIL
"Wood's... Daredevil is defined not by who he defeats so much as by his stubborn refusal to bow down to the most overwhelmingly fearsome of opponents." said Colin Smith. Wood wrote/plotted/co-wrote Daredevil. Via his story plots, Wood developed Daredevil into the character we all know and love. Most of the very best of the character's adventures ever since have reflected Wood's themes, including through Frank Miller's run to this very day and the Netflix series. The McKenzie-Miller tale from Daredevil #163, effectively re-ran Wood's classic tale with the Hulk standing in for the Sub-Mariner.
3) NEW CHARACTERS: Wood created various support characters during his Daredevil tenure including Mr. Fear, and Stilt-Man, whose hydraulic legs made a cameo "Easter egg" appearance in the first season of Netflix's Daredevil. Wood added telescoping legs to his earlier creation idea "The Destroyer" to create Stilt-Man. According to the letters page in DD #8, Stan Lee's only suggestion was to make the stilts even longer after which Jack Kirby joked about making them even longer.
4) RADAR SENSE: While Daredevil had higher senses from the first issue, Wood developed a very important way to visually communicate DD's "radar sense" with a series of radiating, expanding circular lines which quickly became a key, trademark representation of the character.
5) INTERLOCKING DOUBLE-D LOGO: Wood changed the single-D on Daredevil's belly to an interlocking double-D design on Daredevil's chest. Wood's design inspired the nickname "DD" and became an internationally recognized trademark which is used everywhere including Marvel's Netflix series.
6) "KID DAREDEVIL HIMSELF, WALLY WOOD"
Honored that they had acquired MAD's star talent (with Wood, MAD had been selling 10 times what the best Marvel comic sold), Marvel lauded Wallace Wood with various titles including "Famous Illustrator, Wallace Wood," "Wondrous Wally Wood," and for his landmark contributions to DAREDEVIL, he was sometimes referred to as "Kid Daredevil Himself, Wally Wood" including on the 1965 45rpm record "THE VOICES OF MARVEL COMICS" and later, even in the headline to the 1971 Rolling Stone magazine cover article on Marvel.
7) TECHNOLOGY & THE BILLY-CLUB: Also, it was Wood who added all the technology to DD. Stan didn't like it and deleted it after Wood left, but later talents including Miller, Marvel Studios and Netflix returned to the Wood's concept of technological enhancements.
8) SALES: In his one year developing Daredevil, Wood brought sales from a near-cancellation bi-monthly to a hit monthly. The success continued through Romita's handful of post-Wood issues but soon slipped back to a bi-monthly where it soldiered on for years afterward, only to return again to Wood's hit monthly level of sales, over a decade later, under Frank Miller.
9) CONTINUED INFLUENCE: One indication of Wood's ongoing influence on Daredevil, long after Wood left over non-payment for his writing, is that, Marvel's prime representation of the character continued to be Wood's Daredevil cover corner icon which ran through Romita's entire DD run and well into Colan's. In fact, Marvel brought back the Wood icon over a DECADE later (though re-inked by a current artist) which ran from 1978 – 1980 including Wood's historic, last return to Marvel, which was the cover to Daredevil #164 with Frank Miller.
So the next day, Marvel read the letter, realized what a boneheaded mistake they'd made, tweeted an apology, and everyone went home happy. Right?
Nothing's ever that simple in comics.
It wasn't long before Tony Isabella wrote to Bleeding Cool in reference to the quote that was included from him in the open letter. The quote read:
"Daredevil was a work in progress, but Wally Wood certainly deserves credit and kudos for the development work he did on the character. The Wood-designed red costume drove home the devil part of the hero's name. His masterful use of DD's radar sense and billy club made those more essential parts of the character than ever before. Wood's work on Daredevil was pivotal to the Man Without Fear."
— Tony Isabella, FaceBook, April 25, 2015
Creator of Black Lightning, co-creator of Misty Knight & Tigra
Tony Isabella - Comics Creator
But Isabella wrote to Bleeding Cool:
Tony Isabella writes to say: Let it be known that, while I meant and I mean the comments I made about Wally Wood's contribution to Daredevil, I was at no time informed that my comments would be part of a lawsuit. I don't believe I would have declined to make those comments, but I consider it a breach of common courtesy and good faith that I wasn't informed of this beforehand.
Well, that's weird. But surely this was also an oversight, and there's a reasonable explanation... for... oh, then Mark Waid chimed in:
Apparently, the estate of artist Wally Wood has issued an open letter to Marvel calling for Wood to receive screen credit for his contributions to the Daredevil mythos, in preparation for what I suspect is a lawsuit. Unfortunately, in doing so, whoever wrote the letter has stolen my endorsement rather than request it, which infuriates me.
While I do think--ethically and creatively--that Wally Wood, in all media, deserves some sort of special credit or thanks for all he did to help transform Daredevil from a potential dud into an enduring character back in the day, I do not contend he is legally entitled to such. The courts may prove me wrong. I'd love it if they did, as all creators would benefit from such a precedent, which is terrific. But I've made my position on these sorts of matters abundantly clear over the years.
So imagine my surprise when I read this sentence: "That is why Roy Thomas, Denny O'Neil and other all-time top comics industry pros are speaking out, in favor of Wood being listed at the beginning of each episode..." and then read on to find that I was one of the ones "speaking out." The letter-writer took a sentence I'd written last year about Wood (an opinion: "If it hadn't have been for Wally Wood, Daredevil would have been cancelled by issue six.") and deliberately quoted it out of context to make it sound as if I'd been asked for, and had contributed, my active support in their endeavor.
This is extremely poor form. It also makes me wonder how many of the other creators quoted as "speaking out, in favor" were similarly drafted to the cause. I wish Wood's estate the best of luck, and had whoever conscripted my service simply asked for my support, s/he may have gotten it--but after this, I am not inclined to play.
Mark Waid - Internet Killing Machine
Later in that same Facebook thread, Waid commented on J. David Spurlock, the man in charge of the Wally Wood estate, saying:
Mike, now that I know specifically who wrote the letter, I NEVER would have endorsed it. Had I been asked by someone less ethically challenged? Probably not, having thought about it. It's a uniquely sticky situation--I can't offhand think of a comparable instance in comics where someone took a property that was creatively flailing that wildly only six issues after its debut and turned it into something that enduring (only to leave himself before another six were done!). What's teeth-grating about the letter's call to action is that the writer enumerates all the things that Wood added to the strip as evidence that Wood should be credited--and yet NONE of those elements is present in the TV show, far as I remember.
Documentary filmmaker J. David Spurlock with Steve Ditko
Rich Johnston linked to this article from The Beat that details a 2014 lawsuit between Spurlock and Wood's ex-wife over some artwork, though I'm not sure that sheds enough light on why Waid considers Spurlock "ethically challenged." It should be noted that Spurlock does not appear to be related to Wood, and we don't know enough about it to know what his motivations are in managing the estate. If you know more about that situation, post it in the comments. In any case, Spurlock joined the thread, commenting:
I wrote the item. It is for the sole purpose of educating the public to Wood's work toward insuring his hard-earned legacy. All of the quotes are accurate. The large majority were supplied by creators, specifically in support and/or commentary, regarding Wood's considerable contributions to Daredevil and/or whether or not he deserved TV/Film credit. Most have been circulating on facebook for weeks. A few are historic quotes or were originally posted publically on facebook by their author, about Wood and/or the idea that he deserved TV/Film credit on Daredevil. On July 30, 2012, as the Director of the Wood Estate, I did request permission from Mr. Waid, to quote him widely. Mark graciusly responded later that day, "Quote away." Thank you again for your support of Woody and all creator rights, Mr. Waid. What was supplied to Bleeding Cool was a story suggestion with some information on Wood's Daredevil work which we thought would be helpful to them if they chose to write a story about the 50th Anniversary of Wood's RED design or the Netflix controversy. We were surprised at the way it was presented and there was NO mention of any suit, or possible suit, in anything we said. We only supplied information on 1) Wood's tenure on Daredevil and 2) fans and creators' satetments about Wood deserving credit. We never thought Bleeding Cool would run the raw info we provided, or worse, ramp up any sensationalism in the Estate's name. Still, in proper journalistic form, we often cited sources and/or dates connected to the quotes (if no source or date is listed, it was likely emailed or PM directly to me by the creator, in response to the question of whether they had any public statement). That being said, looking back, the context of Mr. Waid's quote would have been more appropriate, to make a point, in the prose section — not in the list of comments specifically about the Netfix series. For that poor editing, I wholeheartedly appologize to Mr. Waid and suggest that, possibly with a 2nd read, it would be clearer that the information we actually shared is solely designed to champion Mr. Wood and to educate the public to his work. Generally, comics creators do not receive benifits, it is our position that Mr. Wood was a pioneer for creator rights and we honor him by supporting credit where credit is due. Again, Mr. Waid, your quote was only meant to honor Mr. Wood and put his work into historic context — the same reason you gave permission to use it for. Our appologies again, for mistakenly placing it in the list of quotes that were specific to the Netflix series.
J. David Spurlock
Director, The Wallace Wood Estate
PS: Mr. Waid, I salute you for all the things you have said here, in support of both creator rights and of Mr. Wallace "Wally" Wood.
But Waid was having none of it:
"We never thought Bleeding Cool would run the raw info we provided, or worse, ramp up any sensationalism in the Estate's name." Are you FUCKING KIDDING me?
Naughty Tabloid Journalist Rich Johnston
Of course, now that both men had impugned the honor of Bleeding Cool, Rich Johnston wasn't going to sit quiet, saying in a new article:
I'd like to clarify that what was sent to Bleeding Cool was an press release entitled "Hit Marvel-Netflix Daredevil Series Spawns Controversy". I refute that anything was sensationalised further. I believe I reflected the tone and the content of the letter appropriately.
Any yes, all those quotes, alongside the claim "That is why Roy Thomas, Denny O'Neil and other all-time top comics industry pros are speaking out, in favor of Wood being listed at the beginning of each episode with Stan Lee and Bill Everett (not at the end for individual episode contributions)" does lead the reader to believe a greater claim that can be substantiated.
It seemed as if all of comicdom might implode over this one letter, which, by the way, isn't a lawsuit, but merely a request to give Wally Wood, who deserves it, a mention on the Daredevil show. Thankfully, Rich Johnston's mama soon chimed in to ease tensions.
Rich Johnston's Mama
"Oi, wot did oi tell you about stirrin' controversy on that bleedin' website o' yours, Richie?!" Mama Johnston said while beating Rich Johnston over the head with her pocket book. "Oi 'ave a good mind to take away yur internet privileges, oi do!"
"But mum!" cried Johnston, embarassed. "All me friends are readin'!"
"Oi don't care 'oo's listenin', oi don't!" She whacked him again with her bag. "Richie, you tell your comics friends you can't play any more today, you do! Pip pip!"
"Aw, mum," Johnston said, defeated.
"And you too, Mark Waid!" Johnston's mama barked, snatching the snickering Waid by his ear. "And you, Morgan Spurlock! Don't you lot 'ave anythin' better to do with your loives? Go out and play in the sun, ya little rascals! Go on! Off with you!"
At press time, Rich Johnston was sulking in his room, refusing to come out. Meanwhile, Wally Wood still doesn't have a "Thank You" on Daredevil, which is a shame.