Venom and Ant-Man Creator Argues “Co-Creator” Credit

Longtime Marvel Comics writer David Michelinie is arguing his “co-creator” credits on characters like Venom and the Scott Lang Ant-Man, saying instead he alone “originated” such characters.

In a lengthy Facebook post published Thursday titled “Random Musings,” Michelinie, who served long tenures as the writer on The Amazing Spider-Man, The Avengers, and Iron Man, issued his response to an article circulated by Comic Book Resources titled, “Who Created the Scott Lang Ant-Man?”

Michelinie explained:

In the good ol' days writers and artists pretty much created new characters because they wanted to. It was fun, and it was a kick to see something you made up appearing in the stories you were telling. But then both Marvel and DC started programs where creators shared in revenues from new characters. Marvel's initial policy declared that, for them, the first person to write a new character and the first person to draw that character were technically and legally the creators of the character, regardless of who had come up with it or when the character was actually first published. For example: I came up with a new character in a Marvel series I was writing, and introduced that character in a one-page teaser plugged into an ongoing storyline. The regular penciller--for whom I had and have nothing but tremendous respect and admiration--drew that issue. In the teaser, the character appears in only one panel, seen from behind in black silhouette with no details. The artist moved on after that issue, but because of that single panel silhouette he is considered by Marvel to be co-creator of that character, and has been paid accordingly.

“Let it be known that I am a great believer in giving credit where credit is due, and I readily admit to having co-created quite a few characters in the last 40 years,” Michelinie wrote, pointing to characters Jim Rhodes, a.k.a. War Machine, Justin Hammer, and Ghost, co-creations made in partnership with Iron Man co-plotter Bob Layton.

Such characters are co-creations “because we worked out the stories that introduced those characters together,” Michelinie added, also naming characters co-created with Walter Simonson in their time on Marvel’s Star Wars.

He explained further:

However, there are other characters that I came up with entirely on my own, sitting at the desk in my office, with no input from anyone else on the planet. Characters that I put into plots, along with their names, backgrounds, motivations, personalities and frequently visual descriptions and even bits of speech patterns. Those plots were sent to editors who, after approval, THEN sent them along to other individuals in the creative chain. But if I say I ‘created’ such characters-- like Venom, Carnage, Taskmaster, Scott Lang and so many more-- someone will come back with, ‘But what about such-and-such? He/She created them, too!’ And, according to some definitions, that's true.

...I’m going to change the terminology. Feel free to add ‘co-creator’ to my credits as much as you like. But the bottom line is that I alone ORIGINATED those characters. I was the first to think of them, I brought them into this world, and if I had never been born those characters would not exist. And there's not a fact, opinion or argument that can change that. The end.

Officially, Michelinie shares a “created by” credit for the Scott Lang Ant-Man with John Byrne, who penciled Lang’s appearance in Avengers #181 (cover dated March 1979) when the character appeared as a security expert. As explained by Brian Cronin in Comic Book Legends, Lang had already been created to assume the mantle of an all-new Ant-Man in the pages of Marvel Premiere #47 (dated April 1979) — and his Avengers appearance served only to give the character some backstory before his “official” debut as the astonishing Ant-Man in Marvel Premiere.

Byrne and Layton are both credited as artists on the issue, but Byrne was brought on the project after Michelinie and Layton created the character.

Layton himself contested Byrne’s “co-creator” credit in an April 2014 interview, where he explained Lang’s conception:

At that time, Hank Pym had become an unstable, unlikable character. I believe the mandate was to humanize the character of Ant-Man, in this instance, to make him a single parent in the persona of ex-con Scott Lang. I’m glad you asked me about those issues because many people mistakenly give John Byrne credit for co-creating those characters. John only contributed blue pencil layouts for those two stories and had NOTHING to do with the creation of Scott Lang. The other thing that bugs the Hell out of me is that Edgar Wright, the director of the [at the time. Of course, he later left the project – BC] upcoming Ant-Man movie, credits John Byrne’s cover to Marvel Premiere #47 as the inspiration for his involvement in the film. I penciled that cover—not John Freakin’ Byrne! And yes… Wright will be using Scott Lang as his version of Ant-Man.

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Per Marvel’s contract rules, Byrne “technically” co-created Scott Lang — but officially, Lang is a Michelinie and Layton creation. The character has since gone on to headline his own blockbuster movie series in Marvel Studios’ ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, where he’s played by Paul Rudd.

Venom — who made his big screen debut in 2007’s Spider-Man 3 and will star in his own movie this October as played by Tom Hardy — is credited as a creation of Michelinie and artist Todd McFarlane.