I wasn’t planning on watching Fox’s new crime show Lucifer. And not because I have any moral objections to the Devil being portrayed in a positive light. Bad guys are usually the most interesting characters in any given fictional story (see: Darth Vader). My problems with the show stemmed from the pilot, where Lucifer confronts a dying shooter who’s just murdered an old friend of his and fails to ask the most obvious question: Who hired you? Yeah, the show would have been over in the first ten minutes, but that’s no excuse for a lapse in common sense. Besides, I prefer the version of Lucifer on Supernatural, where he’s a deliciously over-the-top bad guy. Currently Misha Collins is playing him, doing his best Mark Pellegrino impression, which only adds to the fun. Last week we got both Misha and Mark, playing the same guy. Wins all around.
So I figured I wouldn’t be tuning in to the crime-busting, semi-good guy version of Satan any more, unless I heard the writing got better. Then another week rolled around. I wanted to watch TV and nothing better was on. The writing hadn’t improved by much, but the actor’s cute and he has a British accent. That’s enough to rope in most women, me included. Though I still prefer Supernatural’s Satan. Maybe the networks will do a crossover.
While we’re waiting for that, allow me to clue you in on a little something I noticed about the show’s credits, and who’s getting paid—and who probably isn’t—for this.
Fox’s Lucifer is an adaptation of a DC Comics/Vertigo title. Yep, the Lord of Lies had his own comic book series for a while. He was HQ’d in Vegas in that one, which makes more sense for the Devil than the Los Angeles of the TV show. I didn’t read the comic, so I don’t know who came up with the idea, or who the originating writer and artist were. (Note: It was writer Neil Gaiman who introduced Luci in the Sandman comic. Thank you, Internet!)
Familiar with how comic book creators tend to get the shaft when characters they created get the big-screen (and big-bucks-earning) treatment, I kept a close eye on the opening credits. There’s the usual cluster of producers, the episode writer and the director. And a single “Developed for TV by” credit for somebody. No “Lucifer created by” credit for the original writer and artist. Not even a “Based on the comic created by” or “Inspired by” credits anywhere I could see. Maybe the acknowledgement to the original creators is crammed into the closing credits, which flash by at Warp Factor 12. There’s an eyeblink shot of the DC and Vertigo logos right at the tail end of the closing credits. That’s the only hint you get that the show started life as a comic book.
Something tells me the original writer and artist aren’t getting paid for this. That happens a lot in the industry, especially now that comic book adaptations into movies and TV have turned out to be so lucrative. All those billions of dollars generated by Supes and Bats and Spidey and all their amazing superfriends have to go into somebody’s pocket, and somehow it never seems to be the creators’.
Which could be tricky in Lucifer’s case, seeing as how he was created by God.
Maybe that’s the excuse they’re using. “We can’t pay you for creating the comic because you didn’t create the character.” True. Lucifer previously appeared in another famous book. The Lucifer in the Vertigo comic is too derivative of that character to earn royalties for his creators. (This excuse was actually used in regards to the Barbara Kean character on Gotham. Here’s what Babs’ creator, Alan Brennert, has to say about it.)
So that’s why there are no creator credits on the show. Though a “Lucifer created by God” credit would have been polite.
Which leads to other problems. You get on-screen credit, you’re owed money. That’s why these credits are so important. If God created the show’s lead character, shouldn’t He be getting a cut of the take? Where would you send the royalty checks? The Vatican? Does the Lord have direct deposit? We know for a fact He’s got tons of cloud storage, but what about a bank account? There’s also that Lucifer on Supernatural. Is God double-dipping with his characters?
But aha, say the corporate lawyers. The Bible was produced before copyright laws. The Bible and all its contents are in the public domain. This particular version of Lucifer is copyrighted and the property of Time-Warner. We can do whatever the hell we want with him, pardon the pun, and we don’t owe You a cent.
So God, creator of everything, doesn’t get jack squat. He winds up in a bar on the outskirts of Hollywood, where Alan Brennert buys Him a beer. “Welcome to the world,” says Alan.
Now that’s true evil. You don’t suppose Lucifer is on the board of directors at Time-Warner, do you?
I know for a fact he works for Disney. Everybody works for Disney.
Now the question arises: what happens if Lucifer gets cancelled? Will it trigger the apocalypse? Will the world end? Will Mark Pellegrino and the guy who plays the Devil on Fox have to fight it out? Either way, the writers and artists and deities who created the heroes and anti-heroes we’re watching won’t see so much as a dime. Remember, kiddies, always read a contract all the way through and make sure you understand all the clauses before you sign your rights away. Don’t let this happen to you.