Here are two articles that provide a lot of food for thought. In the first, Gerry Conway explains how DC Entertainment defines "derivative creations" and it is not pretty. It's not fair, either.
In the second, in an interview, Roy Thomas explains how he created Ultron and Vision and why he tried to not create many characters for Marvel.
I'm not a comic book writer or artist, nor am I otherwise involved in comic book publishing. I'm a reader and don't, therefore, have a stake in any of this. But I do believe fair is fair and creators should be fairly compensated. When many of the older writers and artists toiled at Marvel, DC, etc., there were few merchandising opportunities for their characters and while TV adaptations were a possibility, the blockbuster movie was not as likely, certainly not a big team-up movie with lots of characters. Work-for-hire contracts start off unfair. Most of the time, creating characters to be owned by the companies doesn't seem like a big deal. Unless the character hits big. And gets a movie franchise or is part of one. Or a hit TV show with action figures and the like. And then, the company that owns the character makes a fortune and the creators sit and watch others make money off what they created. And only the comic geeks know who they are.
It's fine that pretty much every Marvel fan knows who Stan Lee is. He sure has an impressive resume of cameos in Marvel Studios movies and TV shows. He even has his own action figure. But what about Roy Thomas?
Actually, I'm pretty impressed that Ed Brubaker, the man who brought Bucky Barnes back to life in the Captain America comic, as the Winter Soldier, got to appear in the movie. And how many people knew that? Or even what he looks like?
I understand the impulse of more and more comics creators to leave the big publishers to make their own comics where they can retain the rights to their creations. Creator-owned comics have made Image my favorite publisher. The variety of talent and stories in Image Comics is amazing, with truly something for everyone. But for anyone starting out, they need to make their rep first and that means toiling for Marvel or DC. And how many independent comics can the market support? The Avengers, X-Men, Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, et al remain the characters people know. How many would be willing to try something new and different? I for one will continue to support creator-owned comics by buying all the ones that appeal to me. And now I'm hoping to convince you to do that, too.
Greg Rucka's Lazarus is in development for a TV show. Rucka is a well-established writer of both novels and comics. He and artist Michael Lark created the realm of Lazarus and its characters and own the rights. They will be adequately compensated for their creation. As it should be. Apparently, that's not true for the creative people at DC and Marvel, and that's a shame.