Friday, August 29, 2008

MISC: Is YOUR Word Your Bond?

I was reading Steven Grant's latest column at Comic Book Resources yesterday, which features artist Steve Ditko. Leaving aside the discussion on the pro's and con's of artistic appreciation of Ditko's work, the column also expands on the ongoing debate over Ditko's (lack of) compensation for his inventive work on Spider-Man.

Discussing Ditko's lack of willingness to press new legal advantages brought about over the creative rights to Superman, Grant says:

"The last time any alleged communications on the matter leaked out, Ditko's approach to the deals he made during his career, especially with then-Marvel publisher Martin Goodman, he indicated he would not try to take advantage of changes in the law to make any claims on Spider-Man or other characters, citing that he knew what he was doing when he entered into the deal and he wouldn't go back on that simply because circumstances had changed. Even though, again according to Bell, Goodman had gone back on a handshake deal giving Ditko participation in Spider-Man."

This elevates Ditko in my opinion, although Grant seems to feel otherwise. It's rare today to see anybody not grubbing about for every spare penny. This is a case of a man in the right, who won't do wrong to get what's his by rights. He figures he gave his word and he'll honour it. Even to his disadvantage.

Compare that to the recent news that Pedro Alvarez is trying to extract some extra money from the Pittsburgh Pirates. It might mean going back on his verbal commitment to the team at the stroke of midnight on the deadline for signing draft picks, but what's honour when you and that rat-weasel of an agent, Scott Boras, can exploit potential loopholes for more braggin' money. Hope he breaks BOTH legs jumping up and down on Boras.

Recently, I had some construction done on the house. I paid an hourly rate that was okay. But on four of five days, I paid for the worker to go 'shopping' for materials. I ended up paying almost 22 percent of the total paid for his 'work' off-site. A little discussing with friends revealed how stupid I'd been. I told the worker that future tasks would be quoted at a fixed cost. No more paying for him talking up sales clerks at the local tools emporium. I STILL wanted him to work for me, the quality being top-notch, but I was going to bring the rising costs under control ... and inspection. He quoted high on the first task, which I then passed on. Suddenly, that task was three times cheaper and the rest of the tasks were all economically viable. I've got him continuing to work here off-and-on right through the spring. That said, I didn't ask for a single penny back for the time he was over-charging me in total, while billing hourly. Why? Because I agreed to that deal. End of discussion.

A couple of earlier examples of putting my mouth where my wallet should have been. I was agented a job by a really slimy politician back when I was just getting started as a programmer. I later found out the agent was pocketing more than I was for the job. Later, I had to do some upgrades for the job and the client, glad to be rid of the agent's involvement, offered me the full hourly fee he was paying to the agent (who then paid me). I did the upgrades for free. I couldn't steal the money from the agent, as deserving as it would have been. But neither could I put money into the scumbucket's pocket either. So, doing it for free worked for me. A decade later, the client had a whole different project and remembered the ethical programmer he'd once known. THAT project paid for a new car.

My brief fling at radio was a series of blunders and mistakes. I'd left the newspaper business in a huff over a useless writer-wannabe reporter getting a bigger raise than I did. Especially since I had to do MORE work to cover the fact that he fancied himself quite the writer and only did a couple of pieces each week. Not the best excuse, but there it was. I bounced from the Guardian over to CKMW radio as their noon-sports guy and local sports commentator. I knew I was a raw rookie, although a 15-year sports journalist. So I verbally agreed to a ridiculously small amount of money weekly and a car. I was going to make the rest up as a free-lance writer, which I did. I survived that first year, making every mistake in the broadcast book ... and then some. But by year's end, I had become a tolerable newsreader and commentator. The verbal agreement was for a substantial raise after 'proving' myself. I walked into the manager's office, told him it was my one-year anniversary and reminded him of my upcoming raise.

His response? "Well, I don't remember it going exactly that way."

My response? "Over the last year, I'm the only person who's been on staff who hasn't come in here demanding or begging for a raise. Most of 'em have been in here more than once. I even defended you. Sorry to see I was wrong."

I walked out the door, gathered up my things and never went back. I KEPT my word. HIS word wasn't worth the waste of oxygen it had taken to utter it.

Your name and your honour. The only two things you can't ever have taken away from you. Unless you give them up.

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