RICK OLNEY VS. VAL STAPLES

rick-olney1

This is a long post. It’s a collection of the known public facts about the business dealing between Rick Olney and Val Staples. Once again, I’ll state for the record that I have no direct involvement, so I can’t personally vouch for either man’s side in this matter and, unlike the last two cases, no court proceedings were ever initiated, so I just have each man’s word to go by. But it is important to note that Val Staples’ story is remarkably similar to the stories of Scott Reed and Jim Tournas, both of whom did back up their allegations in court which, in my opinion, makes Val’s claims sound more credible than Olney’s. Val claims that Olney hired him to do some artwork, and then when the artwork was completed Olney stalled him on the agreement for payment for several months. And then when Val finally came forward to announce that Olney didn’t pay him, Olney then claimed that Val wouldn’t be paid because Val broke his non-disclosure agreement by telling everyone that Olney didn’t pay him, and announced that he was going to be suing Val (which he never did). I think it is important to note that you’ll see in the following quotes, that Olney never denies that Val did the work that he was hired for, and that he had an agreement to pay him.

We begin with Rich Johnston’s report on this matter on Dec. 4th, 2006:

The latest TightLip creator to publicly speak out about payment is Val Staples. Val, who used to run the MVC Studios is no stranger to non-payment – the collapse of CrossGen left him owed thousands and with many other creators to pay. Nevertheless, Val’s openness and honesty with people he owed money saw them repay him with understanding and Staples took up considerable personal projects to earn enough to pay back everyone. As a result, I’ve never heard anyone badmouthing Staples, for this or for anything else.

Staples seems to have has less of a positive experience with Rick Olney of TightLip Entertainment. He e-mailed me to tell me “Rick Olney of TightLip Entertainment is now 90 days past due in his payment to me. Most recently, he told me that I would be paid by the end of November. Unfortunately, that never happened and he is no longer responding to my e-mails. As a result, he has broken contractual and personal agreements, and I no longer feel bound by his Non Disclosure Agreement. It’s such a shame, as I honestly believe that he means what he keeps promising, but it never comes to pass. When I found myself in a similar situation after CrossGen went bankrupt, I kept artists that my studio owed informed continuously. I then went out of my way, with the help of fans and retailers, to earn enough to pay back the artists despite still being owed that money from CrossGen. By comparison, all I’ve received from Rick are empty promises and reminders about my non disclosure contract. It’s not enough. I hope Rick will do the right thing and work to redeem himself by paying artists in full in the very near future rather than threatening hard-working creators with legal action.”

Val joins Chuck Dixon and a number of unnamed creators in similar accusations against both Olney and TightLip Entertainment.

When asked for comment, Rick told me “no comments at this time. I’ve been instructed to wait out this matter to see who else steps forward to face litigation.”

Full column HERE

The conversation turned to the infamous thread on CBR started by Gail Simone, titled Rick Olney–Fibber or Mega-Giganta-Fibber?, where Rick Olney,
initially posting under the screen name ORCAFRESH, began defending himself, and then Val Staples stepped in. Here are the relevant posts, starting Dec. 26, 2006 (my added comments are in bold)

VAL STAPLES: Mr. Olney, What I don’t understand is what do you hope to gain by threatening to involve the court over people like myself for wanting our money? After hearing multiple excuses and ultimately silence from you in response to my inquiries about payment, I went public as a record of non payment and to inform other creators so they could avoid the same problems I’m experiencing. Your response? Not an apology. Not an effort to put together a payment plan and keep creators informed. It was a threat of litigation… all because I want to be paid in a professional, timely fashion for services rendered months ago. If by some chance you took me to court, what would you hope to win? If you want to be a respectable professional publisher, then please do the right thing: apologize, stop threatening people who trusted you enough to work for you, and put together a game plan for payment with regular updates.

Olney never responded directly to this post.

VAL STAPLES: I spent part of my day this past Friday in legal council about this matter. I hate having to spend my time and money in an attorney’s office dealing with non payment from a publisher who should have already paid. But given the scope of this matter, it has to be done. I have no idea why Mr. Olney feels he has a legal leg to stand on here, or why he feels he can continue to delay payment citing the NDA as legal grounds to do so. If another publisher who owed me money and was making similar claims, I would only assume they are doing their own legal research, they have misconstrued the words of their attorney, or they simply haven’t told their attorney the full story in council.

RICK OLNEY: Well… I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how it all comes out then, right? You’ll hear from those involved soon enough. I’m taking action against you, remember? Wait until we get set and file before you file a countersuit.

RICK OLNEY: Val, You said, “That’s true. I don’t understand why anyone would think an NDA protects them from non payment.” I don’t think I ever said that your NDA meant you wouldn’t get paid by my company. Your NDA, which you broke, actually placed you in legal harms way. And that is all I’m saying… Goodnite everyone!

VAL STAPLES: You are? For what? What on earth could you possibly sue me for? You didn’t pay, Mr. Olney. You still haven’t paid. The NDA does not protect you from this. If you had paid me, and then I went public about details of your NDA, or inner workings, or private e-mails, then you could take me to court. But as it stands, there’s nothing in this NDA that allows you to sue me for stating I have not been paid. But if you want to believe it does, then so be it. If you’ll simply post your attorney’s name, we can by-pass some of the hurdles and get things underway. Who is your attorney, Mr. Olney?

RICK OLNEY (in response to a question about why he hasn’t given Val his attorney’s info yet): Val has nothing to worry about. He’ll have what he’s asking for soon.

About two and a half years passed, and Rick Olney never did initiate any legal action against Val Staples (or against anyone else whom he repeatedly threatened to sue), nor did he pay the money that he acknowledged that Val is owed. On June 27th, 2009, Rich Johnston posted an article on his new website, Bleedingcool, called Happy Birthday Rick Olney, Happy Birthday To You! In it, Johnston asked for people who are owed money by Rick Olney to comment, in order to give Olney another chance to respond. I’ll be posting the discussion between Staples and Olney, as well as a few other people who bring relevant points to that discussion. I don’t have the option of linking to individual posts on that website, but you can see all them in their original form in the above link. I also emphasize a few comments that I feel are particularly important.

VAL STAPLES: I’m all for second chances. If Rick squares up with everyone on what he owes them, I’m more than happy to let bygones be bygones. I colored two short stories for a total of 1200.00. I’m not seeking any penalties or interest. Just the sum that was originally due.

RICK OLNEY: Val, I am not responding to anyone here (as yet) regarding the Chuck Dixon, Tales of the Spooky, matter yet. I’m not contending that you never did the work, just that I never received any of it. I believe that there is a solution to this all. The first step is communication. The second step is understanding each other’s position. The third step is reaching a working conclusion, and the last step is both of us being satisfied. fair enough, right? I’m aware of what you experienced during your CrossGen time. This entire matter with me is nothing like your situation. But so you know, I am hopeful that I can reach a satisfying conclusion with those persons involved in the matter of the Tales of the Spooky book.

VAL STAPLES: The files were placed on your FTP at ftp.tightlipentertainment.com on August 29th, 2006. I sent you the invoice for work on September 1st, 2006, which you verified receipt of that same day. Receipt of files was never disputed until today.

RICK OLNEY: So noted. I have no record of that until now. As you’re aware, the FTP is long since removed. I never accessed it. I never actually saw all that had been completed on the book. I’d be interested in paying those involved if I had legal assurances that I wouldn’t be scammed by anyone formerly involved. I say this sincerely, as I know you to be a person that has a history of doing the right and proper thing.

VAL STAPLES: I can’t speak for anyone else you had involved on Tales of the Spooky. That’s not my place. I am only seeking compensation for the job I was hired to complete, as indicated in my first post in this thread.

RICK OLNEY (responding to Val’s post about sending the files): Val, I have been unsuccessful at reaching the other participants on the TALES OF THE SPOOKY book. You can imagine the negative hype and spin taking place elsewhere to disregard my attempts to clear these matters. Any assistance at pointing people involved here is appreciated. Thank you.

RICK OLNEY (responding to Val’s post about not speaking for anyone else involved in TOTS): Fine. I understand. I’ve attempted to contact the person that primarily contacted you when you joined on the project and have been unsuccessful. I don’t want to complicate this all. I merely want to have the pivotal person contact me. If you can assist, this may reach a positive conclusion. I’m not rolling in dough but I’d like to begin the process.

VAL STAPLES: I’ll have to leave those matters up to you, as your operations are under your supervision and control. My area of focus is with the files you were invoiced for, and which you said I’d be paid for before the end of November, 2006. So yes, let’s please being the process. It’s some time past due by your own assurances.

RICK OLNEY: Understood by me, sir. Although without the person that held the keys to the FTP and orchestrated the work between all the freelancers HE contacted to work on the TOTS book … all I have is an avenue to use the broken contracts. I appreciate your willingness to give me a shot at starting a ‘clean-up’ though.

“KHUXFORD”: Could you possibly explain your reasoning for waiting until you’ve talked to EVERYONE involved before you pay the people who you owe money to, are in public communication with and are champing at the bit to receive payment?

RICK OLNEY: Listen, I am being told that I ‘owe’ a number of talented people that worked on stories for the Tales of the Spooky. Many stories were written and submitted where another managing party (other than myself) guided the teams on each book to (I think?) finishing those individual stories. I’m not kidding when I tell you that I am not 110% sure how many stories and who worked on each.That said, I am clearing these accounts per story. That way, I can work towards paying persons/parties involved and hopefully have the completed work for a 2010 publishing. That is my plan. On the other two books and individuals owed — I’ll get to that here once I see how the TOTS book shapes up. I am sure that some talents that worked on writing, drawing, coloring and lettering the TOTS stories are STILL be told what a bastard I am. “Ignore that guy! you’ll never get paid.” sorts of stuff. That is nothing but hatred coming from them. Those types of people don’t want to see anyone paid. They just want something..a soapbox…to fill their less than happy lives.

GLENN WATSON: I really do not have a dog in this hunt but can you explain why it is this guys job to find the other people involved in your project. If I hire two mechanics to fix my car, one to fix the brakes and one to fix the bumper and the brake guy does the work, I have to pay the brake guy even if the bumper guy does not do his work.

RICK OLNEY: Hi Glenn, He doesn’t need to ‘find’ the other people involved in/on the story or stories he worked on. I was initially hoping that enough time had passed that (with Rich Johnston’s) help in allowing a thread with this intention … that the persons/parties involved might contact me here or via personal email. Whether right or not — every time I ‘friend’ someone on myspace or Facebook they get a warning to not have anything to do with me. Likewise, there are people in the comic book industry that once knew me back in the 90s and early turn of this century for my interest in promoting comic books and reading to younger people. I’m not going to go into more detail. I’m not going to get angry here about anything that has happened. This was an attempt to fix wrongs and such. I’ve been quiet online for two years under advice. I’m doing what I am attempting to do now under advice. I still have a ‘stake’ in clearing what has been maliciously said about me, but this isn’t about that matter. This is about people like Gail Simone publicly stating in print the dollar value that she claims to be owed by me from her 2003 convention appearance at my show that year.

RICH JOHNSTON: Rick, Forget Gail for a minute.Let’s start with Val Staples. A more honest hardworking and responsible person in comics I have not met. How about you pay him first? By doing so you can prove Gail wrong instantly. You will have won. And with each further payment, you can keep on proving Gail even more wrong. And when you’ve paid everyone back, you’ll have won! But each victory starts with a single step. How about Val?

“KHUXFORD” (responding to Olney’s reply to Glenn Watson): You ignore the question of the post you are responding to. You’re asking Val to help you find the other people on the project and will make your payment to him only after the rest of the team has been contacted.You’re holding off payment on a debt that you acknowledge as fair and accurate, pending contact from people owed for different contributions to the same project. If I have a co-worker pull a no-call/no-show, the employer doesn’t have the right to hold back my check until they’ve heard from that co-worker. Debts don’t work that way.

VAL STAPLES: Rick Olney: Please provide the name and phone number for your legal council who is handling your end of this situation. Since you say resolution on payment is in the near future, my lawyer would like to speak with your lawyer. I’m sure others here with legal representation would like to do the same. Of course, we don’t need to involve our lawyers at all if you will pay in full within the next 14 days. That will save us all a lot of time and expense. Thanks!

RICK OLNEY (responding to Rich Johnston): Rich, I have no problem proving Gail wrong. “No problem” as in clearing the Val Staples claim. But.
I am not paying one talent individual out of the entire story team. Val only worked on Tales of the Spooky. I want communication and those other individuals to come here and express their owes and any grievances (so I can answer to them and apologize). Those individuals will then be contacted and asked to sign a legal hold harmless. Upon receipt of that requested release — I then will pay that story crew and expect that the individual holding the competed story file will then send me the finished file in question. All in all, there were enough Tales of the Spooky stories lined up (completed?) to fill, I believe, 3 or 4 comic books. A hold harmless is simply so I have legal protection from insincere parties/persons. There are already too many cooks in this matter of my failed self publishing. That is why I am attempting to converse with ONLY those involved in the process. And, Rich, while you are correct that I could dig up the addresses on several — several others have actually moved and I do not have their new mailing address. Emails go … or would go … unanswered.

RICK OLNEY (responding Staples’ last comment): Sure. And were you ‘handled’ like that during your slip and fall? I doubt it.

That last post from Olney was on July 3, 2009. The thread continues for quite awhile, but it is the last time Olney and Staples communicate with each other in it. On Oct. 6, 2009, Rich Johnston posted a new article, reporting on a payment that Rick Olney made to Scott Reed (& as I noted in my post RICK OLNEY VS. SCOTT REED, that ended up being the one and only payment that Olney ever made). The article is EXCLUSIVE: Rick Olney Pays Back $100, $35,502.76 To Go…

On Oct. 7th, 2009 Rick Olney made his first comment in that thread, in which he invoked Val Staples’ name by saying: This will all take several years yet to clear up. Tales of the Spooky talent will be paid by creative teams once the smaller debts are paid. After all, it took Val Staples a while to clear his former troubles.

On Oct. 8th, Val responded, and here are the relevant posts:

VAL STAPLES: Please don’t compare my previous problems to your own. It took me approximately 2 years and 6 months for full repayment of a debt that measured around 60,000.00 to creators. A debt, I add, that was due to non-payment from CrossGen. And during my repayment period, I made continual efforts to keep people updated, while making payments the entire time. I sold off almost all my belongings to raise capital. I also moved in with family and reduced my own expenditures to a bare minimum in order to shift as much money as possible to creator repayment. I was respectful and understanding of creator frustration. I came out to the public voluntarily as I wanted people to know what had happened and how I was working to correct the problem. I understood that creators were upset about non-payment, and I didn’t take it personal. I worked hard to build the bonds of trust with creators who didn’t really know me and who had every right to be skeptical.

VAL STAPLES (in response to another person who praised him for what he did): I just did what I was supposed to do. I could have filed for bankruptcy. But all that would have done is ruin my credit, and hurt my name in comics. And of course, credit also goes to the fans and retailers who bought all the things I sold; all my personal items, all the back stock I liquidated, etc. All that helped in the raising of funds to pay the creators. Same goes for news and rumor sites who gave me the chance to communicate with people, and with Diamond who helped me move our old product, and with creators who had patience. Plus everyone else I’m forgetting to credit in the process. Out of all of the countless thousands of fans, collectors and fellow pros I’ve dealt with over the years, I’ve only encountered about a half a dozen to a dozen people tops who go around saying bad things about me; stating things that are always unfounded or that are conjecture at best, blanketed in obscenities or crude, inappropriate behavior. And does any rational person listen to someone like that anyway? And we’re talking from all my experiences as a creator, and as a publisher, and as the owner of He-Man.org where I’ve worked with fans on a more personal basis. Point is, if you do right by people, I feel the vast majority of people return the favor. If you do the opposite, I think you reap what you sow.

VAL STAPLES (in response to a question from someone if he ever got paid from Crossgen): We sued CrossGen, and we got a judgment in our favor. But they never paid what was owed. They filed for bankruptcy soon after. After secured debts were handled and the remaining assets divvied up, I think I ended up getting a check a few years ago for something like fifty bucks out of what was left from CrossGen. I can’t remember the exact amount.

RICK OLNEY (responding to Staples’ first comment): I did not invoke your name to hide behind it, Val. I have a harder goal ahead of me, and that’s my fault…but it couldn’t be helped at the time. I also have the opposite in the way of moral support that you got once you made your plight public and pushed ahead with your goal. I have said what I’ve said about my situation in my first post here. I don’t expect the hatred to subside. The people involved in the campaign against me are all suffering from the same delusion. They’ll still be shouting my name in their sleep when they’re all in nursing homes. Heh, heh… Anyway, I was not slighting you. I expect to have everyone that worked on a Tales of the Spooky story contacted with a clear understanding of when they’ll be paid and will work as diligently as allowed in accomplishing the repayment of all alleged, confirmed, and legal debt.

RICK OLNEY (respond to, and quoting, Staples’ 2nd comment): I just did what I was supposed to do. I could have filed for bankruptcy. But all that would have done is ruin my credit, and hurt my name in comics.

See… and I didn’t have the common sense then to consider that all. My mind was in other places dealing with matters closer to my heart and soul. The people that instigated the whole matter did so of their own volition.

And of course, credit also goes to the fans and retailers who bought all the things I sold; all my personal items, all the back stock I liquidated, etc. All that helped in the raising of funds to pay the creators.

See… and I wasn’t afforded that either. I was hounded and threatened, called names, attacked online, had all kinds of untruths lodged against me. My only recourse was to seek legal counsel and protect my assets. Now I am attempting to square things and pay people … and my gains can’t come quick enough for some people. The constant rubbing of my face in it all… that says more about the person/people doing it than me.

Same goes for news and rumor sites who gave me the chance to communicate with people, and with Diamond who helped me move our old product, and with creators who had patience.

See… and I didn’t have that support either. It was all about stirring the pot of crap to make it continually stink. Because, as we all know, many in life today LOVE that aroma.

Plus everyone else I’m forgetting to credit in the process.

I have a handful of people that I’ll thank once this is all 75% dealt with. Not everyone buys the lies and storytelling. Some people have known me for several decades. Some people know that what I’ve stated is true. The truth will win out. It always does. I don’t feed on this all, contrary to popular regurgitation. There are scummy people out there amongst you all. You may think me one of them, but I have never done to others what they have done or said about my family or friends known publicly. It is all about hatred for those types.

Out of all of the countless thousands of fans, collectors and fellow pros I’ve dealt with over the years, I’ve only encountered about a half a dozen to a dozen people tops who go around saying bad things about me; stating things that are always unfounded or that are conjecture at best, blanketed in obscenities or crude, inappropriate behavior. And does any rational person listen to someone like that anyway?

Yeah, only about that same number trolling my name that way. No problem though… they used to use ‘karma’ as way of saying I’d ‘get mine’ … and well, I don’t necessarily believe in karma. For me, there is a higher power that shall make me fully accountable just as that same power will punish those some day for their evil and mean spirited nature.

And we’re talking from all my experiences as a creator, and as a publisher, and as the owner of He-Man.org where I’ve worked with fans on a more personal basis.Point is, if you do right by people, I feel the vast majority of people return the favor. If you do the opposite, I think you reap what you sow.

Exactly, Val. Exactly.

VAL STAPLES: See… and I didn’t have the common sense then to consider that all. My mind was in other places dealing with matters closer to my heart and soul. The people that instigated the whole matter did so of their own volition.

You shouldn’t blame people for being upset that it took them calling you out about the debt you owed to bring the matter to light.

See… and I wasn’t afforded that either. I was hounded and threatened, called names, attacked online, had all kinds of untruths lodged against me. My only recourse was to seek legal counsel and protect my assets. Now I am attempting to square things and pay people … and my gains can’t come quick enough for some people. The constant rubbing of my face in it all… that says more about the person/people doing it than me.

This goes back to what I said before. You shouldn’t blame them for being upset. I got in there and took the hit right away. People gave me a chance to speak my case because I admitted the problem, attacked no one, and made a continual effort to correct the problem. If I hadn’t, I don’t think I would have been extended any courtesies.

See… and I didn’t have that support either. It was all about stirring the pot of crap to make it continually stink. Because, as we all know, many in life today LOVE that aroma.

Once again, these people allowed me that because I was upfront and on top of it. I didn’t retaliate, I didn’t hate on people, I accepted my role and took responsibility. If you want people to respect you, you need to first respect them.

Exactly, Val. Exactly.

If you truly agree with me, why are you not behaving in a respectful way? Rick, you have to be the guy to deliver first on this. You’re the guy with the debt to others, not vice-versa. You’ve behaved inappropriately online for nearly two years. And only now are you starting to repay people, but the inappropriate behavior continues. If you want people to stop saying bad things about you, you need to stop saying bad things to and about them, take a few on the chin, communicate with people and plan out a forecasted delivery schedule on how you will pay them, and start doing the right thing. Until that time, no one will ever respect you or trust you.

RICK OLNEY: You shouldn’t blame people for being upset that it took them calling you out about the debt you owed to bring the matter to light.

I’m not actually. Well, not very upset anyway. The time frame was just bad with all I had going on in my personal life versus this little bit of ‘professional’ one in publishing a few comics back in 2004.

If you want people to respect you, you need to first respect them.

Oh, I think I have been very cordial and respectful. Least wise, since my head has cleared a little.

If you truly agree with me, why are you not behaving in a respectful way? Rick, you have to be the guy to deliver first on this. You’re the guy with the debt to others, not vice-versa.

Val, how would you advise me to be respectful with all the lobbied hate and animosity?

If you want people to stop saying bad things about you, you need to stop saying bad things to and about them, take a few on the chin, communicate with people and plan out a forecasted delivery schedule on how you will pay them, and start doing the right thing. Until that time, no one will ever respect you or trust you.

I have done that. I am also working on how to best address and pay the people that are not really owed anything. Some people already paid do not want their names and details made public. That is me respecting them enough to ask them and then abiding by their answer… respectfully.

That post is from Oct. 10th 2009, and is the last time Val Staples is addressed in that thread. As of Dec. 2011, Rick Olney has still NOT paid Val Staples the $1200.00 for the work that Olney acknowledges that Staples completed for him around Sept. 2006.

UPDATE: ON DEC. 28TH 2012, RICK OLNEY DIED

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