When Tigers Fight

So (further) verdict came down the other day and it seems that Neil Gaiman is entitled to royalties from use of characters he created for Todd McFarlane’s Spawn book and their subsequent (in the court’s view) renaming and continued use by Todd. This isn’t good for Todd because that millionaire’s company is struggling with bankruptcy as result of the “Tony Twist” case. I’m not a Spawn reader or a lawyer specializing in intellectual property, so instead of speaking on matters I don’t fully understand, I thought I’d give our readers the heads-up on auctions for some books from the key players in this thing.

For most of my youth Neil had the same sort of following Anne Rice is plagued with. You knew he was a good writer, but you didn’t want to be “into” him, you know? Cerebus was for the artier-than-thou kids who pretended they understood it, manga was for the spazzes, and Neil’s Sandman series was for the mopey loners. As it turned out, the series was great. But for my money, I thought this spin-off limited series was a creative high-point for the writer.

Here’s the issue that started the protracted legal dispute. Neil came up with some characters, Todd eventually didn’t want to pay, so he made characters that are nearly identical. I’m not picking sides here, but I thought creating nearly identical characters is central to comics? Regardless, I’m gonna be straight-up about this: Why anyone, even if money was at stake, would want to claim ownership of these characters is beyond me. I didn’t like Spawn when it came out, and I don’t like it today. I respect anyone who commits themselves to world-building and runs with it, but man, the Spawn universe is a world I could do without. Mercenaries, hellspawns, evil clowns… I know that probably sounds like fun to a lot of people, but it was entirely too Juggalo for my tastes. That said, Todd has made comics history a few times. Here’s another example, though it may not be history he cares to revisit.

What does Erik Larsen have to do with any of this, you ask? Well, Erik was the head of Image when the initial ruling against Todd came down (2002, maybe?). So this whole thing probably has some residual sting for him, but moreover, he’s an outspoken dude who didn’t shy from comment on the subject, then and now. His Savage Dragon book didn’t keep my interest long, but I’ve recently revisited it and while I’m still not a regular reader, his commitment to the book impresses me. I think he’s going for a Dave Sim longest-single-person-narrative-in-human-history sort of thing. This issue was apparently during Obama’s town hall meeting tour of comicland, because he was in every damn book for about two months.

And here’s an issue of Marvelman, er, Miracleman. Why do I include this? Wikipedia it. A lot of this Neil/Todd beef has overlap with the incredibly complex ownership entanglement over this British property Neil used to work on. Marvel Comics says it owns it now (that’s their reward for bankrolling Neil’s lawsuit… read the wikipedia entry), but who’s to say? If they told me Dr. Dre had majority shares in it, I would believe it at this point. Maybe I own it. I chose an Alan Moore issue of the book because I liked the insane asking price; Neil’s work came later.

If you want to watch professionals take shots at each other in a public forum, I urge you to follow as many of those involved as you can on Twitter. It’s like pro-wrestling but just slightly more literary.

2 Comments

  1. Posted August 3, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Man…Erik Larsen’s one of those people in indie comics that commands a TON of respect, and even if you DO fall on his side of the issue, he’s been veering dangerously into Dave Sim-esque insanity on Twitter about it. There are a ton of great creators that are using Twitter to talk about cool stuff. I love Ron Marz’s tangents about piracy and stuff on there. But someone needs to disable Larsen’s Twitter because he’s digging himself a huge hole and alienating a lot of people, seems like.

  2. b. murphy
    Posted August 3, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Dude, his twitter feed is BLOWING MY MIND.

    http://twitter.com/erikjlarsen

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