Gaiman v. McFarlane 2010: The Afternoon Session Begins

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

[This is part of my running report on the 2010 hearing in the Neil Gaiman v. Todd McFarlane case. To see coverage from the beginning, click here.]

Part Seventeen One of the morning stresses for Neil was that he'd had to catch a plane in early afternoon so's to get to another city to promote the new anthology Stories: All-New Tales, a collection of 27 new stories by a variety of authors. As he prepared to dash to the airport following a morning on the witness stand, he posed long enough that my readers could see his new beard, not to mention that he was wearing a tie. Then, he headed for the airport. I grabbed a fast lunch (because the break was a brief one), and the rest of us (minus fellow spectator Jon Manzo, who had to deal with some other lawyerly event) trooped back into the courtroom for the start of the afternoon session.

The first of two witnesses for the defense was Brian Philip Holguin, original writer on Spawn: The Dark Ages. The first issue of that series was dated March 1999; the primary cover was by Glenn Fabry and Liam McCormack-Sharp; a variant cover was by McFarlane; and the interior art was by McCormack-Sharp. Asked to describe his background in comics, Holguin said he'd written Kiss: Psycho Circus and issues of the original Spawn title. He'd worked in comics since 1995 or 1996 on such titles as Aria, Cyberforce, Mr. Majestic, and More than Mortal. "I was a comic-book fan, not a Spawn fan," he said of his background and cited Thor as his favorite comic-book character. He said, "Writing for a comic book is similar to writing a screenplay." [His first published Spawn work was Spawn #72 (May 1998).] The original Spawn (the character Al Simmons) was a pre-existing character, and Holguin said he'd co-created the Lord Covenant version of Spawn with artist McCormick-Sharp and McFarlane's Spawn. Were there particular elements added? "Concurrently with Spawn: The Dark Ages, I was writing Spawn around #70. I wanted to expand Spawn ... so the character of Lord Covenant had similarities to Al Simmons, as well as differences. The character is essentially a good man but a paid killer - 'Well, I'm only killing bad people' - which is why he's condemned. Similarly, Lord Covenant: When he dies, he expects to go to Heaven and is shocked to find himself in Hell, like Al Simmons."

Was he aware of Medieval Spawn in creating the character? Did he draw on Medieval Spawn? "No. The first time I heard that was today." [I sent my notes to Neil, to Brian, and (via Brian) to Todd so that any of them who wanted to add comments could do so. Brian was the only one who responded to the offer to add remarks. (His comments were helpful, since my transcription was subject to my sloppy handwriting.) I'll include in italics such of Brian's remarks as were not part of the court testimony - but that illuminate my notes.] Brian commented June 27, "Actually, it was the specific backstory to the character that Neil gave in court that I had never heard before. I was aware of Medieval Spawn but didn't consider him at all when working on Dark Ages. I first became aware with the Top Cow Medieval Spawn/Witchblade mini-series [#1-3, May-June 1996], something I was a little surprised neither lawyer mentioned. It was some time after that I had read Spawn #9. The Top Cow series had a completely different backstory - set in a fictional European kingdom in the Pyrenees, his love interest was Witchblade, he fought trolls and goblins, etc. But the only official Spawn appearance I knew of was Spawn #9, which has no set-up or backstory, and the character dies almost immediately. I was basically aware of him only in the sense that there were other previous Spawns before Al Simmons."

Holguin said he didn't recall the time period required between Spawns. They were looking to expand the publishing in the direction of heroic fantasy or historical fantasy and talked about different eras. "An Italian Renaissance Spawn might not have sold very well. We talked about the elements of the original Spawn we wanted to keep. There was the intention to make it more organic, rather than with steel accessories: more feral and animalistic. I'm a big fan of the fantasy genre and a history buff. Liam is an Englishman who loves Celtic and Norse mythology. I assume that's why we settled on Liam, because it's a natural fit for him."



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