Gaiman v. McFarlane 2010: McFarlane on Spawn Basics

Friday, July 9, 2010

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

Part Twenty [Apologies to diehards who have been patiently hanging in there, as I dole out installment after installment. At the end of the hearing day June 14, when I asked defense witnesses Brian Holguin (left) and Todd McFarlane (right) to pose for photos, Todd suggested they stand by the parking meters across the street from the Robert W. Kastenmeier United States Courthouse - symbolizing the wait for the time until the decision would be announced. (Note: They struck a different pose for each of three shots. This is the "serious" one.) I fear the wait for me to wrap up this coverage could exceed that time. Here's hoping I can finish this report before Senior U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb announces her decision. Or maybe I shouldn't hope that; I know all involved are in a state of suspense until matters are resolved.]

McFarlane took the stand. Asked by his attorney Alex Grimsley to describe Spawn, he said, "It's a love story." The central character dies but is offered a chance to return to see the woman he loves, and McFarlane noted that Simmons' wife is named Wanda, as is his own wife. "The main concept is that Al Simmons literally trades everything to come back one last time, and he's signed on the dotted line. But the world he comes back to is topsy-turvy, his great love is now remarried, there's a child, and now he finds he's got these fantastic powers - but he's stripped of his skin, so he's unrecognizable: all power but no identity. That's the beginning of his journey."

Asked to describe the role of the Hellspawns of which Simmons becomes one, McFarlane said, "From Biblical times, there's a build-up for Armageddon. So you need soldiers - grunts - in their armies. You also need generals. The Spawns on Earth are in training." Asked to compare the Al Simmons Spawn to Medieval Spawn, McFarlane said, "The shield has the Spawn logo that appeared on the first hundred-plus issues, and that indicates Spawn. There's the mark on his mask." Discussing the logo, McFarlane said he'd wanted one "like the old-fashioned comic-book symbols." He compared it the "S" in the diamond on Superman's chest and Batman's bat symbol. "The Spawn logo is my own 'S.'" Grimsley said, "Regarding Spawn #9: Neil wrote the script. Did he ever reference the name 'Medieval Spawn'?" "No, his name is Spawn." There was a "Medieval Spawn" action figure; McFarlane said, "At this time, the toy company wasn't in existence."

Asked what characteristics of the original Spawn he'd used when he'd drawn Medieval Spawn, McFarlane replied, "I used almost every single one."
* "the mask with the white mark" (to contrast with a black mark for villains)
* green eyes
* red cloak
* spikes on arms and legs, "though not exactly the same amount"
* an "M" on the chest
* a skull on the belly
* chains
* a clawed hand
* "gnarly skin" from having the flesh ripped off
"Essentially, I took the original costume and gave it a different veneer." Asked to explain an illustration from Spawn #8, he said, "It's the costume coming alive again. It can morph because it's alive in and of itself." He continued, "All Spawns came from the original, pre-existing Spawn. The Spawn in Spawn: The Dark Ages was similar to the original Spawn. [For example] all Spawns have green eyes: In Sunday school, they say we're created in the likeness of The Master. Spawn's Master is Malebolgia, so he has green eyes."

Al Simmons in life was African-American. McFarlane said, "African-American super-heroes don't get their fair shake. In Simmons, we get rid of the one thing we do when we prejudge: strip it away. He's a hero, regardless of what color the skin is. He's not human; he's not made of flesh and blood; he doesn't actually have eyes. He says, 'I'm made out of something ... else!'" Regarding the spikes and skulls? "They are just cool stuff. Spikes are a big part of the character."



Gaiman’s Son July 9, 2010 at 12:52 PM  

I sure hope McFarlane painted a clear picture of what he already had planed for Spawn before Gaiman was paid to write #9. And all the work he and others put into creating the characters without Gaiman.

Also hopefully he brings to the Judges attention that there is no 400 year rule. Gaiman wrote two had already came 50 years apart in # 9. Obvious Gunslinger Spawn and WWI and the current Spawn are not 400 years apart from Al.

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