Gaiman v. McFarlane 2010: Writing "Marvel Method"

Thursday, July 8, 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 Nineteen Neil Gaiman attorney Allen Arntsen asked defense witness Spawn: The Dark Ages writer Brian Holguin whether he was familiar with the entire body of Spawn comics. "I'm not familiar with the entire body of work. Todd was saying to forget about it." Holguin described the process of creating comic books for the Spawn-connected series he'd worked on: He and McFarlane had worked "Marvel method." In that process, the creators discuss what will happen in the story in general, dealing with whatever specifics they feel are important; then, the artist lays out and draws the story, and the writer then provides the dialogue and other text. (In the "full-script" method, in contrast, the writer - like a screenplay writer - provides virtually all the text before the artist illustrates it.) As noted in Part Seventeen, Holguin's first published Spawn work had been for Spawn #72 (May 1998): the story "Bloodless." The credits on the issue showed the story as by McFarlane and Holguin, the pencilled art as by Greg Capullo, and inking on the art as by Danny Miki, McFarlane, and Chance Wolf. "Todd and Greg worked out the story." Holguin dialogued it later. "After six issues, I took over both plot and script." Asked whether he was aware of the character Violator, who had appeared in Spawn #14-15, Holguin replied, "I'm aware now, not then. There were 70 issues; I'd read 25 or 30. I worked on the animated show, and the movie came out about then." He said he wanted to get away from the existing cyborg-assassin character Overt-Kill (aka Overkill). Arntsen asked, "Who made the decision to set Spawn: The Dark Ages in the 12th century?" "That would be me," Holguin said, "because of the Crusades."

Asked to discuss the relationship between Lord Iain Covenant and Baron Rivalen (the two identified as such in Spawn: The Dark Ages #2), Holguin said, "I haven't seen the books for a decade. I don't recall the relationship: whatever it says in the comic." The same went for Covenant's wife, Eloise, also in #2. Arntsen referred to Dark Age's Spawn's dialogue on the first page of #8: "You say this angel ... this seraphic huntress as you call her ... She is out to slay me? Very well then, I say. Yes. I am glad of it. I am ready for the dark embrace of the grave. This is no life for a man." Discussing the approach to writing that dialogue: It could have been in Middle English. Holguin said, "But I don't think you'd sell many copies." The judge laughed. "I don't, either."

[As noted in Part Seventeen, Holguin provided comments on my transcribed notes.] Holguin commented on June 27, "Ha! I didn't realize the judge laughed. It's weird: Both teams of lawyers seemed to really be invested in the notion of whether the characters 'spoke Medieval,' which just seems ludicrous to me. Both Neil and I testified that there's no such thing as 'speaking Medieval.' And even if you decided that Covenant speaks in a faux medieval dialect, then so does literally every other character in the series. Does that mean they're all interchangeable? It's so strange how the things you think are important as a creator and the things lawyers or judges think are important are so far apart."

Regarding the language, Holguin said, "It's a little poetic. It's a little flowery. But it's a dramatic moment. The dramatic monologue is bread and butter in the comic industry."

McFarlane attorney Alex Grimsley then asked about heroic speech, and Holguin said, "It's not necessarily realistic."

One witness remained to be examined: Todd McFarlane.



Ian A,  July 9, 2010 at 1:30 AM  

This thing of speaking in old tongue really gets me. Gaiman is almost laying claim to any spawn created in medievil time since he was the first to set one up. But if you ask anyone who has ever read the dark ages spawn and Neils one I cannot see the similarities in character at all. The costumes is different, The character is much darker, the speach is different and the characters back story is different...

Also this point that Dave Sim puts out about setting a precident for the comics industry is spot on. This case could have huge ramifications...

Also, also, and kudos for lambtoons for pointing this out, I can't believe Todd or his legal team haven't brought up the fact that Neil's issue 9 states "Hellspawn takes much energy and time on the part of the Malebolgia; thus far it has not created more than one in 50 years, and usually not more than one a century."

Neil July 9, 2010 at 8:50 AM  

On the other hand. As a Spawn reader, I read the issue #9 of Spawn, saw the Medieval Spawn and thought, "That would make a cool series."

And along came the "Dark Ages Spawn" comic. I immediately said, "Awesome, they're making that medieval Spawn his own comic."

What the lawyers fail to be focusing on (in my lay opinion) is how easily the normal person will confuse the Gaimen "Medieval Spawn" and the Holquin "Dark Ages Spawn." I certainly was confused, as was the person who worked at my local comic shop and did the ordering, and therefore most of the patrons of that shop. I would surmise, therefore, that it was in fact confusing, and that Gaimen has a valid argument...

I really find this whole thing very odd though. I mean, where do we draw the line in this stuff? I think I could make a pretty strong argument that "Mr. Majestic" is a "derivative" of Superman, right? They both are aliens from another planet who have been "orphaned" on earth (for different reasons of course). Both of them fly, have super strength, impenetrable skin, shoot lasers from the eyes, and wear a costume with a cape... I mean, I don't get them confused because one was Wildstorm (at creation, of course now it is DC) and the other was DC (and the costumes are a bit different...)

But then, how many costumes has Spiderman had over the years? How many costumes has Wolverine had (He even has different costumes in different books now). So a costume, does not a superhero make...

This is a really interesting case, and I've been waiting every day for new posts. Thanks, Maggie!

Ian A,  July 9, 2010 at 11:05 AM  

Neil, you make my point exactly, I too thought when dark ages was coming out that it was the medieval spawn. But, and this bit is crucial, when you read the issue it's plain to see that it is not the same character. And yes where do you draw the line. What does that mean for something like Supreme who is a re-imagining of the man of steel, but in a different way. I don't reckon anyone can lay claim to such things. Its becoming way too trivial and petty...

But I'm really enjoying this insight Maggie...

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