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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Gaiman v. McFarlane 2010: A Traveling Minstrel Spawn?

Part Eleven [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.] Todd McFarlane attorney Alex Grimsley showed Neil Gaiman the final page of Spawn #8, written by Alan Moore. "See there at the feet of the devil creature? Can you make out what is gathered at his feet?" Gaiman answered, "Lots of Spawn costumes, probably with people in them." "So a mass of other Hellspawn?" "No, not necessarily," Gaiman said, "These are creatures in Hell. You get one Hellspawn ... every 400 years. These were lots and lots of neural parasites wearing people ... or, at least, that was the way that Alan and I talked it through at the time. ... They're not Spawn. Every 400 years, one of these guys gets tested to be officer material, and the army: Those are the grunts in the army. It's the difference between a general and the troops." Grimsley asked, "So the idea that there was an army of individuals in Hell wearing the neural parasitic suit (or having a neural parasitic suit wear them, if you will) preexisted issue #9?" There ensued a discussion of the timing of comic-book creation in a series, in which Gaiman commented that publication in sequence doesn't necessarily mean creation in sequence. "It's not like Alan writes this issue and then Todd draws it and then I write issue #9 and then Todd draws it."

Grimsley turned to the matter of influences in writing stories. "Sometimes your stories might bear similarities to another story?" "It happens over and over," Gaiman said, "They say there are three different stories you can tell." Grimsley specified Gaiman's fantasy novel American Gods (published in 2001). "You've been asked in the past ... if American Gods was inspired by Eight Days of Luke by Diana Wynne Jones." Eight Days of Luke had been published in 1975. Gaiman responded, "Yes. The answer was no. ... What I actually said was that I came up with a way of telling the story which was going to be naming days of the week after the gods that they are named after and, when I came up with that, I realized that Diana had done something ... similar in Eight Days of Luke. But the plot of American Gods and the plot of Eight Days of Luke bear no relationship to each other, nor do the characters." Grimsley asked whether characters created out of whole cloth could bear "superficial similarities to characters someone else creates." Gaiman replied, "That's always true."
Grimsley posed an example: "If you were to create a caveman character ... you might give him a club as a weapon, right?" Gaiman said, "It's a strange hypothetical. I've never written a caveman that I can think of and I don't think I'd give him a club because it's kind of stupid. I'd probably give him a stone ax, because that's what they used." Grimsely continued, "If someone else used a stone ax for a caveman doesn't mean they derived it from your caveman, right?" Gaiman said, "I would assume not." Grimsley moved on to Medieval Spawn, "You created ... the idea of a knight-in-armor Spawn, right?" Gaiman said, "No. I created the character." Gaiman agreed with Grimsley's identifying Spawn as an "action series," and Grimsley asked, "So Medieval Spawn was going to be a fighting character probably, right?" "I guess." "Not a traveling minstrel, right?"
Gaiman responded, "It could have been a traveling minstrel. That would have been fun to write, too." He added that he'd only had eight pages and didn't think Todd would have wanted to do a minstrel toy, "but we could have gone there." He elaborated, "When you're starting any kind of writing process, you have an infinite number of ways to go. I could not pretend, 17 years later at this point, to reconstruct my thought processes on how I decided it was going to be a knight in armor and why it would have been 800 years ago. ... In a comic called 1602 which I did for Marvel Comics [#1, November 2003 - #8, June 2004] ... I reinvented all of the Marvel characters and set them in the early 17th century, in 1602, and created Daredevil. Marvel's big fighting super-hero was actually a minstrel in it, and I invented him as a blind traveling minstrel. If you're a good writer, you crate characters that live on, that exist, and you don't say, 'Ah, because this is fighting, you can only be this one thing.' That's nonsense."



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