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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Gaiman v. McFarlane 2010: It Is Ordered ...

[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. For additional historical perspective, check out The Comics Chronicles' look back on Spawn #9 and the sales impact the "guest-author" issues had on the series.]

Part Twenty-Five Senior U.S. District Judge for the 7th Circuit Court for the Western District of Wisconsin Barbara B. Crabb announced her decision on July 29: "IT IS ORDERED that plaintiff Neil Gaiman's motion for an order to compel discovery relating to the money earned from derivative characters Dark Ages (McFarlane) Spawn, Domina and Tiffany is GRANTED. Defendants Todd McFarlane, Todd McFarlane Productions, Inc. and TMP International, Inc. are to produce the requested information promptly and in no event later than September 1, 2010."

The decision came in Case #02-CV-48-BBC, Neil Gaiman, Marvels & Miracles LLC vs. Todd McFarlane, Todd McFarlane Productions, TMP International and Image Comics. It had been determined that Neil Gaiman had been co-creator with Todd McFarlane of Spawn #9 and, with that issue, the characters of Count Cogliostro, Medieval Spawn, and warrior angel Angela. The current suit involved the ownership of characters that had appeared over the years in McFarlane's "Spawn" titles, specifically "Dark Ages Spawn" and warrior angels "Tiffany" and "Domina."

In her opinion, Crabb wrote, "The parties agree that they are co-owners of Angela and Medieval Spawn. Defendants do not contest plaintiff's right to an accounting and division of profits for the posters, trading cards, clothing, statuettes, animated series on HBO, video games, etc. that feature those characters. The dispute is limited to information about the profits earned from Dark Ages Spawn, Tiffany and Domina, which defendant has refused to provide to plaintiff. Defendants contend that these characters are not subject to plaintiff's copyright because they were based solely on plaintiff's ideas and not on any physical expression of those ideas. I conclude that the newer characters are derivative and that plaintiff is entitled to his share of the profits realized by these characters and to the immediate production of all documents and other information material to the calculation of the profits."

Her opinion noted some of the details of the storylines. For example, "The Dark Ages (McFarlane) Spawn is [like Medieval (Gaiman) Spawn] a twelfth century knight, referred to as The Black Knight, killed in a holy crusade far from his homeland and returned to Earth as Hellspawn. (In the first issue in which he is introduced, he is described as having been born in 901, tr. exh. 26, inside front cover; in future issues and in advertising for the comics and his action figure, he is described as having been born in the twelfth century.)"

She summarized the appearance of the angel characters: "Tiffany and Domina are visually similar to Angela and share her same basic traits. All three are warrior angels with voluptuous physiques, long hair and mask-like eye makeup. all three wear battle uniforms consisting of thong bikinis, garters, wide weapon belts, elbow-length gloves and ill-fitting armor bras." She compared the two Spawns of the middle ages: "Defendant argues that when the court disregards the elements of Medieval (Gaiman) Spawn that are derived from the original Spawn and the stock elements that accompany a person of aristocratic lineage in the middle ages, such as traveling on horseback, wearing armor and carrying a weapon, every other aspect of Dark Ages (McFarlane) Spawn is new and different from Medieval (Gaiman) Spawn. It is true that Dark Ages (McFarlane) Spawn and Medieval (Gaiman) Spawn differ slightly in their backgrounds, but these are elements of their characters that make them individually copyrightable, not ones that prevent Dark Ages (McFarlane) Spawn from being found derivative. It is more significant that Dark Ages Spawn has the distinctive look of Medieval (Gaiman) Spawn that would cause any reader, casual or constant, to see a substantial similarity between them." She went on to discuss the basic concept of the series, then wrote, "Much as defendant tries to distinguish the two knight Hellspawn, he never explains why, of all the universe of possible Hellspawn incarnations, he introduced two knights from the same century. Not only does this break the Hellspawn 'rule' that Malebolgia never returns a Hellspawns [sic] to Earth more than once every 400 years (or possibly every 100 years, as suggested in Spawn, No. 9, exh. #1, at 4), it suggests that what defendant really wanted to do was exploit the possibilities of the knight introduced in issue no. 9. (This possibility is supported by the odd timing of defendant's letter to plaintiff on February 14, 1999, just before publication of the first issue of Spawn: The Dark Ages, to the effect that defendant was rescinding their previous agreements and retaining all rights to Medieval (Gaiman) Spawn.)"

She then elaborated with concepts of her own, not expressed during the June 14 testimony: "If defendant really wanted to differentiate the new Hellspawn, why not make him a Portugese explorer in the 16th century; an officer of the royal Navy in the 18th century, an idealistic recruit of Simon Bolivar in the 19th century, a companion of Odysseus on his voyages, a Roman gladiator, a younger brother of Emperor Nakamikado in the early 18th century, a Spanish conquistador, an aristocrat in the Qing dynasty, an American Indian warrior or a member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I? It seems far more than coincidence that Dark Ages (McFarlane) Spawn is a knight from the same century as Medieval (Gaiman) Spawn."

Spawn the Dark Ages Number 1 Cover A (Devils Knight)She wrote that it was irrelevant whether Spawn: The Dark Ages writer Brian Holguin had tried to base his Dark Ages (McFarlane) Spawn on Medieval (Gaiman) Spawn. "... what is relevant is that he had access to Medieval (Gaiman) Spawn before he created his version of the middle ages knight." She cited earlier court decisions including the 1977 case decision "holding that George Harrison had access to tune he used for 'He's So Fine'; therefore, even if copying was subconscious, it amounted to infringement." "The small differences in the two knights do not undermine a finding of derivation ... It is not, as defendent claims, a simple borrowing of an idea but a borrowing of the expression of ideas of the copyright owners. It would be considered infringing if it had been developed by anyone not working for defendent." She said the same applied to the other angels. "Certainly they are similar enough to be infringing if they had been produced and sold by someone other than the copyright owners. The totality of their attributes and traits, that is, their visual appearance, their costumes, their manner of speaking, their activities and their common origin (Heaven's angelic phalanx), mark them as derivative of Angela."



Friday, July 23, 2010

Comic-Con 2010: Must ... Post ... before ... Sleep

The first full day of Comic-Con was probably pretty much the way the entire event will be for the duration. Getting around the hall means baby steps in the midst of people, people, people - and I must say that cosplay folks wearing hoop skirts may be less adored by fellow attendees than, well, some other cosplay folks. I have so many photos to post that I'm barely going to get a good start tonight. In fact, I'm not going to post much tonight, and much information will shortly begin to lose itself in my cranium. Onward.

Russ Maheras, whom I've known for years and years, turned up. The longtime Chicago resident is now living pretty much full-time in the Los Angeles area - but the reason is kinda neat. He works for the U.S. Air Force's Entertainment Liaison Office handling Documentary and Special Projects. Are you making a movie in which you want to shoot a scene on an Air Force base? Russ is the proverbial go-to guy. And this not only goes for fictional features but also documentaries and, yes, videogames, if you actually want to involve the Air Force in preparing a realistic game level that adds Air Force technical stuff. (Do I sound vague? You think I understand Air Force technical stuff? No, I'm not talking about secrets - just is this the way a plane looks and flies and ... Oh, heck, what do I know? Point is, the Air Force can cooperate in some areas, and Russ is the guy you talk to about it.)

As I say, I've known Russ for years, but Comic-Con is also the spot for new contacts. (Not that they're necessarily new to comics, but I must face the facts that there are people doing cool projects that I haven't yet stumbled over.) I picked up the first two issues of the Archaia Comics' hardcover series Gunnerkrigg Court by Tom Siddell because it looked so promising. [Full disclosure: I was planning to pay for them, but the kindly Archaia people handed them to me as a reviewer. I think I have to say that somewhere on this website these days. Rules are rules. But I haven't read them yet, so I can't review them yet so ... Yes, I think it's time to go to bed. But the Siddell project appears to be most cool.]


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Comic-Con 2010: Waking up to the First Full Day

National Public Radio here says the traffic is jamming the roads heading to Comic-Con - and it isn't yet 7 a.m. I made the choice so many are making this morning: opting for getting up and about over getting eight hours of sleep. By day's end (when I have two events scheduled opposite each other, meaning I'll start with dinner at one, wrap that up, and head for the reception at the second) - well, who knows? Who thought I'd find out yesterday that the screwball BBC series Look around You would be coming out on DVD, much less that I'd be wearing a Look around You lab coat. (The coat evokes either mild bewilderment from friends - or expressions of envy - depending on whether or not they know the show.) It's difficult to describe, but here's a sample.

Marv Wolfman and I have had a history of never getting together during Comic-Con; that's how crazy the event has been - so this year we sensibly scheduled getting together after Preview Night wrapped up. Not so sensibly, the gang (with several folks I'd never met before but some - Barbara Kesel, Craig Miller - I had) opted to go to the Fox Bar restaurant at the Hilton next to the Convention Center. The food was yummy, the company terrific, yadda, yadda. But the dozen in our group ended the evening by pretty much shouting to each other to try to be heard over the increasing volume surrounding us. It reminded me of my first highschool reunion, which included a band playing so loudly that those of us who hadn't seen each other for a decade couldn't talk to each other to catch up. Nevertheless, I did learn that Marv and wife Noel are considering selling their Los Angeles area home so's to move closer to Noel's job, so, if you know someone who's looking ...

Speaking of if you know someone ... Scott B. Smith stopped by the CBG booth to wonder whether I knew anyone who has access to an antique player for Sony's Helical Scan half-inch videotapes - and a time base corrector. He has batches of tapes from the early, early years of Comic-Con but no way to play them so's to save them digitally. He figures the tapes may have one play left in them before they disintegrate. And the longer the delay, the more likely the tapes will be unplayable.

Oh, let's toss in one more photo from yesterday: Dan Parent. Best-known for his Archie Comics work (especially Love Showdown), it's neat that he's here, as the Archie folks celebrate their anniversary, new magazine, etc.

Must ... get ready ... for show ...


Comic-Con 2010 Preview Night: Is the Show over Yet?

It's actually after midnight, and I'm usually long since asleep. Instead, it's been a delightful day and still wanted to get something online before passing out. Things started with a breakfast with Mike Pascale and Jim Johnson at the Westin Gaslamp Restaurant, as we mostly caught up on old times and outlined plans for the show. (Those boiled down to: We'll go over there and see what happens.) I realize now that I missed out most of the day on photo opportunities (such as with Mike and Jim), considering the fact that I quickly lost track of just how many people I saw, hung out with, talked to, or otherwise grabbed information from. I followed the breakfast by dashing off to the Convention Center (a $6-$7 cab ride, depending on traffic, trolleys and the route taken) to pick up Exhibitor Badges for our crew, then checked out our booth in the hall. (Comics Buyer's Guide shares a long booth with F+W Media's stacks of books of interest to con attendees, and F+W's Greg Hatfield had taken command of Doing the Job Right - with help from other F+W'rs, so - forgetting again to take photos - I headed back to the Westin so that later-arriving folks could have their badges.)

By the time I got back to the Convention Center, it was almost time for lunch with Michael Uslan (right), so lunch it was. Among many topics we covered was his continuing involvement with the "wedding of Archie and Betty - and the wedding of Archie and Veronica," complete with a newsstand magazine that will see national distribution in such sites as Wal-Mart. It was also the first of many discussions during the day about the future of the small comic book vs. the larger magazine vs. the trade paperback vs. downloads, downloads, downloads. Already, there are a variety of format wars in today's delivery of comics to electronic readers - and there will be more. Meanwhile, how does the comics-shop retailer fit in? And what format will be best? (In fact, the day ended with a discussion with Marv Wolfman over how digital "subscriptions" will work, if the subscription is for a service, rather than a kind of "permanent" download that the consumer sort of "buys," as with a Kindle. Talk about technology in flux!) And, yes, I forgot to photograph Marv, too.

What did I remember to photograph? Well, Tom Kraft was at Bechara Maalouf's booth (Nostalgic Investments, and he swears his website will be working soon, but I won't link to it yet, because it isn't quite ready). Kraft was working on collecting scans of the original art of Jack Kirby for a massive project that will eventually let critics and fans study the development, styling, etc. of Kirby's original art. They're scanning both sides of the art, because occasionally vital developmental roughs appear on the backs of pages. He showed me one in which someone (Kirby? could be) toyed with a number of different logos to identify The Fantastic Four and someone had circled the one that was finally chosen. And I realize I shall soon become incoherent (if I haven't already). Bedtime now. More tidbits tomorrow.



Monday, July 19, 2010

While Trigger's in the News, Can We Learn His Credits?

Now that RFD-TV founder and president Patrick Gottsch has acquired Roy Rogers' horse Trigger and dog Bullet, I'm curous as to whether RFD-TV might be encouraged to determine the full acting credits for "The Smartest Horse in the West." National Public Radio's Liane Hansen interviewed Gottsch about his purchases, and he disclosed his plans for Trigger and Bullet. My question, though, is whether this would be a great time to find out more about the multi-talented steed.

Many are aware that he was the horse ridden by Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). But I've wondered for some time whether he was also the anonymous horse that pulled the milk wagon of Harold Lloyd as Burleigh Sullivan in The Milky Way (1936). Trigger was born in 1932, and Rogers chose him (then known as Golden Cloud) to ride in Under Western Stars (1938). Take a look at the comedy turn the milk-wagon horse performs in the Lloyd movie. Could it be Trigger? Inquiring minds want to know ...


Sunday, July 18, 2010

MadCon 2010 Will Feature Harlan Ellison in Madison in September

Will you be there? I sure as heck plan to be. Details: September 24-26 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 4402 East Washington Avenue, Madison, WI 53704. It's (800) 404-7630 and ask for the MadCon 2010 room block for "best rates." How do I know? Because kindly Jon Manzo handed me a sheaf of flyers for the convention, when I couldn't locate the pad I'd brought to take notes on at the Gaiman v. McFarlane hearing.

Harlan is saying this will probably be his last convention appearance, and he's not even the only draw! Confirmed guests include (always subject to professional commitments, gang; that's a basic for today's media folks; they need to work to eat): Sophie Aldred ("Ace" from Doctor Who), Gene Wolfe, Peter David, Pat Rothfuss, Allen Steele, editor Jim Frenkel, The Onion's John Krewson, and Peri Charlifu. Tickets at the moment (and, yes, I've already missed the discounted early membership, doggone it) are $65. And you'll find more at the MadCon website. Don't say I didn't tell you.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Counting Down to San Diego

You'd think I could come up with a different topic - especially given that I already wrote about it a couple of days ago - but to many of us (except Mark Evanier, who can cover more topics more entertainingly in 24 hours than anyone else I know) there is no other topic right now. I'm actually feeling slightly relaxed, given that my flight leaves in something like 60 hours and that I still have to finish my column in Comics Buyer's Guide, my laundry, my "to do" list, and my convention schedule, not to mention ... Oh, never mind. It's all about what I have done:

* made name badges for me and my booth buddies
* designed with Brent Frankenhoff three Excel files for convention schedules (including a list of booths we want to visit in numerical order) Comics Buyer's Guide is Booth #1419; have I mentioned that yet? Stop by, won't you?
* tried on an infinite number of slacks to see which ones will do nicely for con wear (and begun a pile of rejects that will be donated to Goodwill upon my return)
* begun watching The Towering Inferno (No, that has nothing to do with Comic-Con. I hope. But a bunch of KP current and former denizens gather each month to chat about a movie they've picked, and TTI is the next choice - which I'd like to have out of the way so I don't forget to watch it before the next meeting. I lead an exciting life.)
* bought a slew of convention supplies
* made a list of the convention supplies I'd forgotten to buy
* saw In - deliverable? -decisive? -direct? -dispensible?  No, wait. I almost figured out a mnemonic when I first realized I couldn't remember the title for five minutes in a row. Let's see. It was "insep" something, wasn't it? Inseparable? Doggone it. I vowed I wouldn't actually stoop to looking it up. But I must. Ah, yes. Inception. Enjoyed it a lot, have quibbles (my dreams, at least, change from moment to moment a lot more than these - and, yes, I gather that the "architect" keeps things more under control), but it's imaginative science fiction and nicely handles a "what if" that could not have been easy to develop. Wups. Major digression. Sorry.
* contacted the nice people who invited me to events scheduled opposite the Eisner Awards to thank them but to point out that they were, yes, scheduled opposite the Eisner Awards.
* speaking of which, begun to write the annual "In Memoriam" portion of the Eisner Awards - and I'm not at all sure I'll be able to get through them without a tremor this year.

That noted, there are sure a lot of things left to do. After all, the slacks have been sorted - but that brings up such basics as footwear, not to mention tops and jackets. 60 hours? What will I forget? (Good thing the hotel is near the Horton Plaza shopping center.)


Friday, July 16, 2010

NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour - Well, 49 Minutes

I've been waiting all day to get a chance to settle down to listen to National Public Radio's latest podcast. It's Pop Culture Happy Hour, despite the fact that no alcohol was actually imbibed by participants Linda Holmes, Trey Graham, Glen Weldon, and Stephen Thompson. (I note that the "Categories" into which the website feels it belongs are "Live Chats, "Culture and Criticism," and, yes, "Unclassifiable.") What the podcast amounts to is the sort of thing you get when a bunch of buddies sits around sharing views and reviews and maybe playing some sort of game (in this case, identifying TV shows from brief audio clips). (My favorite of those clips was a woman describing a guy by saying, "He's wearing a - yom kippur, I think it's called." Just saying.)

Comic-book commentator Weldon doesn't get a chance to discuss Aquaman, choosing instead to discuss a recent episode of the BBC's Doctor Who ["Vincent and The Doctor"] in which The Doctor fought "a giant killer chicken lizard" that also happened to be invisible. "They spent a lot of money on the sets," Weldon said. "They spent a lot of money on the costumes. ... The fact that it was invisible was what made it so cool." The discussion quickly morphed into whether it was a giant invisible chicken lizard or a giant invisible turkey. "It had a space wattle," someone pointed out.

And so it went, with comments on the summer's Iron Man movie, the summer's Twilight movie, the possible departure of 30 Rock and The Office stars, the entire group's adoration of NBC's Community series, and more, more, more. It didn't hurt my enjoyment that Stephen is my son or that this is, truly, the sort of conversation I enjoy listening to - whether at a convention, in a comics shop, or sitting around with family and friends.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Comic-Con International: San Diego

If you're one of those people who try to contact a comic-book professional now and then and have somehow managed to escape all the pre-event coverage, I'll tell you now: You probably won't be able to reach him or her for the next week or so. A huge chunk of the industry is headed that way, much as I posted two years ago. Yes, it's a slight exaggeration. Some people are staying home to work, some people can no longer take the wild excitement and crowds, and some people ... Well, some people figured they'd still be able to get tickets at the door. And. They. Were. Wrong.

The rest of us have started to make lists of what we need to do before we head out. If you've never been there (or if you haven't been there for a few years), give special thought to:
* Footwear. You will be on your feet. Almost all day. Walking. Standing. Maybe getting stepped on. Wear comfortable shoes. If you have to wear high-heeled shoes at some point, have something more comfortable to switch into.
* Planning ahead. I have three Excel files of information and counting. I have phone numbers programmed into my cell phone and two back-up cell-phone batteries - but I should also print out the essential ones, because phones get lost and/or damaged. (A tip: Horton Plaza - a small trudge from the Convention Center - has lots of stores, and you may be able to replace lost or damaged items. But, yes, a trudge away.) The program is online; see what events you don't want to miss - and prioritize.
* Trying on clothes. Do they really still fit? Are you going to wear a costume? How hot will it be after you've worn it for three hours in a crowd? Speaking of costumes, were you planning to wear a costume that requires you to carry something in your hand for an entire afternoon so that you won't have both hands free at an event that is festooned with touchable delights? Layered clothes are best; nights and restaurants are sometimes cool.
* Audio-visual equipment. Got a camera? A recording device? Will it need extra batteries? See above regarding Horton Plaza.
* Cleanliness. Anina Bennett reminds me that a bucket of hand sanitizer would not be amiss. Seriously: Hand sanitizer can be the difference between coming back from a convention happily exhausted and coming back from a convention so ill that you are bedridden for the next week.
* Maps. The convention will provide you with a map of the convention facility (the exhibit hall is 12 acres of booths) and of some of the downtown. If you plan to go further afield, it's possible, but do take along a map. Oh, and if you're parking in a hotel lot, you may want to leave your car there and cab it wherever you go, because those lots fill up. Just saying.

What have I forgotten? Probably whatever is most important to you. It's not too late to start planning - but it soon will be.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What Todd McFarlane Taught Me

Following yesterday's post, I was deluged with demands to elaborate on my statement, "Todd is one of the few people who has ever changed one of my attitudes toward convention duties." Which is to say: Tasha Robinson said she'd be interested in a follow-up post.

So OK.

First, keep in mind that the pond has to be pretty tiny before I am a big fish in it. Among celebrities, I am not one. (I sometimes get to hang out around them, mind you, and I treasure every fangirl moment while [usually] managing not to vocalize my "I am so doggoned deliriously happy to be in the presence of Celebrity X, of whom I am a fan" thoughts.) And I love - love - talking to people. Which means I wildly enjoy hanging around the Comics Buyer's Guide booth and talking both with our readers and with innocent bystanders who happen by when I feel like nattering. But there's a downside to "pulling booth duty," and that is that I also need to be out and about in order to talk with people who are trapped at their own booths. And I am occasionally frustrated when I realize that I'm in the middle of what is turning out to be a lengthy (albeit fascinating) conversation with one visitor, while there is actually a line of other people forming behind that person: people who are increasingly ticked off that I'm not wrapping up Conversation One more speedily so as to get to Conversation Two with one of them. And, as I say, I'm not a celebrity.

So, while I enjoy booth duty, sometimes I hate booth duty. And I know true celebrities who seem to feel pretty much the same. And I feel sorry for the super-celebrities who can't even walk through a convention hall without a security contingent to keep away people who want to talk to those celebrities, because ... well ... how much fun can that be? And my attitude in days long gone by was pretty much, "Yeah, I know I'm supposed to be at the booth, but there's a great sale at Booth Whatever, so I'll see you when I get back." And then Todd made what I think was the keynote speech at a long ago Pro/Con (a small convention for working comics pros; no, there hasn't been one since the 1990s). And here (in my words, less eloquent than his) is what he said:

"When I was a fan, I'd be eager to meet an artist I'd admired. I'd go to the table where he was supposed to be appearing, but often whoever it was wouldn't be there. So I'd figure he'd been called away for something important and would be back soon. When I'd return to the table an hour later and he still wasn't there, I'd figure to check back later. If I went to the table much later and he still wasn't there, I'd walk away and, as I did so, I'd think, 'Oh, well, I guess I don't need to see him. And I guess I didn't like his work that much, anyway."

So yikes. Todd's point: If you've announced you're going to be someplace at a particular time, you should be there. If something comes up so that you can't be there, leave something - a note, a sign, a message with others at the booth - that says (a) there's been a change in your schedule and (b) what that new schedule is. He's right, and I've tried to abide by that attitude ever since.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Gaiman v. McFarlane 2010: What I Have Learned

[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-Four Two dozen posts, and we're still waiting for the judge's decision. While we're waiting (and this will probably be my last post on the subject until Judge Barbara Crabb announces her decision; tomorrow, I'll talk about the upcoming Comic-Con or about some fun book I've read or this autumn's convention in Madison - which Harlan Ellison says will be his last convention - or some such), it might be a good time to reflect on what I have learned from attending both the 2002 trial and this 2010 hearing.

But first: a quote. Just 31 minutes into the 1965 Western comedy-musical Cat Ballou, Jane Fonda tells Michael Callan about the horrible things the railroad people have done to her father, whose property they've tried to get. "They've put manure in his well and they've made him talk to lawyers and now they've sent a gunman around to drive him off." That making him talk to lawyers is somehow equivalent to putting manure in his well and sending a gunman to drive him off struck me as a memorable and somehow hilarious concept. (Mind you, the lawyers to whom I've quoted the line have universally been unamused; maybe I'm just not up to Jane Fonda's delivery. Come to think of it, maybe that's another lesson learned: Don't quote Cat Ballou to lawyers.) In any case, that's the first lesson I've learned from all this: If you can, settle matters out of court. While reading legal repartee can be amusing for spectators, it's apparently not that much fun for the guy on the witness stand or the guy paying the attorneys.

Speaking of being a spectator, though, I must say attending a trial virtually from start to finish fascinated me. For example, there was an objection repeatedly used in the 2002 case that I'd never come across in any fictional account of a trial: It was something about (hey, it's been eight years) not having a witness repeat something that was in the documents the jury was given as evidence - because that would be redundant. Or something. Point is: If you can, attend a trial from start to finish. Even if your memories grow as foggy as mine, you'll learn something about the judicial process, and I saw it from jury selection to verdict. (That, by the way, is more than the jury does - since its members are occasionally sent out of the courtroom while lawyers argue something.)

Expand your circle of friends, if you get the chance. I'd never met writer Brian Holguin before June 14, but now we're Facebook Friends, and he was kind enough to provide some comments on what transpired that day. The world of comics is a world in which people read for pleasure (and, if you don't think that's an unusual trait, you're fortunate and living in a pretty exclusive environment). There are a lot of people you haven't met yet who can enrich your life.

Be civil. My impression was that neither Todd nor Neil was happy to be sitting in a courtroom. Their attorneys were pitted against each other, each determined to make the best case for their client. But everyone throughout the proceedings was polite, responsive, and helpful. People held doors for each other.

If you're going to be collaborating on a creative work, ask yourself whether you should have a contract. Should I have led with this? I've written and edited for more than 27 years almost exclusively on a work-for-hire basis. That's one way to make a living. I own most of what I wrote before that. That's another way to make a living. In either case, it's a good idea to agree on what you're getting into while you're getting into it.

Here's the thing: I've been a fan of Neil Gaiman's work since I read Ghastly beyond Belief, which he put together with Kim Newman for Arrow Books in 1985 (and which he tells me will probably never be reprinted). I've been a fan of Neil Gaiman himself since I first met him; he seems to be able unceasingly to make the world a better place. I think I came to fully appreciate Todd's professionalism when I interviewed him just before Spider-Man #1 came out - and his art when he discussed his approach to creation in an interview he did with Stan Lee. Todd is one of the few people who has ever changed one of my attitudes toward convention duties. (Long story. It was a great lecture at a long-ago convention.) I know there's a tendency to look on all this as some sort of entertainment for the rest of us - but it's not an entertainment for them. Just saying ...



Monday, July 12, 2010

Gaiman v. McFarlane 2010: Post-Hearing Briefs in Brief

[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-Three Following the June 14 evidentiary hearing, attorneys for Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane filed post-hearing briefs running more than a dozen pages each in support of their respective positions. In the words of the McFarlane attorneys, "The issue this Court is being asked to decide is whether Neil Gaiman is entitled to a share of profits attributable to characters known as Dark Ages Spawn, Tiffany and Domina. ... In the accounting process, there is no dispute that Mr. Gaiman is entitled to a share of profits from the comics in which the characters Medieval Spawn or Angela appeared or from derivative uses of those characters, such as action figures created of those characters. Mr. Gaiman now argues that he is entitled to a share of profits from other characters ... Mr. Gaiman's theory is that these other characters - Dark Ages Spawn, Tiffany and Domina - are derivative of the co-owned characters." In the words of the Gaiman attorneys, "The visual and literary similarities between the characters are far too striking to be brushed off as coincidences or merely similar 'ideas.' Under the law, a character is derivative if it would be an infringement when used by an unauthorized party. ... There can be no question that if anyone else had created comics using Tiffany, Domina, or Dark Ages Spawn, the McFarlane Defendants would have sued them for infringement of their copyrights in the Angela and Medieval Spawn characters, and won."

Each group of attorneys detailed the arguments for their side, citing testimony given during the June 14 hearing. Tomorrow, presumably before Judge Crabb announces her decision, I'll cite the lessons I have learned from all this. Then, we'll wait for the decision.



Sunday, July 11, 2010

Gaiman v. McFarlane 2010: Testimony Wraps Up

[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-Two The hearing had begun at 9 a.m. It was now somewhere near 2 p.m. McFarlane was his own final witness, and his attorney Alex Grimsley asked him to compare the angel Tiffany (above), introduced in Spawn #44 (March 1996, written by McFarlane, pencilled by Tony Daniel, inked by Kevin Conrad) to the angel Angela (below), introduced in Spawn #9 (March 1993, written by Gaiman, drawn by McFarlane, here shown from Angela #3 (February 1995), pencilled by Greg Capullo and inked by Mark Pennington). McFarlane said they had the same marking around the eyes - but added that that had been a pre-existing element.
* "Angela has a spear, and Tiffany has a gun."
* "The hair is not the same."
* "Tiffany's wings are steel." He compared her wings to ninja blades.
* "Angela never had wings on her back."
When Grimsley referred to the entry on Tiffany in Spawn Bible, McFarlane said, "I don't believe I wrote that." Had McFarlane drawn the angel Domina? "I don't believe so."

Turning to the series Spawn: The Dark Ages, Grimsley asked why McFarlane had produced it. (It ran 28 issues, starting with the March 1999 issue and ending with the issue dated July 2001.) McFarlane answered, "I wanted to put more comic books out." Did he direct the team producing Spawn: The Dark Ages to base it on a specific time period? "I don't recall specifying," he said, adding that he'd told the team to "come up with something cool."

Gaiman attorney Allen Arntsen began the cross-examination. "Neil Gaiman created both Medieval Spawn and Angela in Spawn #9, right? "Right." "Angela was the first bounty-hunter angel?" "Right." "Angela is in the related story in Spawn #26, right?" "Correct, two or three pages, yeah." "Neil wrote Angela #1-3?" "Correct." "She's a major player in the Spawn universe?" "Correct. If I said it, I'll stand by it." Arntsen turned to the matter of whether there had been multiple Spawns in medieval times: "every 400 years, right?" "There may have been a time when that was true." Arntsen cited the letters page response in Curse of the Spawn #4 (December 1996): "A new Spawn appears on earth every 400 years and Daniel Llanso [the Spawn of Curse of the Spawn] is the Spawn that shows up 400 years after Al Simmons." Following an afternoon break, Arntsen returned to the 400-year plot device. McFarlane responded, "We weren't terribly consistent, and it wasn't a rule."

Questioning ended with a return to McFarlane attorney Grimsley: "How familiar are you with Spawn: The Dark Ages stories?" "Not very familiar." Regarding the 400-year basis? "We weren't consistent." "Why would you not be consistent?" "Things happen. I couldn't even keep track of how many spikes were on the costume." "Why not keep to the rules you set out?" "You break those rules because of the wants of the fans and marketing."

The session ended with attorneys agreeing to see to it that Judge Barbara Crabb received both attorneys' post-hearing briefs and (because some of the photocopies supplied to her as evidence had been virtually illegible) a set of exhibits in color by June 25.



Saturday, July 10, 2010

Gaiman v. McFarlane 2010: Marketing and Angela's Design

[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-One Todd McFarlane discussed the economics of the comic-book and toy businesses briefly. Regarding the toys, he said, "The Spawn line as a whole was successful out of the gate, [produced] to draw on the popularity of Spawn." He addressed the issue of the Previews catalog listing for Spawn: The Dark Ages #1. "This is the main way you market to retailers." He said the solicitation did not mention Medieval Spawn. "We can make stuff look like other stuff and give it consistency. You call attention to the things that will get you sales. [In this case] the value is Spawn. ... If the intent was for us to use Medieval Spawn, we would have called him 'Medieval Spawn.' We weren't trying to do that."

Spawn #9 by Gaiman and McFarlane introduced Angela. "Were there elements of Angela used from Spawn?" Yes." He elaborated on his approach to drawing. "We have a flat piece of paper. We create the illusion of 3-D using cape, wind, and hair." He cited similarities to Spawn:
* Marks on her face are a repetition of the marks on Spawn's face, with the black indicating a bad guy.
* Blank eyes [since she's not a devil, her eyes aren't green]
* Her symbol is the opposite of the Spawn mark
* Her earrings are based on the Spawn mark
* "There are sharp points on Spawn, so she's got sharp points."
* "She's an angel, but wings locked on the back don't work [artistically], so they're on her head" (like Valkyrie headdresses)
* The chains of Spawn are turned into ribbons and even her hair

"Why is Angela scantily clad?" "A couple of obvious reasons: the history of women characters when men are at the helm." He cited paintings by Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo. "If we don't show skin, we put her in skin-tight clothes. Boys have been doing it since, I assume, the invention of boys."



Friday, July 9, 2010

Gaiman v. McFarlane 2010: McFarlane on Spawn Basics

[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."



Thursday, July 8, 2010

Gaiman v. McFarlane 2010: Writing "Marvel Method"

[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.



Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Gaiman v. McFarlane 2010: Brian Holguin on the Stand

[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 Eighteen Todd McFarlane attorney Alex Grimley asked defense witness Spawn: The Dark Ages writer Brian Holguin whether he'd read Spawn #9. Holguin replied, "Long ago - and I reread it recently." "There's a courtly style of speech. Did you try to emulate that style of speech?" [Medieval Spawn's dialogue in that issue is reproduced in Part Twelve.] Holguin answered, "No, not at all." Asked about Spawn Bible (August 1996), Holguin said, "I wasn't aware it existed." There was a discussion about whether the Dark Ages Spawn Holguin had written had fought and died in the Crusades or died in Ireland, and Holguin said about the character he had written, "He felt that [what he'd done] was his duty to his church and to his God." [As noted in Part Seventeen, Holguin provided comments on my transcribed notes.] Holguin wrote June 27, "I think they were asking me specifically about the 'Medieval Spawn' entry in the Spawn Bible. They were holding up the issue opened to that page. Again, I knew the Spawn Bible existed and had seen it at Todd's office but don't remember ever referencing it at all. I would usually just ask Todd if I needed character background. I hadn't seen the 'Medieval Spawn' entry until the day before the hearing, when I saw it in the lawyer's office. The history of the character (I believe written by Tom Orzechowski) is completely different from the Dark Ages character."

Grimsley asked whether there was a backstory for the character Holguin had written. Holguin said, "It doesn't surprise me that Mr. Gaiman said he had a backstory in mind. There's [no backstory] to take. The character shows up and is immediately killed." Holguin wrote June 27, "Yeah, this is the thing that puzzles me. I take Neil at his word that he had a backstory in mind, but where was it ever published or printed that I could have had access to it? It's certainly not in Spawn #9. If there are points of similarity, to my mind it must be coincidence. I don't see how I could have known what the history of Neil's character was, if it was never published or shared with the public."

Holguin wrote an introduction to the series in Spawn: The Dark Ages #1. It included the passage, "This is a Spawn book. It is a new chapter in the canon of one of the most successful entertainment franchises of the last decade. There are legions of fans out there with very strong feelings about the Spawn mythos and what exactly it should and should not be, and they are not shy (or subtle) about expressing themselves. I'm not going to pretend that's not a little intimidating." When Grimsley asked why Holguin had referred in it to the framework - "A flawed but ultimately good man finds himself at the mercy of a devil, who bargains with him for his soul. The mortal agrees to become a Hellspawn, a nascent soldier in the army of Hell, in exchange for a chance to return to earth and to perhaps, just maybe, earn his salvation and free himself from the devil's grip." - Holguin answered, "To let readers know, if they're Spawn fans, that it's part of the same world. I also wanted to state the theme of the Spawn universe." He was asked about his passage, "Oh well. A little pressure is good for the soul. Because, in the end, this is a book that must (and I believe does) stand on its own. It must not only honor the Spawn tradition; it must add to it." Holguin answered, "I wrote [the series] to stand on its own, and the whole tradition is they're all meant to be self-contained." He said he had discussed with McFarlane an aspect addressed by artist Liam McCormack-Sharp in his introduction in that issue: "I have tried to get a genuine feel for the period and have kept well clear of fairy tale settings, while infusing the piece with, I hope, some sort of contemporary sensibility." Holguin said, "This was meant to be dark and gritty and Gothic, a rough, tough comic book."

Concluding his testimony with Grimsley, Holguin said he was "quite a fan" of Gaiman's work. He concluded, "If Todd had asked me to take Medieval Spawn and spin it off, I'd have been happy to do it, and that's not what we did."



Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Gaiman v. McFarlane 2010: The Afternoon Session Begins

[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."



Monday, July 5, 2010

Gaiman v. McFarlane 2010: Soliciting Spawn

[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 Sixteen In the closing segment of Neil Gaiman's testimony, Todd McFarlane attorney Alex Grimsley asked whether Gaiman recalled whether the Medieval Spawn toy had been popular. "From what I remember, it must have been popular, because he did a lot more." Grimsley asked, regarding the Spawn: The Dark Ages series as it was being solicited, "If you were writing the solicitation for the issue, you wouldn't say, you know, 'Here is a new series based on this popular character'?" Gaiman said, "I'm a writer, not a marketer." "OK, but you write the solicitation, correct?" "Normally, no. ... I wrote the ones for Spawn #9 all those years ago because Todd asked me to and they had to put something out. But, no, I don't think I've written a solicitation since." Grimsley handed Gaiman a Lord Covenant toy and asked whether he recognized it. Gaiman said, "No." Grimsley asked, "That doesn't appear to be a character that you created?" Gaiman responded, "I wouldn't have thought so."

That wrapped up his testimony at the hearing. After the lunch break, the next witness would be for McFarlane: Spawn: The Dark Ages writer Brian Holguin.



Gaiman v. McFarlane 2010: Dost Speak Medieval?

[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 Fifteen Todd McFarlane attorney Alex Grimsley asked Neil Gaiman, "What period in time is Medieval Spawn from?" "800 years ago ... 12th century ... Obviously, somewhere between 1100 and 1200, maybe 1250, if you wanted to push it." ... "And there was nothing in issue #9 that told us what country this character lived in?" "I assumed it was England, but I don't think we ever locked that down, that part." "So there was nothing saying whether he was English, French, German, whatever." "He does speak English." "But it's an English comic book, correct?" "Yeah, but I'm the kind of person who actually, if it was in France, might well have written in French just to make kids go and look up French words in dictionaries. I did that recently with some Latin stuff in a comic." "OK, so if a Medieval Spawn spoke French, would that be different than the character you created?" "Actually, a Medieval Spawn, thinking about it, probably would have been speaking French. ... Because Saxon would have been - I'm sorry." "OK, but your character spoke in English." "His dialogue was written in English." "So, if his dialogue was written in French, would that be a different character than the one you created?" "I've seen issues of Spawn #9 translated into French and Japanese and Spanish, and it's the same character."

"If there was ... a Spawn from medieval times who spoke in rap, would that be different than the character you created?" "One would assume he was under some kind of horrible spell." "Is that a 'yes'?" "That was - I think it's a silly question, with all due respect." Grimsley referred to Spawn: The Dark Ages #1 (March 1999) and the first appearance of the Spawn shown in that series. "He simply says, 'What am I?' right? ... Is that line particularly medieval ... speech?" "No ... That's a simple English declarative sentence. It would have been the same going back all the way. That's nice." "OK," said Grimsley, "so a modern person would not say, 'What am I?'" "The ... King James Bible, which was written a long time ago, is filled with beautiful simple English declarative sentences that we would say now and that they said then. ... It's a glorious little sentence." "And in your mind, that's speaking medieval?" "In my mind, that's a good, clear English declarative sentence." "And is that speaking medieval?" Gaiman replied, "There is no such thing as speaking medieval. Medieval is a time period. It goes approximately 1,000 years, maybe 1,500 years, but definitely 1,000 years. It's not a language." Grimsley asked, "The way that you view the way Medieval Spawn spoke is really in just short declarative sentences, there's nothing else distinctive about his speech?"

Gaiman said, "No, I had him talking to a young lady in fair knightly terms." [All of Medieval Spawn's speeches appear in this post.] "That's something that - a character, you assume, has learned a little knighthood and he's talking to a young lady and he's using his fancy words. ... There's a difference between demotic speech and the fancy stuff and the stuff that you'd use, if you were being knightly. If you're being courtly, I assume that, if you're talking to your king, you don't talk the same way that you talk to your dog." Referring to Spawn #9, Gaiman discussed the character's speech. "The last thing that Spawn says here is, 'I don't understand.' It's a nice simple English declarative sentence. It's not harsh. It's not clever. 'I no longer have a name.' And so on and so forth. It's absolutely how you would, as a knight, speak to a maiden. It's not necessarily how you'd speak to the person killing you, which is why the language changes a little bit."

Asked whether Dark Ages Spawn speaks the same way Medieval Spawn does, Gaiman answered, "Looking through the comics, I thought Brian [Holguin] was doing a fairly creditable job of trying to give the feeling that this was happening in the old days." "Your contention is that Brian Holguin, sitting here, the writer on Dark Ages, didn't create a new character?" "Yes. ... I assume it's the same character. It's Spawn in the 12th century as a knight in armor."



Gaiman v. McFarlane 2010: Scantily Clad Angels

Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?[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 Fourteen Todd McFarlane's attorney Alex Grimsley asked whether Neil Gaiman had collaborated with other writers on a series. Gaiman said, "I did a book called The Children's Crusade which I ... wrote sort of book-ends and worked with a number of writers: Jamie DeLillo, Alisa Kwitney, Rachel Pollack, Nancy Collins, and many others. ... And ... my most recent comics work was a two-parter last year where I got to kill Batman." It was Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? - drawn by Andy Kubert. He described it as "the last Batman issue of Detective Comics and Batman Comics, and on that level you're kind of collaborating with 70 years of people who have written Batman and the people who are writing it now." However, Grimsley's next questions, which started with asking whether Pollack could have created an angel without being derivative of Angela, were objected to as calling for a legal conclusion, and the objections were sustained.

Grimsley turned to Spawn Bible and the page devoted to Tiffany: "Tiffany has ... on her right leg ... what appears to be like a little ammunition belt?" Gaiman responded, "I thought it was chocolates, but it could be ammunition. It could be anything." Grimsley asked, "Did you ever write anything or have any drawings where the angel used a gun?" "No." Grimsley showed another picture of Tiffany in which she was holding a gun. Gaiman said, "I don't believe somebody becomes less derivative of another character if they pick up a gun. Batman is still Batman if he's holding a gun." Grimsley went on, "And Tiffany has some sort of wing on her back. It looks like blades, correct?" "Yes." "She doesn't have the headpiece that Angela wore?" "No." "Both of these characters ... are, I guess to put it mildly, scantily clad?" "Yes." "Is it common in modern comic books to portray women scantily clad?" "Not the ones that I write." "OK, but putting aside the hadful that you write, is it fairly common?" "No." "No?" Gaiman said, "I was the editor this year of Year's Best American Comics and I read an awful lot of comics and most of them had fully clad women. I will accept there may be some comics out there with scantily clad women, but, no, I don't believe it's the norm." Grimsley said, "Well, when we're using the adjective 'scantily clad,' do you consider Wonder Woman to be fully clothed or scantily clad?" Gaiman said, "I haven't read a Wonder Woman comic in 10 years. I have no idea what she's wearing currently. Throughout her history, it has moved backwards and forwards. At one point in the '60s and '70s, she was in a trouser suit. The costumes vary."

Grimsley referred to a copy of Previews and asked Gaiman to describe the purpose of Previews, which he did. Then Grimsley displayed a page and asked whether Gaiman would describe them as scantily clad or fully clad. [I've tried to locate this specific copy of Previews without success. I believe the first image was of the Image title C.H.I.X., which was dated January 1998. In fact, as far as I could determine, most of the pages he chose in these samplings were from the Image listings of such series as Savage Dragon, and at least one was a special "swimsuit issue."] "Of the ones on here," Gaiman said, "one of them appears to be wearing fishnet bondage gear. One of them looks like Power Girl, who is a Superman knockoff in a cape. And one of them is a weird manga thing. I'm not even sure if she's - what she's - wearing. Are they fully dressed? No, they're wearing spandex." After a further sampling, Gaiman said, "I can absolutely, utterly, with my hand on my heart, testify that the ladies in those pictures in those ads that you showed me weren't wearing very much - nor were the men. Beyond that, I think generalizing the comics is deeply problematic."

Grimsley returned to differences between Angela and Tiffany and discussed differences between hair styles and that the headdress of Domina isn't the same as that of Angela. Gaiman said, "There are lots of different headdresses."



Sunday, July 4, 2010

Gaiman v. McFarlane 2010: Stock Characteristics

 [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 Thirteen Todd McFarlane's attorney Alex Grimsley said, "You admitted that Medieval Spawn is derived from the character Spawn?" Neil Gaiman responded, "I don't admit it. I avow it. It's a derivative character. ... That's the point." Grimsley spoke of Medieval Spawn toys and comic-book images as having spikes, an "M" on the chest, green eyes, and the Spawn logo on the shield. He asked Gaiman whether there were aspects of Medieval Spawn that Gaiman had drawn on from other works. "Things that I drew on to create the Medieval Spawn would include Barbara Tuchman's book A Distant Mirror; many visits as an English child to museums, to Hever Castle [Anne Boleyn's childhood home, parts dating from 1270, others dating to the 1500s], which, although it's actually very, very late medieval, early Renaissance, has lots of great armor and things like that; going to the Tower of London; reading Thomas Malory [author of Le Morte d'Arthur]; and so on and so forth." "You have a general understanding of what a knight in armor should be and what he should do, correct, from your background in life?" "From reasonably extensive reading, and, yes, being a human being on this planet." "For instance, a knight in armor will typically ride a horse because that was the means of transportation 800 years ago, right?" "The horse and also the cart were definitely means of transportation 800 years ago." "Right. The cart being pulled by a horse or donkey or oxen or some other beast?" "Goat." "I mean so some of that is just based on the time period?" "Sure. He's not in a car."

Grimsley tried to introduce a connection between Gaiman's Timothy Hunter character in Books of Magic (December 1990-March 1991) and J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter character (1997-2007), but objections on grounds of relevance were sustained. Grimsley continued, "In creating characters there are certain stock characteristics that you might apply to the endeavor, depending on the nature of the character. ... Let's take a knight in armor. You might have armor, right?" Gaiman replied, "If he's a knight in armor, he would definitely have armor. If he didn't have armor, he would be a knight not in armor." Grimsley asked, "If you were creating a mobster, he might have an Italian or Sicilian accent?" "Probably not. ... I don't think I've ever created any Sicilian or Italian mobsters. I've written a lot of criminals." Grimsley said, "I'm trying to take a hypothetical. Let's say you were creating a character as a judge. They might wear a black robe." Gaiman responded, "Well, if they were in an American courtroom, of course, they wear a black robe. But that's not a stock character. That's part of what they wear." Grimsley said, "Well, I know judges who wear other colors, but you might -" Gaiman said, "I don't. I only remember Judge Shabaz. [See my postings from June 27.] They are very different. I can't see that I could create a stock judge from Judge Shabaz and Judge Crabb." Judge Crabb responded, "Thank you. Appreciate my individuality."

Returning to the question of whether there were any stock characteristics of a knight in armor, Gaiman answered, "No, because you'd have - It depends who's in the armor, what they're doing. ... I mean, I could sit here and come up with a dozen different kinds of knight-in-armor characteristics. ... You know, even in the Arthurian legends, there are hundreds of knights at the round table and they're all very different. You can't point to Gawain and say he's like Galahad or Lancelot going mad. They're very different people. You have an impulse for good for most of them, but, then, you have knights in armor who were evil or bad or whose motives are mixed up and conflicted."

Grimsley went on to focus on details of the life of Medieval Spawn, bringing up story elements that had not been part of Gaiman's original script for Spawn #9. "I always hoped," Gaiman said, "that they'd come up with something good after I left, that Todd would go in and make up a good backstory for him. ... I mean, if you're writing a comic, you create characters. You don't always create their entire life story. Bruce Wayne as Batman wasn't all there in Detective Comics #27. It comes in a bit at a time, but it's still the Batman created [in Detective #27]."

Grimsley asked whether Gaiman had written Medieval Spawn's dialogue. "Oh, yes." "So you wrote the way he speaks." "Yes." "And he speaks in a fairly stilted, maybe old-fashioned manner?" "He speaks in a sort of slightly old-fashioned manner, yes." [For a look at all of Medieval Spawn's dialogue, see my posting of Part Twelve from July 3.] "His speech is consistent in that manner through all of his appearances [in that comic]?" "Yes. He doesn't suddenly start talking like a Todd or something." "Or you." "Or me."



Saturday, July 3, 2010

Gaiman v. McFarlane 2010: Medieval Spawn's Backstory

Part Twelve [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.] Discussing the backstory of Medieval Spawn, Neil Gaiman said, "There isn't a lot of opportunity on those eight pages [in which the character appeared in Spawn #9] for conversation. In my backstory in my head, I think he'd been probably around fighting for ... five or 10 years, but nobody had actually turned around at that point and said, 'This is actually what's going on. You are going to be in Hell's army, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.' but he had ... still been going around doing a certain amount of good wherever he could and being noble, even though he was a Spawn. I seem to remember some line about how when Spawns were young they could still ... fight for good, and ... in the case of young and fighting for good, I take it that Spawn is still fighting for good 18 years after the comic started. So the print gives you 18 years at least."

Looking at Spawn #9, it may be instructive to look at the total dialogue of Medieval Spawn talking to Angela, written by Gaiman. The speeches were as follows: "Good day, sweet maiden. You are hurt." "Where is this ogre?" "You would not wish to see my face, sweet maiden. Your sister, you say ...? I also had a sister, beautiful and wise, whom I swore I would see married before I died." "I ... went away, for many years. When I returned, my sister was indeed married ... not to the man I would have chosen, alas. If we knew the future, well, what then?" "I no longer have a name." "I also am most strong and fearsome. You shall wait here." "Very well." "No wizard, fair one. Once I was a man ... a bad man ... Now ... I know not what I am. This cave ... How much further must we go?" "What magic is this?" "What ... What manner of creature are you?" and "I don't understand ..." That's the printed material under discussion at this point in the hearing.

Gaiman said, "He's just met her. She's going, 'Ah, I'm a damsel in distress. Something bad is happening there. What are you?' And he said, 'Well, I was a bad man; now, I could be anything.'"



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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