Robot 6

Judge rules Dark Ages Spawn, Domina and Tiffany are derivative characters

Spawn: The Dark Ages #1

Spawn: The Dark Ages #1

A federal judge has dealt another blow to Todd McFarlane in his long-running copyright dispute with Neil Gaiman, ruling that the characters Dark Ages Spawn, Domina and Tiffany are mere derivatives of their earlier creations.

In a decision filed Friday, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb declared that the three characters are simply variations of Medieval Spawn and Angela, co-created by Gaiman in 1993 for McFarlane’s Spawn series. Therefore, McFarlane has until Sept. 1 to provide Gaiman with an accounting of money earned from Dark Ages Spawn, Domina and Tiffany. As co-owner of the copyrights, Gaiman is entitled to one-half of the profits.

McFarlane’s attorneys had argued the three characters were based on the Spawn universe, and not on earlier creations. Gaiman, and ultimately the judge, disagreed.

The case, which began last month in Madison, Wisconsin, is rooted in the prolonged legal battle between Gaiman and McFarlane over ownership of Medieval Spawn, Angela and Count Nicholas Cogliostro. A federal jury found in 2002 that Gaiman has a copyright interest in the creations. However, in 2004 Todd McFarlane Productions filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection following the $15-million judgment in the Tony Twist case, leaving Gaiman unpaid. With TMP now emerging from bankruptcy, Gaiman petitioned for a ruling on the “knock-offs,” and an accounting of what he’s owed by McFarlane.

Crabb’s decision is interesting for a few reasons, not the least of which is the role continuity and story logic plays in her findings.

“Much as defendant [McFarlane] 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,” Crabb writes. “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. [...]

“If defendant really wanted to differentiate the new Hellspawn,” the judge continues, “why not make him a Portuguese 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.”

As a bonus, Crabb uses the phrase “kick-ass warrior angels” in reference to Domina and Tiffany.

Writing on his blog last night, Gaiman doesn’t seem as relieved as you might expect: “I wish I took some kind of joy in this, but I don’t. At this point all I hope is that Todd can do an accounting for all the comics I wrote for which he paid no royalties, and the rest of it; and that he’ll settle up and I will make some comics charities very happy; that his comics company will finally come out of bankruptcy; and that I can forget this forever.”

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82 Comments

The judge is a nerd.

Yeah, can you imagine being that judge…especially if you didn’t know a damn thing or care about comic books? Hilarious. Congrats to Gaiman–though who wants to go through this level of nonsense for a long overdue paycheque?

Gaiman pretty much said that he was going to give whatever he won to comic charities.

I’m more of a Todd fan than a Neil fan but Todd just needs to pay up and move on.

Also, even though It is nice of Gaiman to give to charity, isn’t it tacky to always talk about it?

@David: I don’t think so. I think Gaiman’s more just trying to maintain the perception that the money isn’t why Gaiman’s pursuing this lawsuit. I think there’s (justifiably) some reason to suspect that the comics community at large will assume that the plaintiff in these cases is always just looking to make some easy money.

But…Medieval Spawn is a derivative of Spawn.

“But…Medieval Spawn is a derivative of Spawn.”

That’s no longer at issue. A court previously decided, in Judge Crabb’s words, that Medieval Spawn is “sufficiently distinct from Spawn to be copyrightable as a derivative work.” In this ruling, however, she found that Medieval Spawn and Dark Ages Spawn are, essentially, the same character.

So, the real question here is – when can I start picking up the new Spawn series written by Judge Barbara Crabb?

This is priceless.

@Ian.

I know..her ideas sound awesome!

Steven R. Stahl

July 31, 2010 at 1:44 pm

The ruling is interesting in some respects, but it’s only relevant, apparently, to situations in which someone creates a copyrighted character for use in someone else’s fictional universe. In stories produced as work for hire, the publisher owns all the characters so it doesn’t matter how derivative the characters are.

The “derivative game” can easily be taken to great lengths, such as reasoning that practically all superheroes are derived from a few archetypal characters, and since those characters were generally mythological gods and demigods, then practically all superheroes are derived from works in the public domain.

Take a narrower view, with the Hulk, for example: He was the result of a human being irradiated by gamma rays. All the characters with similar origins are derived from the Hulk, but how meaningful is that origin in a literary sense? The Hulk is basically a Jekyll & Hyde analogue, so he was derived from Robert Louis Stevenson’s work.

This might serve as an example of how details actually do matter and serve to separate characters and their stories from each other.

SRS

good for neil though doubt ful it means he is done with his legal battle with Todd since no doubt as is Todds right he will appeal the ruling. though think given all the legal fees it must be costing todd and also that he went bankrupt due to another court ruling. maybe Todd will decide to do the accounting and pay Neil and be done with the whole mess

Adam Weissman

July 31, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Ya, know, I can totally see it…

Judge Crabb can be the Judge Judy of the comics world.

Parties agree to bring cases to her instead of to regular courts —

Siegels vs. DC, Kirby’s vs. Marvel/Disney, Simons vs. Marvel/Disney, etc.

The cases get adjudicated in a session room at CCI and live webstreamed or broadcast on TV.

Totally impractical, but an amusing thought…

David W:

Surely it’s the right of a creator to get what he/she is owed. This has nothing to do with McFarlane the artist or Gaiman the writer, as in “I like him over him” and everything to do with good business practices.

And funnily enough, if one thinks back to the creation of Image Comics, they were all about creating their own characters back then. They’d left Marvel because they didn’t want to do work-for-hire anymore. I’m not sure if they were about creator rights necessarily, but it was their USP back then.

Now, bar one or two of them, the founders have set up their own work-for-hire. The circles we move in…

@David W: one of the reasons Neil talks a lot about comics charities (HERO Initiative, CBLDF, Prism Comics, etc.) is to encourage you and others to give to them to further their missions.

If they do the “member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I” Spawn, do you think there’ll be a crossover with MARVEL 1602?

Be careful, judge, Todd might steal some of your ideas.

I thought this case was getting old and crusty and annoying, but it just took a step into the realm of bizarro world. I hope it rages on for years.

I just hope to see more Medieval Spawn comics. Loved ‘em.

Am I a bad person for wanting to see Judge Crabb in the pages of AD2000 as a sort of mix between Judge Dredd and Dr. Zyborg

Isn’t Medieval Spawn a derivative character in the first place?

When I see all the conflect in a matter like this, I rejoice that I never was able to make a go of it with my former comics partner, who had the imagination and talent of Kirby, but with the disposition of Alan Moore.

If Todd hadn’t played games with Miracleman, for no obvious reason, one suspects this never would have come to this. Glad their are people like Gaiman willing, and with the means, to stand up to management bullies like Todd. Principles matter and Gaiman has done the bullied everywhere a great service.

Re: timothycat.

EXACTLY!!!
Todd should never had tried to mess with MIRACLEMAN.

“Isn’t Medieval Spawn a derivative character in the first place?”

Yes, but it’s a derivative character that the a court has previously ruled is co-owned by Gaiman (and, if I recall correctly, that co-ownership was recognized by McFarlane for several years, until he decided unilaterally that he was the sole owner of the character, around the same time “Dark Ages Spawn” showed up). That prior decision stands and is not, to my knowledge, even under appeal.

This decision is that “Dark Ages Spawn” is effectively the same character, so all the same rules of co-ownership apply. Meanwhile, the other “warrior angels” are derivative characters of Angela, also co-owned by Gaiman, so some share of profits from them are also owed to Gaiman.

How soon until Tony Twist’s crime empire is taken over by a judgmental crab?

Todd should have established his character and concept better before handing issues off to Gaiman and Moore. He certainly got a lot of mileage from their contributions, and now he’s gotta pay.

Maybe Gaiman will take partial payment in Little Nicky action figures and Mcguire homerun balls.

DetectiveDupin

July 31, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Glad for Neil. Never liked McFarlane.

to clarify something…while Gaiman requested an accounting of derivative royalties to paid on Dark Ages Spawn, Tiffany and Domina, it was McFarlane who petitioned a court ruling on whether they were derivative characters or not.

Gaiman also posted a link to Maggie Thompson’s blog, with a full on coverage of the proceedings: http://www.maggiethompson.com/2010/06/june-15-in-madison-with-neil-gaiman.html naturally, a bit dry in places, but it’s worth it to read the interplay between Gaiman and McFarlane’s lawyer. ;)

also, it’s a sad commentary on Spawn when a federal judge can come up with a half dozen or more better story ideas than McFarlane ever has. :p

Maybe McFarlane will have to give Gaiman his balls.

His home run balls, of course.

Tom Fitzpatrick

July 31, 2010 at 9:17 pm

“Maybe McFarlane will have to give Gaiman his balls.

His home run balls, of course.”

@ Madara: I think they’re worthless now, that McGwire admitted he’d juiced up with under-the-counter steroids during the home run records (unless I got that wrong).

Here’s to hoping that Gaiman will get the Miracleman (Marvelman) rights back so he and Buckingham will get the opportunity to finish Book 5 and 6 for Marvel while they reprint the Moore and Gaiman runs.

But I think McFarlane’s going the way out of comics, like the way Gibson’s going out of Hollywood.
Metaphorically speaking, that is.

huh, what? Spawn? wow that’s still published? eh.

This is Disgusting and beyond Ridiculous.

This is rich! Wow…I loved the Continuity Cop in the Judges ruling! I mean she should be an editor at DC or MARVEL. I’m still trying to figure out SUPERBOY-PRIME’s origin after the INFINITE CRISIS SECRET FILES & ORIGINS Special…perhaps Judge Crabb can help. Was baby Kal-El Matter-Beamed or Rocketed to Earth-Prime???
“based upon what you said in SPAWN #9 about every 400 years…” that is funny…it’s like the Ultimate No-Prize.

Eightiesologist

August 1, 2010 at 5:30 am

It’s ironic that Todd and his friends once left big bad Marvel to form their own company in part because they wanted greater control. And yet all Todd did was become the type of evil corporate guy that they were trying to get away from.

Good on Neil for getting one over on Todd, and then being generous enough to say he’ll give whatever he gets to charity. I like Spawn, but McFarlane has a history of screwing people over like an asshole, which is ironic because this is the sort of shit that got him and the others leaving Marvel in the first place.

“So, the real question here is – when can I start picking up the new Spawn series written by Judge Barbara Crabb?”

Spawn by Crabb! Spawn by Crabb!

i can’t help but think that the Judge had some wonderful ideas for new characters.

I still don’t understand the situation.

Was Gaiman’s work on Spawn for hire? Was it a favor?

Didn’t McFarlane think to protect himself when he asked Gaiman and the other writers to contrbute to his comic?

Wouldn’t Medieval Spawn be as derivative of Spawn/Al Simmons as Dark Ages Spawn is of Medieval Spawn?

Did Gaiman create these three characters specifically for the Spawn series, or did he create them from something else and ended up using them here?

If the former, how is that any different from a writer who creates new characters for a DC or Marvel comic book? If it’s work for hire, then those two publishers own them, right?

@ Tom F

Marvel owns Marvelman/Miracleman now, there are no rights for Gaiman to get back at this point.

@Adam Weissman

She would probably rule that Superboy is derivative of Superman, case closed.

@ Statham

McFarlane has a history of screwing people over? Who? Other than Gaiman, no one seems to have a problem with the guy.

@ Rubicon

Marvel owns the character. The respective artists and writers still own their work on the Warrior/Eclipse series. Marvel can’t reprint that material without the permission of those creators.

@ David W

Just talk to any number of creators who did work for hire at Image.

As I understand it, the Warrior/Eclipse work can’t be published w/o Marvel’s permission either. If the Warrior/Eclipse work was authorized by Mick Anglo, whatever rights he owned were likely transferred to Marvel. If it was unauthorized, it would be illegal to seek a copyright since its derivitive of the character Marvel now owns and would violate Marvel’s rights.

The Miracleman/Marvelman case is probably more similar to the Last Son of Earth case that DC prevailed in:
http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2010/04/01/comic-book-legends-revealed-254/

I don’t know what to think about this BS, I mean I’m with Gaiman that he deserves his money and these characters are based on his ideas (not really something unfathomable but he thought about them first) but there are no entirely original ideas anymore so if no one would be able to tweak some details from others nothing would be probably made (what’s the world coming to ? next time you won’t be able to produce a superhero that is flying, has super strenght and a cape because there already exist a similar character). I would have to say that Todd cheated his way out of this and done what he had to do (he changed the name, origin, basic look and gave another backstory to them). That’s how it works and if consumers accept that they are buying a cheap, stolen knock off (that was pretty good all things considered) it’s your gain.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Marvel never releases any of the Moore/Gaiman work on Marvelman/Miracleman. Let’s face it if it weren’t for Moore/Gaiman’s work on it, the title would be dismissed and ignored as a pale knock off of Captain Marvel.

McFarlane did all that, to make cheap stolen knock offs, and then the original co-creator called him on it. Fair dues. As to the lack of original ideas, much of that was touched on in the trial (read Maggie Thompson’s *very* comprehensive coverage for that), but what it ultimately boils down to is that in the case of the two Angela characters, putting someone in a Superman outfit, giving them the personality of Superman, a pony tail and a gun, and calling them Superbman, that’s derivative of Superman. As for Medieval Spawn vs Dark Ages Spawn, apparently having both be knights from the 1200′s who become Spawn and have Spawn armour, that’s enough to make them the same in the eyes of the public. The only difference is in the backstory, but once again with a Superman analogy, looks like Superman, acts like Superman, from Krypton, but didn’t get powers under Earth’s yellow sun, but from Jor-El’s science serum, that is still Superman as far as the public is concerned.

The judge ruled that these aren’t characters that have similarities to the others, but are clearly derivative of them. Supergirl is derivative; Power Girl is similar (which isn’t the best example, but it’ll work). And that’s what the Law says. Reading between the lines of the court case is rather interesting actually, seeing how McFarlane’s lawyer was trying to prove difference, and Gaiman’s similarity. McFarlane’s lawyer’s understanding of creativity is also rather funny to read; you really get a sense of which creator is a writer in the truest sense of the word, and which is a hack.

@ J Baker

Just talk to any number of creators who did work for hire for Image?

Do you mean work for hire for McFarlane/TMP?

They would tell me they were screwed over by McFarlane?

Whats with all the McFarlane bashing guys ? I got the chance to meet Todd at a comic con two years ago and he would have to be the most honest and nicest comic creator that i have met ( and trust me some of the ‘BIG’ names i’ve met have been real assholes ) , so how about being a little bit nicer to the guy and leave the rubbish and trash talk alone . Its not a nice way for new readers to comics and comic forums to have to read this trash about creators ….

“As I understand it, the Warrior/Eclipse work can’t be published w/o Marvel’s permission either. If the Warrior/Eclipse work was authorized by Mick Anglo, whatever rights he owned were likely transferred to Marvel. If it was unauthorized, it would be illegal to seek a copyright since its derivitive of the character Marvel now owns and would violate Marvel’s rights. ”

From what I understand, things aren’t quite that simple. While Marvel purchased the rights to Miracleman to the character, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Gary Leach, Alan Davis, John Totleben, Rick Veitch and Mark Buckingham still have the rights to their contributions (writing or art) to Warrior/Eclipse stories, so they can’t be republished without their consent. There is also the matter of Gary Leach’s Warsmith characters, which he unquestionably own, so the Marvelman stories that feature them can’t be reprinted without his permission. Dez Skinn owns the right to Big Ben, so the Marvelman story that featured him can’t be reprinted without Skinn’s permission.

In short, from what I understand, unless all of the creators involved agree to see their work republished, Warrior/Eclipse stories will remain in limbo.

Well, Gaiman was gung-ho about it, and Buckingham made positive noises (as I believe Moore may have too). And Marvel have a working relationship with Alan Davis, who’s drawing Avengers Prime right now, so you’d think they could do a deal with him.

As for the other artists… well, if they get Moore, Gaiman, Leach, Skinn and at least a couple of the artists on board, they have the ultimate option to get issues redrawn from the original script if it’s just, say Chuck Austen (who drew one or two of the stories under a pseudonym) holding out.

[Indeed, I seem to recall talk of a company who were going after the rights from Anglo before Marvel snatched them, who were planning just to deal with the writers & other concept owners, and commission all-new art to be drawn from the scripts]

Marvelman is just a replacement/knock-off of Captain Marvel (it’s even in the name). It be funny if someone made a a knock-off of Marvelman. A knock-off of a knock-off.

chuck from ga.

August 1, 2010 at 9:03 pm

1. Does anyone read spawn still?
2. Has anyone read a spawn book since the mid 1990′s?
I agree with everyone else this judge needs to be writing comic books!

I think Todd should pay up and get this whole episode out of the way — he’s got more to offer than stupid court cases that any judge would end up ruling against him. Haunt is a far superior book to spawn now and the only image books I read have Todd on board – in some capacity – and kirkman, the rest are utter garbage.

What Todd should be doing is creating his own universe leave Image and make sure he retains all of the copyright. We want more toys, Todd. More exciting artwork and

… Move on!

The latest spawn with Randolph and mcfarlane was great! Give the guy the regular pencils gig!

@Michael Sacal

“Was Gaiman’s work on Spawn for hire? Was it a favor?”

McFarlane made an arrangement with Gaiman basically saying that Gaiman would do work on Spawn and in return McFarlane would give him as payment the Miracleman rights he believed at the time he had acquired from Eclipse as well as the physical film/pages of several unfinished issues. When the work was done, I believe he gave Gaiman the film/pages, but reneged on the rest of the agreement, deciding that he rather put Miracleman in the Spawn-verse than give transfer the rights back to Gaiman. Thus violating his contract with Gaiman.

“Didn’t McFarlane think to protect himself when he asked Gaiman and the other writers to contrbute to his comic?”

McFarlane would have protected himself and earned full rights to all of the characters that Gaiman created for him IF he had honored the terms of their contract. He chose not to. But he kept using Gaiman-created characters in the Spawn books regardless.

“Wouldn’t Medieval Spawn be as derivative of Spawn/Al Simmons as Dark Ages Spawn is of Medieval Spawn?”

Medieval Spawn was created specifically to be derivative of the original Spawn. But when a court ruled that McFarlane failed to pay Gaiman for the work he did in its creation, and was thus using the character he did not have the rights to, McFarlane chose once again not to uphold the contract and pay Gaiman (additionally now for the characters’ unauthorized use). Instead McFarlane made new characters that were essentially identical to Gaiman’s characters, though with different names, for the sole intent of not having to pay Gaiman, and thus worming around a previous court’s ruling. This judge ruled that the new “technically slightly different characters” are for all intents and purposes the same characters that Gaiman created.

“Did Gaiman create these three characters specifically for the Spawn series, or did he create them from something else and ended up using them here?”

Yes, he did create them for Spawn under terms of a pre-negotiated contract. But it was determined in court that McFarlane did not uphold his side of the contract.

“If the former, how is that any different from a writer who creates new characters for a DC or Marvel comic book? If it’s work for hire, then those two publishers own them, right?”

The difference would be in whether or not Marvel/DC decided to actually pay those ‘work for hire’ creators for the work they did. If they pay them, then yes, the company owns the characters. However, if it is proven in court they they violated contracts, ( like in the Gaiman vs. McFarlane case), then the companies will be in trouble over the use of those characters.

I hope that clears things up a little bit.

“McFarlane made an arrangement with Gaiman basically saying that Gaiman would do work on Spawn and in return McFarlane would give him as payment the Miracleman rights he believed at the time he had acquired from Eclipse as well as the physical film/pages of several unfinished issues”

You’re mixing up some things there. Gaiman’s work on McFarlane’s books precedes the Eclipse bankruptcy and any involvement of McFarlane in the Miracleman situation (Eclipse filed for bankruptcy in 1995 and the assets were sold by the court in 1996, Gaiman’s issue of SPAWN came out in 1993 and the ANGELA series in 1994/1995). Miracleman was only brought into the mire later as a proposed trade of rights which was never completed. And kind of weird that what he wanted to do was trade for rights that he’d later claim Gaiman didn’t have (but the courts disagreed) in exchange for rights it now seem’s that McFarlane didn’t really have.

Thanks; I’ll have to look into what the initial dispute decision was over again. I just knew that Miracleman has been a major point of contention between the two of them.

Okay Bob, turns out we were both right. Best I can tell, according to an ICv2 article from 2002(“Why Gaiman Sued McFarlane”), Gaiman did his work for McFarlane on some kind of deferred payment arrangement. Gaiman was not given anything for Spawn #9 or the Angela mini-series until 1997. When Image went to arrange payment his in 1997, the Miracleman deal was struck. And it was in fact that deal that was breached, according to the court in that previous trial.

who reads Spawn anymore? The print runs on those books is so miniscule anymore, factoring in the cost of printing and distributing etc, and then dividing that in half to ascertain “profit” isn’t that much. So McFarlane paid a lawyer $10,000 to avoid paying Gaiman and his charities $100. No wonder the idiot’s in bankruptcy.

@Genius Jones

So there was a payment arrangement in place but hen McFarlane offered Gaiman the rights to Marvelman and Gaiman accepted, but then McFarlane failed to deliver?

I don’t know which one of the two is the bigger idiot here; McFarlane for offering Gaiman Marvelman in lieu of money, which would have secured his ownership of the characters and saved him a decade of grief, or Gaiman for chosing Marvelman over money.

Is Marvelman this great that he is worth this much trouble? He is a pseudo Captain Marvel created by a British publisher to replace Captain Marvel after they lost the license to reprint the comic, no?

Gaiman could just create his own version of Captain Marvel/Marvelman. Paul Jenkins did it with the Sentry, no?

@ Michael Sacal: “Marvelman is just a replacement/knock-off of Captain Marvel (it’s even in the name). It be funny if someone made a a knock-off of Marvelman. A knock-off of a knock-off.”

Actually, Alan Moore and Marvel already did: Miracleman, in Moore’s Captain Britain run. Before he did Marvelman he wrote a little scene in Captain Britain where a bunch of old British heroes had been killed, including a very Marvelman-looking character whose tombstone identified him as Miracleman.

Which, of course, became Marvelman’s name when published in America.

“Best I can tell, according to an ICv2 article from 2002(“Why Gaiman Sued McFarlane”), Gaiman did his work for McFarlane on some kind of deferred payment arrangement. Gaiman was not given anything for Spawn #9 or the Angela mini-series until 1997.”

No, he did get paid back when the work was originally published, a not-excessive amount based on their sales that McFarlane apologists are convinced is more than anyone should ever be paid for writing comic books. The later owed payments (that led to the proposed Miracleman trade and the later legal dispute) are for reprints and the use of the characters in other forms (toys, film, tv).

@Tom W: “And funnily enough, if one thinks back to the creation of Image Comics, they were all about creating their own characters back then. They’d left Marvel because they didn’t want to do work-for-hire anymore. I’m not sure if they were about creator rights necessarily, but it was their USP back then.”

I don’t think McFarlane ever really wanted to end the exploitation of creators by managers, he just wanted to be the one doing the exploiting.

@Somebody:

This was back when Mick Anglo still had the rights to the character. Moore felt bad that he unknowingly violated copyright and deprived Anglo of income he deserved, so he was perfectly willing to give permission to reprint his stories so long as all the money went to Anglo. Now that Marvel bought the character from Anglo, Moore might not be inclined to be so charitable.

Brian from Canada

August 2, 2010 at 11:04 am

Todd didn’t go bankrupt from fighting this. He filed for bankruptcy protection because a judge ruled in favour of a retired hockey player that it was defamation naming a villain after him as tribute.

And the idiot was the judge because, as everyone who watches hockey knows, unless your name is Gretzky, Orr or Richard (and maybe Esposito), you aren’t making anything on your old reputation.

How $15 million damage was done is beyond me, but this is America we’re talking about.

Personally, I’m glad that Gaiman got recognition that a contract was breached and there should be some accounting. If only he could convince a judge to let him sue J.K. Rowlings now, we’d all be happy….

[Gaiman created the term "muggle" for non-magical folk before Rowlings, and it's not an easy term to come by "in coincidence," just as it can't be coincidence her books match the Worst Witch episodes broadcast while she was writing at times.]

Gaiman’s always been clear that he doesn’t think Rowling lifted from his work, and any similarities are from common inspirations. So there’s nothing to the notion of him “convincing a judge to let him sue”. In any case, Tim Hunter is owned by DC, so it would be them who would sue, not Gaiman. And I don’t recall the word “Muggle” appearing in BOOKS OF MAGIC or any other Gaiman work.

Isn’t this the same judge who ruled in April that the National Day of Prayer was “unconstitutional”–in a country (America, for God’s sake!) which was founded by Christians and whose laws were based on Biblical principles which recognized the existence and supremacy of God? Maybe this judge SHOULD be writing comic books and get off the bench…and maybe Americans should be paying a bit more attention to the God they once believed in and less attention to TV, video games, pornography, modern comics and all the other mindless diversions by which they’re presently so entranced…before this country sinks even further into the sewer.

Yeah! Wait, what?

@ Joe Shmoe

O HAI TROLL!

Michael Sacal

“Is Marvelman this great that he is worth this much trouble? He is a pseudo Captain Marvel created by a British publisher to replace Captain Marvel after they lost the license to reprint the comic, no?”

Well, the character in and of itself pretty much sucks, as you can find out for yourself reading the current 1950s Marvelman reprints that marvel is putting out. But in the 1980s and early 1990s Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman told some truly excellent stories with that character. Unfortunately the company that had the rights at the time went bankrupt just after Gaiman started his second story arc on the book. So, being able to finish that story is what he was ultimately attempting to accomplish.

@Genius Jones

Fanboyism getting in the way of business, for both parts.

Had smarter heads prevailed, this would have remained a monetary transaction and both people could have saved themselves a lot of grief and money.

You all do realize, of course, that the judge’s law clerk wrote that opinion. In fact, given the timing, it is possible that an intern wrote it, a clerk reviewed it, and then the judge reviewed it before signing it.

“Had smarter heads prevailed, this would have remained a monetary transaction and both people could have saved themselves a lot of grief and money.”

I seriously doubt that. You’re assuming that, had Gaiman said no to McFarlane’s offer of rights swap and just asked for money instead, McFarlane would have had no problem paying Gaiman. The fact that McFarlane still hasn’t paid a penny to Gaiman in the seven years since he lost the lawsuit suggests otherwise.

The money McFarlane owes Gaiman over the characters is as a result of the lawsuit Gaiman brought about only after he chose to sue McFarlane when McFarlane failed to deliver the Marvelman material.

Had McFarlane never made that offer and stuck with paying Gaiman his page rate and whatever else he would have to in order to own the characters, then this would not be an issue, correct?

The core of the problem is McFarlane offering Marvelman and Gaiman accepting.

From my reading of it, the Marvelman/Miracleman thing is an interesting wrinkle and aside, but not the core of the case, and the two parties were heading for a collision even if that hadn’t been involved (if, for example, McFarlane hadn’t bought Eclipse’s assets, and the MM rights didn’t even seem to be his primary motive in his bid to the Eclipse bankruptcy court).

The core of the problem is that there was no clear written contract prior to the creation of the characters.

Would Gaiman have sued McFarlane regardless of Marvelman being put on the table?

When was the initial suit filled in relation to the release of Spawn #9 and the offer from McFarlane to hand over what he thought he owned of Marvelman?

I mean, seriously, were Medival Spawn, Angela, and Cogliostro worth all this hasstle?

Was there some sort of demand for a Medieval Spawn movie, or an Angela movie, or a Cogliostro movie thta he just had to have his rights for the characters clear so that when the Hollywood money came pouring in he would get his fair share?

Seriously, if not Marvelman what prompted the lawsuit? Was it these three characters that no one outside of those who read Spawn know who they are?

From the timeline in the appeal court decision:

In 1996, learning that McFarlane might sell his enterprise, Gaiman decided that he needed the protection of a written contract and he asked McFarlane for one. McFarlane agreed to give him a written contract and also to pay him royalties for a statuette of Angela that McFarlane’s toy company had manufactured and sold.

After desultory negotiations, Gaiman’s lawyer wrote a letter to McFarlane’s negotiator stating that Gaiman had created the characters of Medieval Spawn, Angela, and Cogliostro not as work for hire but “pursuant to the terms of an oral agreement under which Mr. McFarlane agreed that Mr. Gaiman would be compensated on the same terms as set forth in Mr. Gaiman’s DC Comics Agreements dated August 1, 1993.” This was a surprising interpretation of the oral agreement, since in it McFarlane had promised to treat Gaiman better than DC Comics treated him; but as nothing turns on this interpretation we’ll ignore it. The letter goes on to “demand” that McFarlane “immediately forward all monies which are currently owed to Mr. Gaiman in accordance with the terms of the DC Agreement.” We’ll call this the demand letter.

Direct negotiations between Gaiman and McFarlane ensued. A tentative agreement was reached that McFarlane would pay royalties on the statuettes on the same terms as Gaiman would have gotten from DC Comics but that Gaiman would exchange his rights in Medieval Spawn and Cogliostro for McFarlane’s rights in another comic book character, Miracleman. Once the exchange was made, Gaiman would no longer receive royalties on Medieval Spawn and Cogliostro.

For the rest of 1997 and 1998, McFarlane sent Gaiman royalty checks totaling about $16,000, presumably on account of the statuettes and the paperback books, together with royalty reports that referred to Gaiman as a “co-creator” of Medieval Spawn, Angela, and Cogliostro. On February 14, 1999, however, Gaiman received a letter from McFarlane announcing that McFarlane was “officially rescind[ing] any previous offers I have placed on the table.” The letter offered Gaiman the following deal on a take-it-orleave-it basis: Gaiman would relinquish “all rights to Angela” in exchange for “all rights to Miracle Man,” and “all rights to Medieval Spawn and Cogliostro shall continue to be owned by Todd McFarlane Productions.” The statement “all rights to Medieval Spawn and Cogliostro shall continue to be owned by Todd McFarlane Productions” was an unambiguous denial of Gaiman’s copyright interest and therefore is the last date on which his claim could have accrued and the three-year copyright statute of limitations, 17 U.S.C. § 507(b), thus have begun to run. This suit was brought in January of 2002–a month short of three years after Gaiman’s receipt of McFarlane’s letter. By the time of trial, Spawn was up to issue No. 120 and had spawned a large number of derivative works, including posters, trading cards, clothing, the statuettes, an animated series on HBO, video games, and a motion picture. Many of these derivative works include all three characters to which Gaiman contributed, so that the financial stakes in the case are considerable.

Read more: http://vlex.com/vid/gaiman-neil-v-mcfarlane-todd-20111002#ixzz0va9uw3ug

Interesting, thanks.

The moral of the story is, always get it in writing.

never liked todd, he always faulted the business dealings by Marvel Comics but it mirrored on what he practiced in his company.

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