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Comics A.M. | Minnesota GOP leader apologizes to Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman

Politics | Minnesota House Majority Leader Matt Dean has apologized for calling Neil Gaiman a “pencil-necked little weasel,” but contends the author and comics writer should return the $45,000 fee he received in May 2010 for speaking at the Stillwater, Minn., library (Gaiman donated the money, minus agents fees, to charity). Dean’s original remarks were made during a discussion of how the state’s tax-generated Legacy funds for the arts are spent. He was quoted as saying that Gaiman, “who I hate,” is a “pencil-necked little weasel who stole $45,000 from the state of Minnesota.”

Now, however, the Republican lawmaker has dialed back the rhetoric while standing by his underlying criticism. “My mom is staying with us right now,” he tells Minnesota Public Radio. My wife’s out of town, and she was very angry this morning and always taught me to not be a name caller. And I shouldn’t have done it, and I apologize.”

Gaiman, who responded to Dean’s initial comments early Wednesday on Twitter, has since expanded on his remarks on his website, writing in part, “I don’t like the idea that a politician is telling people that charging a market wage for their services is stealing.” [Minnesota Public Radio, Underwire]

Comics | A psychologist has been brought in to a Houston elementary school after a group of fourth-graders created a comic book allegedly depicting them holding a gun to the head of one of their classmates. [My Fox Houston]

Flashpoint #1

Publishing | Brian Truitt previews DC Comics’ upcoming Flashpoint event. “Naturally, everything we’re trying to do is to sell as many comics as possible because that’s the business we’re in,” says Co-Publisher Dan DiDio. “Creatively what it does is it gives us a chance to freshen the pot and think of something. We’re telling continuous fiction, so it’s important for us to continue moving on in that fashion.” [USA Today]

Conventions | Robot 6 contributor Brigid Alverson wraps up last weekend’s Boston Comic Con, which saw attendance increase from 4,100 in 2010 to about 6,000 this year. [Publishers Weekly]

Creators | Dan Clowes talks about his latest graphic novel Mr. Wonderful. [Speakeasy]

Creators | Scott Christiansen profiles illustrator Brad Rader, whose graphic novel Fogtown is nominated for a Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Media Award. [Anchorage Press]

Creators | Laura Lyall spotlights Scott Forbes (Forgetless, 27). [Here]

Creators | The National Post’s literary blog continues its mini-profiles of creators attending this weekend’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival: Dave Kellett, Coffee Spoons Comics, Gabby Schulz, Jordan Shiveley, Meghan Murphy, Niki Smith, Jess Fink and R. Sikoryak. [The Afterword]

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38 Comments

BOOOOOOOOO Minnesota republican guy Matt Dean. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Shame on you!

If he wasnt right then why did Gaiman only then donate the $45k to charity? But I guess rather than report the story lets just report the name calling that the story led up to… If you are going to publish a nonsensical b.s. article why not just make the headline Republicans Hate Comics. But then again if you new the first thing about journalism I guess you wouldnt be writing for a comic book blog. :P

Gaiman donated the money to charity a year ago.

FYI, our comments guidelines:

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No need for personal attacks, Rich … if you don’t like what we’re doing here, don’t come back.

Captain Obvious

May 5, 2011 at 7:34 am

@ Rich: The Gaimen article was originally published in the MPR, and posted here on a comic blog because it is a comic-related story. The guy for Robot 6 didn’t write the original article, so what’s your beef with him? You say it’s nonsensical, but this is a comic book related site, posting comic related news. What doesn’t make sense to you?

And you wish you could write for a comic book blog, so why the smug comments?

I can read better than you, Rich.

Meow.

Matt Dean was probably really pissed because he could have put that money into his OWN pocket. Politicians have no use for “pencil-necked geeks” that put money in the hands of those who need it.

The congressman is an idiot because the Stillwater incident could have made a great talking point for his (presumably) conservative economics. Instead, he turned it into a meaningless slander, obscuring the real problem and reflecting poorly on himself and his party.

Still, Gaiman is dead wrong to try to cast what went down in Stillwater as capitalism hard at work. I have no problem with Gaiman charging his fee, but a government branch wasting money it’s legally compelled to waste is hardly what I’d call a free market transaction.

The Congressman lied about the amount of the fee, omits the nature of speaking fees in general (how much does Sara Palin make per appearance) and left out both where these funds came from and the fact Gaiman donated it to charity.

In short he didn’t apologies, he used name calling to get away with lying. A typical Republican tactic.

ohhh…. Drama!

I’m pretty sure Gaiman has more integrity than 99.9% of American politicians. Politicians in general, for that matter. Nobody steals more money from the average taxpayer than Politicians.

Rollo Tomassi

May 5, 2011 at 8:18 am

Heh. If the name-calling hadn’t worked, Dean was going to wait until recess and then push Gaiman down on the playground blacktop.

The GOP is always good for a laugh.

Tom Fitzpatrick

May 5, 2011 at 8:20 am

Wonder if that comic story showing kids holding a gun to other kids head, is based on Warren Ellis recently published Hellblazer story “Shoot” that DC/Vertigo originally didn’t publish years ago.

Simon DelMonte

May 5, 2011 at 8:24 am

I have to say, there is just no logical reason a cash-strapped local library should be spending that kind of money on any speakers. Something is out of whack here, even if Gaiman did nothing wrong and even if the offending politician was a moron.

Besides, when was the last time any politician apologized for such comments? These days, it’s almost a badge of honor to never, ever retract a comment, no matter how mean spirited and stupid.

“If he wasnt right then why did Gaiman only then donate the $45k to charity? But I guess rather than report the story lets just report the name calling that the story led up to… If you are going to publish a nonsensical b.s. article why not just make the headline Republicans Hate Comics. But then again if you new the first thing about journalism I guess you wouldnt be writing for a comic book blog. ”

Gaiman actually told charities in advance, and the people giving him the money, that he was going to be giving the £45k to charity, and this is after the people who wanted him to come and speak talking to his representative, who told them said figure, and they still didn’t object. The fact of the matter is that this Republican is a complete tool who didn’t know all the facts.

@ those who find it wasteful

As has been reported elsewhere, the library had the budget money allocated for the specific purpose of bringing in authors, and they chose to spend it on Gaiman. Yes, they probably could have brought in 10 lesser-known authors for the same amount, but they chose to spend it the way they did. So at worst their offense was not maximizing their dollars.

But if you’re saying it was an outright waste of money, then you’re basically saying libraries shouldn’t have a budget to bring in authors to speak. And I respectfully disagree with that.

Irwin Schwab

May 5, 2011 at 8:57 am

Renowned bigot and torture apologist Chuck Dixon also does not like Neil Gaiman.

I just find it amazing that this rep is using his “My mother raised me better” excuse…well she apparently didn’t if you say what you did on the radio and retracting the statement as soon as you can. He lost the geek vote, such a shame. (not really)

“If you are going to publish a nonsensical b.s. article why not just make the headline Republicans Hate Comics.”

Poor little victims. Conservatives always cry “persecution” when the truth is reported.

@Paul Allen: I don’t think anyone is saying libraries shouldn’t have a budget to bring in speakers. Their offense, as you say, is “not maximizing their dollars” which I would revise to read “not maximizing dollars taken from the tax payers.”

This is a pretty bad offense, because if you grant (1) that the library would get almost as much value (let’s say half as much) from a lesser-known author, and (2) that the library could have brought in a lesser-known author for one tenth the price, then their spending $40,000 on Gaiman is tantamount to spending $8000 on two lesser-knowns, and leaving the other 32,000 tax-payer dollars on the street.

Also, the issue, at least for me, isn’t so much that the library spent carelessly, but that budget policy from the government actively encourages this kind of spending (i.e. “use it or lose it”).

Kenneth Love

May 5, 2011 at 9:16 am

OK, I can’t necessarily speak for Minnesota, but, in most cases, state funding to libraries is very finely detailed out on what it can be spent for. Payments made to guest speakers are generally part of that detail. It’s at the library’s discretion as to who to hire, but, should the library not spend the money allotted for guests, it can not be spent elsewhere, as Mr. Dean and several people here seem to imply. Nor does it roll over into next years budget, so it can’t be used there.

As a matter of course, if a library or library district does not spend all of the money allotted to them in a fiscal period, the state will likely take away what it considers to be the “extra”, if not more, in the next budget, especially in these “cash-strapped” times.

As a result, it is typically to the library districts’ future benefit to spend all of the money that the state gives it in a given year. Including the money allotted for guests.

As the payee, it is Gaiman’s right to spend the money however he so chooses. If he had wanted to spend it on a mountain of ant farms, that would have been well within his rights. The fact that he gave the money to several charities speaks more to his character than the ant farms, but your mileage may vary.

Regardless, Deans assertion that Gaiman “stole” the money is pure political rhetoric; in addition, his implication that the money could have been better spent by the library in question completely ignores the fact that the money likely HAD to be spent on guests or the they would have lost it and likely not gotten it back next year. Nor does it speak well of Deans understanding of the state funding system that he attempts to blame Gaiman for what is, in his perception, a flawed spending philosophy.

It took his mammy to make him realize what he said was wrong? Please. He’s just trying to stop Gaiman from filing a slander lawsuit. What the congressman said was completely false and paints a negative image of Gaiman.

Darth Commenter

May 5, 2011 at 9:36 am

Obviously Dean’s a McFarlane fan :)

Could someone name the charities?

Oh, and just to think about how much good that 45k would have done if the Politicians were able to use it to get education on track, fight crime, and fix roads. Why, you could have hired a third of a teacher OR a fourth of a cop OR fixed about a fifth of a mile!

Its scary when people in the one job where ‘thinking before you speak’ should REALLY be a top concern that you hear about people doing things like this. I’m not slamming Republicans, just the man who spoke for himself in defense of nothing.

“Could someone name the charities?”

In his latest website post, Gaiman characterizes the two charities as “a sexual abuse one and a library/author one.”

The Fourth Man

May 5, 2011 at 10:29 am

@Cass & @Kenneth Love The money in question came from the Minnesota Legacy Fund. This is a fund that the voters approved back in 2008 as an amendment to the state constitution to provide money for things like parks and the arts. The legacy fund gave the Stillwater library the money to bring in speakers like Gaiman to promote literacy and the library itself. By law the library couldn’t use that money on stuff like computers or employee salaries, the Legacy fund was meant to be used to give people in rural and small communities some of the same cultural opprotunities that people in big cities have not pay for infrastructure. If they didn’t spend the money not only would they have lost it, they would not have gotten the money for the next year to spend on future speakers.

Gaiman & the Stillwater didn’t do anything wrong (at least nothing that warrants being called a thief and a pencil necked weasel). They were just using the money that the voters had given them the way they thought would best benefit the library. Obviously some people disagree and think it’s a waste of money. Which is fine and it’s a good debate to have considering the financial state the country is in right now.

Unfortunately Dean chose to go the low road and cast Gaiman and the library as villians out to steal honest taxpayer’s money. Because in American politics nowadays we can’t merely disagree on the issues, we have to have heroes and villians. Good guys and Bad guys. Kinda like a comic book.

@Cass: I’m not terribly convinced that $45k to bring in an internationally renowned author is a poor investment. I seriously question the math you’re using; it seems like a jump to assume an author that commands one-tenth of Gaiman’s fees is going to bring in fully half of the people that Gaiman himself would. The fact is, someone like Gaiman is going to put a hell of a lot of butts in library seats, and that’s a good thing both for the library itself and for interest in the arts in general.

Good for Neil Gaiman for taking the high road on this. I wonder, however, how Mr. Dean would feel about facing charges of slander. Someone buy that man a dictionary.

@Jon: I mostly meant for the math to demonstrate how “not maximizing dollars” could translate to a serious waste of money. I don’t actually believe those numbers provide any kind of precise, calibrated representation of Gaiman’s value. That said, I still feel it was a waste of money at Gaiman’s asking price.

@The Fourth Man: Thanks for clarifying how the money is actually distributed. I agree that Dean took the low road and should be roundly criticized for it as well as for not knowing how the funding in his own state works.

I’m way beyond tired of politicians (and pundits) who choose to use sound bites designed to play up peoples’ rage and anger instead of actual facts or knowledge.

Back to Rich: the politician was criticized for saying very stupid things. He was not criticized for being a Republican. Stop playing the paranoid victim card for rightwingers (and others), when it isn’t warranted.

The GOP are still attacking comic book writers/artiest!?

*twitchtwitch*

May 6, 2011 at 5:09 am

Im glad to see some sense for once in the comments section, and in the parts where thats lacking, intelligentish debate

Sarah Palin charges $150,000.00 to speak somewhere and she keeps that money herself.

When compared to the Infinitely more interesting and entertaining Neil Gaiman, $45,000.00 is actually a bargain.

Also, I have to ask, Is Dean related to Michelle Bachman? Or, does Minnissota just breed idiots?

Um, this whole thing is just silly – we live in a free market system – nobody went and twisted Neil’s (or their) arms to do this deal – they asked, he gave a price, they accepted. That is as far as it goes on the morality and ethics scales – there is nothing else to talk about with it.

That he contributed the funds to charity – sure, that is nice and speaks to his personal character – but it is not necessary under any context as he earned the money, pure and simple. If he went and bought a sports car or hired strippers for a week or threw the money out the window to watch it flitter off, it wouldn’t make any moral or ethical difference in this discussion.

But, my hope is that the ridiculous controversy has helped Neil gain new fans who didn’t know about his stellar work! So I think he wins even more because of this.

hippy slayer

May 7, 2011 at 2:51 am

keep your liberal politics out of my entertainment gosh darn it!!! :)

Spending tax money on this shite when most cities and states are having very real money problems seems(please note I said seems) wasteful. The argument that they had to use it or lose it just points out how the inmates are running the asylum. They should use private donations for this stuff and use the tax dollars for neccesary things.

Like keeping corporations on the welfare teat.

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