This year marks the 20th anniversary of Image Comics, the company formed by a group of artists who left the security of work-for-hire comics to create and own their own comics. It’s been 20 years of ups and downs, but one thing that has remained consistent is a focus on creator-owned work.
With 2011 in the history books and their big anniversary kicking off with the first Image Expo, a new ad campaign and high-profile series by big-name creators like Brian K. Vaughan, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer and many more, I thought it was a good time to chat with Publisher Eric Stephenson about the state of the company, the year that was, their upcoming plans and anything else he was willing to talk about. My thanks to Eric for taking the time to answer my questions.
JK Parkin: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview, Eric. Incidentally, another feature we’re running as a part of our anniversary bash is one where we asked various comic industry folks about what they’re looking forward to in 2012. I got one back yesterday where the answer was basically “everything from Image Comics.” I find that interesting, because there’s a lot of diversity in Image’s line and although I think you guys probably publish something for every kind of taste, I wouldn’t think that every title would appeal to every comic reader. And yet I also find myself checking out at least the first issue of everything you guys have done lately. So from your perspective, what’s the unifying factor (or factors) right now among your titles, if there is one?
Stephenson: I think the main thing is that we’re moving forward and creating new things. We’re not content to just recycle the same old ideas month in and month out and then market it all as brand new. If this was another publisher, we’d be debuting our latest spin-off of The Walking Dead in March, but instead, we’re launching a new series by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, a new series by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra, a new series by Joe Keatinge and Andre Szymanowicz, and so on. For 20 years, Image has put its faith in creative people, and it’s the power of their imagination that links all our titles together, now more than ever.
In the days following last week’s ruling in the long-running copyright dispute between Todd McFarlane and Neil Gaiman, we heard from Gaiman, countless fans on both sides, and an Image Comics founder. However, we didn’t get comment from McFarlane — that is, until last night.
“Neil Gaiman has the absolute right to defend his position,” he wrote on Twitter. “That’s one of the great privileges we all have in this country.”
That’s it; just two sentences. That’s in stark contrast to Erik Larsen, who has tweeted on the subject more than 50 times since early Monday. His flurry of comments, which were largely critical of Gaiman, drew a few replies from the writer.
“Waves. Hi Erik,” Gaiman tweeted last night. “When Todd comes out of bankruptcy you owe me $40,000. [...] Of course @erikjlarsen is grumpy over me winning again. He ran Image when the 1st round of the case gave me a $40,000 judgment against them. Last time @erikjlarsen blamed the loss not on Todd breaking the law, but on a female jury (& now on a female judge?) http://bit.ly/cbrs8i.”
This morning, Larsen fired back at Gaiman’s initial tweet with, “what did *I* ever do to you? Seriously. What was it that *I* personally did to you which would warrant such a thing?” Minutes later, he added: “How did you ever come up with Spawn on a horse, @neilhimself?”
When one Twitter follower, Brandon Fox, replied, “Dude, a judge, a jury, & the court of public opinion ALL believe @neilhimself deserves a portion of a characters he CO-created,” Larsen answered: “and a jury decided OJ Simpson didn’t kill his wife. What’s your point?”
“The Neil Gaiman thing perplexes me because it seems so unfair. The characters he created were clearly derivative of the ones Todd created. How anybody can look at Medieval Spawn and side with Neil just shows their bias against Todd. It’s Spawn on a horse, for cryin’ out loud! Everything Neil created was derived from Todd’s creations and all of it was designed by Todd. Claiming ownership just seems really unfair. Now Todd is forced to have people sign work-for-hire contracts. It’s sad — but that’s the price we all have to pay.”
– Image Comics partner Erik Larsen, on last week’s ruling that Todd McFarlane
owes Neil Gaiman a share of profits from the derivative characters Dark Ages Spawn, Domina and Tiffany
Legal | The big news over the weekend was that a federal judge ruled in the latest chapter of the prolonged Neil Gaiman/Todd McFarlane legal battle that the characters Dark Ages Spawn, Domina and Tiffany are simply derivatives of their earlier creations Medieval Spawn and Angela. Therefore, Gaiman has a right to a share of profits from the properties.
Maggie Thompson, who has been covering every twist and turn of the case from the beginning, offers her take on the ruling. Meanwhile, John Jackson Miller revisits sales estimates of the Spawn issues written by Gaiman, Alan Moore, Dave Sim and Frank Miller. [MaggieThompson.com, The Comichron]
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.
Legal | A federal judge in Madison, Wisconsin, heard testimony Monday from Neil Gaiman, Todd McFarlane and Dark Ages Spawn writer Brian Holguin, but didn’t rule on Gaiman’s claim that he’s owed royalties from the characters Dark Ages Spawn, Domina and Tiffany.
In 2002, a jury found that Gaiman co-owned the copyrights Medieval Spawn, Angela and Cogliostro, which he created in 1993 for McFarlane’s Spawn series. Since then the two creators have attempted, with little success, to determine how much money Gaiman is owed for the three characters.
On Monday, Gaiman testified that he thinks Dark Ages Spawn is merely a copy of Medieval Spawn, while Domina and Tiffany are copies of Angela. Holguin, who created Dark Ages Spawn, said any similarities to Gaiman’s character were unintentional, while McFarlane argued that all of the versions of Spawn share certain features. The judge gave both parties until June 25 to submit additional arguments. [The Associated Press]
In the latest teaser from Image Comics, Todd McFarlane’s Spawn declares that he, too, is a member of the Guardians of the Globe. He joins Invincible — revealed on Monday — although judging from the tongue-in-cheek quote, it’s not willingly: “Todd lost a bet so he’s loaning me out for this.”