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The comic book LP cover art parodies of Uwe De Witt

German artist Uwe De Witt draws mainstream comics characters in an expressionistic but commercial style. He’s clearly a fan of the comics from the schools of Ben Templesmith, Bill Sienkiewicz and Simon Bisley. As well as publishing new images of Spawn every Monday, he regularly posts pastiches of old album art with comic book characters inserted into them. Some work better than others, when the original cover image and character choice make sense together, or as a visual pun: other times it’s just drawing bloomin’ X-Force for its own sake, really. But when it works, it really works. More examples below. (via Dangerous Minds)

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Two hot-button topics converge in Spawn #225

You may have heard that America will hold another presidential election in November. You might also remember four years ago, when we last held one of these big events that ran through all 50 titles, er, states, and everyone and their brother featured Barack Obama on the cover of their comic or within its pages.

We haven’t seen quite the frenzy from the comic industry this election season, but Todd McFarlane is jumping in feet first. As noted in the Image Comics solicitations that came out earlier this week, Spawn #225 will feature two different endings based on the results of the election. Here’s the text:

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Comics A.M. | Todd McFarlane Productions emerges from bankruptcy

Todd McFarlane

Legal | Todd McFarlane Productions has emerged from bankruptcy after more than seven years, having paid more than $2.2 million to creditors, according to court documents dug up by Daniel Best. Of that, $1.1 million was part of McFarlane’s settlement with Neil Gaiman, which brought to a close the decade-long legal battle over the rights to Medieval Spawn, the heavenly warrior Angela and other characters (it’s unknown how much of that disbursement was eaten up by legal fees and how much actually went to Gaiman; the writer has publicly stated he gives money won in the proceedings to charity). Todd McFarlane Productions filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2004 following the $15 million court award to former NHL player Tony Twist, who sued over the use of his name in Spawn for the mob enforcer Antonio “Tony Twist” Twistelli. McFarlane and Twist settled in 2007 for $5 million. [20th Century Danny Boy]

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McFarlane to pay Gaiman $382,000 following Spawn settlement [Updated]

Todd McFarlane will pay Neil Gaiman $382,000 in the wake of the settlement in January of their nearly decade-long legal battle over the rights to Medieval Spawn, Angela and other characters.

According to documents obtained by Daniel Best, a federal bankruptcy judge last week ordered the release of the funds placed into escrow in 2008 under McFarlane’s reorganization plan to offset potential losses from the lawsuit. Todd McFarlane Productions filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2004 following the $15 million court award to former NHL player Tony Twist, who sued over the use of his name in Spawn for the mob enforcer Antonio “Tony Twist” Twistelli. McFarlane and Twist settled in 2007 for $5 million.

Best notes that with interest, Gaiman should receive somewhere around $464,000, although much of that will likely go to legal expenses. The writer has publicly stated that he gives money won in the proceedings to charity.

The agreement reached in late January gives Gaiman 50-percent ownership of Spawn #9 and #26, as well as the three issues of the 1994 Angela miniseries, ending a fierce court fight over the characters he and McFarlane created together some two decades ago. A federal jury had already found in 2002 that Gaiman has a copyright interest in the characters, but the subsequent bankruptcy of Todd McFarlane Productions left the writer unpaid. McFarlane was dealt another blow in 2010, when a federal judge ruled that Dark Ages Spawn, Domina and Tiffany are mere derivatives of Medieval Spawn and Angela, meaning that Gaiman is also the co-owner of those copyrights and entitled to one-half of the profits generated by the characters.

UPDATE: Gaiman wrote on Twitter, “that simply says the escrow money has come out of escrow. I could have been paid none of it or ten times it.”

Quote of the day | ‘They only sue when there’s money on the table’

“I just went, Robert, what you’re about to get involved in is a pain in the ass, take it from me. But there is a silver lining in that you’re doing something that matters. Because nobody ever sues anybody over something that doesn’t matter. So, you know, if your book was selling four copies, it wouldn’t matter what agreement everybody thinks they have. Nobody cares. They only sue when there’s money on the table. There’s money on the table because you’re doing something successful. You have to get a thick skin, and in a weird way, if people keep coming at you, and lawyers keep coming at you, that means you’re doing something successful, that you’re enough of a target for them.”

Todd McFarlane, who last month settled a decade-long legal battle with Neil Gaiman, relating his advice to Robert Kirkman, who’s being sued by former Walking Dead collaborator Tony Moore

Image Expo tickets showcase ‘Experience Creativity’ campaign

Image Comics has revealed the ticket designs for its first Image Expo, a three-day convention held Feb. 24-26 at the Oakland Convention Center in Oakland, California. Conceived by Jonathan Chan, the tickets spotlight the publisher’s new “Experience Creativity” marketing campaign with five designs featuring creators Ed Brubaker (Fatale), Jonathan Hickman (The Manhattan Projects), Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead), Todd McFarlane (Spawn) and Brian K. Vaughan (Saga).

Check out the rest of Chan’s designs below. Tickets may be purchased on the Image Expo website.

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Comics A.M. | Matt Groening donates $500,000 for UCLA chair

Matt Groening, by Matt Groening

Creators | The Simpsons creator Matt Groening has given $500,000 toward the creation of a chair in animation at the University of California, Los Angeles. The Matt Groening Chair in Animation at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television will “allow visiting master artists to teach classes” and “bring working professionals with wide-ranging expertise” to work with students. The cartoonist, a graduate of Evergreen State College in Washington, makes an annual $50,000 donation to UCLA to help students who create socially conscious animated shorts. [The New York Times]

Legal | Attorneys for comics retailer and convention organizer Michael George, who’s serving a life sentence for the 1990 murder of his first wife Barbara, made arguments Monday on a motion for acquittal or a new trial — that would make George’s third — on the basis that there was insufficient evidence for conviction, and that the prosecutor raised a new issue in closing arguments. [Detroit Free Press]

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Comics A.M. | 30 years of Diamond; Angoulême memories

Diamond Comic Distributors

Publishing | John Jackson Miller profiles Diamond Comic Distributors to mark its 30th anniversary, offering a timeline of major events in the company’s history. [Comichron]

Conventions | Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai and AdHouse Publisher Chris Pitzer both report on their experiences at the Angoulême International Comics Festival. [Angoulême]

Retailing | Dark Horse Publisher Mike Richardson will give the keynote address at this week’s ComicsPRO Annual Membership Meeting. [NewsOK]

Retailing | Hypno Comics will open Saturday in Ventura, California. [Ventura County Star]

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Comics A.M. | Neil Gaiman comments on end of Spawn dispute

Spawn #26

Legal | Neil Gaiman comments briefly on the settlement agreement that ends his decade-long legal dispute with Todd McFarlane over Medieval Spawn, Angela and Cogliostro, and a handful of derivative characters: “The main thing is, I feel like an awful lot of good things have come out of it. … I think the various decisions, particularly the [Judge] Posner decision, were huge in terms of what the nature of dual copyright in comics is. What is copyrightable in comics is now something that there is a definite legal precedent for. There were a lot of things that were … misty in copyright [law] that are now much clearer. And it’s of benefit to the creator.”

While the details of the settlement are confidential, it’s known that Gaiman and McFarlane now share ownership of Spawn #9 and #26, as well as the first three issues of an Angela spin-off series. [Comic Riffs]

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‘Moving forward and creating new things': Eric Stephenson on Image’s 2011 and 2012

Eric Stephenson

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.

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Ruling in Gaiman vs. McFarlane case spawns a Twitter feud

Spawn: The Dark Ages #1

Spawn: The Dark Ages #1

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?)”

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?”

Quote of the day | Erik Larsen, on the latest Gaiman vs. McFarlane ruling

Spawn: The Dark Ages #12

Spawn: The Dark Ages #12

“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

Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Spawn #9

Spawn #9

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. [, The Comichron]

Organizations | Friends of Lulu appears to have been spared from dissolution after volunteers stepped forward to fill board positions. [Occasional Superheroine]

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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.

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Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Spawn #9

Spawn #9

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]

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