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Grumpy Old Fan | Used universes

Scott Lobdell, are you listening?

We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of the New 52, and I anticipate doing the usual examinations of what worked and what didn’t. Until then, however, this preliminary post will try to organize my general impressions.

I have tried to keep an open mind about the various changes, but apparently I keep coming back to the New 52-niverse’s lack of meaningful fictional history. Much of this comes from the five-year timeline, but a good bit of it is due to storytelling styles. While origin stories can generate a nominal setting, including a regular supporting cast, many of the New-52 books held off for various reasons — like readers pretty much knowing the origins at the outset — and with today’s practical concerns, many books spent their first 12 issues on extended arcs.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been talking about this as a function of “idea generation,” but I think it is a more elemental concept. Specifically, it seems like I have been conditioned to expect a certain amount of continuity in a modern shared universe. Furthermore (and more troubling), I suspect the simple acknowledgment of preexisting continuity helps mitigate whatever weaknesses may exist in the stories themselves.

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Comics A.M. | Todd McFarlane cover sells for record $657,250

The Amazing Spider-Man #328

Auctions | Todd McFarlane’s original cover art for The Amazing Spider-Man #328 sold at auction Thursday for $657,250, shattering the record for a single piece of American comics art set last year by a splash page from The Dark Knight Returns #3 ($448,125). However, the price falls well short of the $1.6 million shell out last month for the original cover art for Tintin in America. A 9.8 graded copy of X-Men #1 was also sold by Heritage Auctions for $492,937.50, more than twice the previous record for that comic. [ICv2]

Publishing | Lily Rothman takes a look at iVerse’s newly announced comics-only crowdfunding platform Comics Accelerator, which will allow immediate delivery of digital rewards in a more sophisticated format than an e-mailed PDF and cap its share of the take at $2,500. As Laura Morley of Womanthology points out, it can go both ways: Being on Kickstarter, a trusted platform with wide visibility, helped boost the project, but on the other hand, “Any site that’s able to take advantage of the fact that comics online already work as a big community, as a place where people talk to their friends and promote things they’re interested in, is likely to do well.” [Time]

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McFarlane teams up with Pearl Jam again for concert poster

Todd McFarlane and Pearl Jam have a lot in common: Both helped to change the shape of their respective industries in the 1990s, both are still doing their thing 20 years later, both headlined Lollapalooza — wait, what? Actually, McFarlane directed the video for Pearl Jam’s “Do the Evolution,” so they do have a history.

Now the two have come together again, as McFarlane returned to his art table to create a concert poster for the band’s July 10 show in Copenhagen. Hey, isn’t that Medieval Spawn?

The signed-and-numbered limited edition poster will be for sale from Fighting for Dreams and the Spawn store starting today at noon Pacific.

SDCC ’12 | Sneak peek at The Image Revolution documentary

Ahead of tonight’s presentation at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Wired has unveiled a clip from Comics in Focus: The Image Revolution, the documentary chronicling the rise and influence of Image Comics produced by the team behind Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods and Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts.

Funded in part through Kickstarter, the documentary from director Patrick Meaney, Sequart and Respect! Films traces the 20-year history of Image, “from its founders’ work at Marvel, through Image’s early days, the ups and downs of the ’90s, and the publisher’s new generation of properties like The Walking Dead.”

“And I have said over and over and over, and I will continue to say it to this day,” Image co-founder Todd McFarlane says in the clip (below). “That the writers cannot duplicate and replicate what we did because the writers are incapable of doing one thing that we did: Stop writing for fuckin’ Marvel and DC, and you will succeed.”

Meaney and producer Jordan Rennert will offer a look at the documentary tonight at 8 at Comic-Con. That’s followed Sunday by Image Comics’ 20th anniversary panel, featuring founders Marc Silvestri, Rob Liefeld, Jim Valentino, Whilce Portacio and Erik Larsen, and current partner Robert Kirkman.

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Ottley, McFarlane, Quitely and Silvestri cover The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead #100, by Todd McFarlane

The Hollywood Reporter has debuted the variant cover created by Invincible artist Ryan Ottley for the landmark 100th issue of The Walking Dead, the acclaimed horror series by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn. The variant joins those newly revealed from Todd McFarlane, Frank Quitely and Marc Silvestri, as well as the wraparound by Adlard.

“When Robert asked me to draw a cover for  The Walking Dead, he said the magic words: ‘draw whatever you want.’ So I was totally excited to do something ‘action-y’ with Michonne and her sword,” Ottley said. “She’s always been my favorite character in the book, and soon to be in the TV show as well. And it’s always fun drawing zombie gore, especially with swords!”

Comic Book Resources will reveal Bryan Hitch’s variant cover Tuesday morning. Another by Sean Phillips will likely debut elsewhere. The Walking Dead #100 arrives July 11.

Kirkman and Ottley’s Invincible should reach its 100th issue in January. Check out the covers by Ottley, Quitely and Silvestri below (sorry, TV Guide ran McFarlane’s postage-stamp size).

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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. | 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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Talking Comics with Tim | Ryan Stegman

Scarlet Spider

Say the name “Scarlet Spider” to a longtime Marvel reader and you’re bound to get a range of reactions. But come the new year, Marvel is hoping all the reactions will be positive and numerous when the new Scarlet Spider series launches on January11. As recently confirmed in Marvel’s Point One one-shot, the new Scarlet Spider is none other than Kaine, the Peter Parker clone recently cured during the Spider Island event. Unlike many of Marvel’s series set in New York, Scarlet Spider will enjoy the unique cityscape of Houston, Texas — one of many factors that has me looking forward to reading it. Before the series gets started though, series artist Ryan Stegman stepped away from his drawing table to take part in this Q&A. In addition to this interview, CBR also is offering a preview of the first issue. After reading this (and enjoying the preview), be sure to check out the recent installment of Comic Book Resources’ “Axel-in-Charge,” where Alonso interviewed Stegman.

Tim O’Shea: How did Marvel approach you about joining the Scarlet Spider creative team? Was getting to work with [series writer] Chris Yost a deciding factor in joining the project?

Ryan Stegman: I had been working on an issue of Amazing Spider-Man and I made it clear as I could to editorial that this is the type of stuff I wanted to be doing. I practically begged. And Steve Wacker said that he would love to have me back and but that ASM was booked up artist-wise for the foreseeable future. I couldn’t argue this, because the artists that they have are fantastic. So one day, out of the blue he called me up and told me about this idea and I was sold. No offense to Chris, but that wasn’t a selling point because I think I was hired before him! Chris turned out to be the icing on the cake.

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Robot 6 Q&A | Art Comix pay tribute to the 1990s in Rub the Blood

Rub the Blood

One of the more interesting projects to pop up on Kickstarter lately is Rub the Blood, “an Art Comix tabloid that explores the lasting influence (for better or worse) of the Early 90′s Collector Boom comics of Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, etc. on today’s most fringe underground cartoonists.”

Co-edited by Pat Aulisio and Ian Harker, the project fittingly draws its name from a 1990s cover gimmick and features contributions from a variety of art comix pros. In addition to Aulisio and Harker, contributors include Josh Bayer, William Cardini, Victor Cayro, PB Kain, Keenan Marshall Keller, Peter Lazarski, Benjamin Marra, Jim Rugg, Thomas Toye and Mickey Z. Rub the Blood will debut at the 2011 Brooklyn Comics & Graphics Fest.

Aulisio and Harker were kind enough to share a few thoughts and details about the project and its inspiration with me; my thanks for their time.

JK: Where did the idea originate to put this anthology together?

Ian: It’s been something we’ve kicked around in various shapes and forms for a few years now. The joke was that one day Rob Liefeld will be just as adored among the art comix crowd as Fletcher Hanks is now.

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Art comix creators pay tribute to 90s Image artists with Rub The Blood

The early 1990s era of the founding artists of Image and their lead-up work at Marvel brought a monumental change in the industry. Now a group of fans are banding together to pay tribute to the early 90′s comic book and the works of Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane and others. The thing is, they’re not the type of fans you’d expect.

Rub The Blood is a unique anthology put together by Secret Prison editor Ian Harker and Yeah Dude Comics‘ Pat Aulisio, pulling together some of the most esoteric of Art Comix vets as well as more well-known creators like Jim Rugg (Afrodisiac) and Benjamin Marra (Night Business). The book’s title is a not-so-subtle homage to an early 1990s cover promotion for Rob Liefeld’s Bloodstrike #1 where the blood depicted on the cover had the feel of velvet. Rub The Blood will debut at the 2011 Brooklyn Comics & Graphics Fest in early December, and will presumably be available at subsequent conventions.

I intended to post this last week as the project was soliciting donations via Kickstarter, but by the time this post came up they’d already reached their $1,000 goal — with only 16 backers. It shows that although not everyone in comics remembers this era’s artwork fondly, those that do really do. Although they’ve reached their goal, you can still donate to increase the print run and be a part of this revival. Check out the Kickstarter site to donate and see the video, which includes a 90s era WWF background music track.

Stan Lee, Todd McFarlane team with Japanese rock god on Blood Red Dragon

Yoshiki and Stan Lee

Stan Lee, Todd McFarlane and Japanese rock star Yoshiki will debut their new project, Blood Red Dragon, at the San Diego Comic Con next month.

Lee and Yoshiki announced they were working together at the New York Comic Con last year. According to the press release, the project “features a surprise and first-of-its-kind publishing innovation that combines the unique skills of these three world-renowned artists.”

Here’s a description of the project, which features a character based on Yoshiki:

Blood Red Dragon Issue #0, the first in the series published by Todd McFarlane Productions, focuses on the origin of an ancient and benevolent force, locked in an epic battle with the dark armies of Oblivion. Creative expression and destiny collide, as once in a generation an individual is born with the potential to unlock the awesome might of the Blood Red Dragon, thus channeling a power beyond comprehension and assuming the mantle of Earth’s protector. When agents of Oblivion discover that the key to accessing the Blood Red Dragon’s energy lays in music—the melodic heart of the human spirit, they launch a series of violent attacks on musicians across the globe. As he performs in front of a large crowd during the opening show of a massive world tour, drummer and keyboardist Yoshiki comes face-to-face with his destiny, experiencing a transformation that will forever change his life—and possibly the fate of the world.

Yoshiki, co-founder of the metal band X Japan, is huge in his native country; in addition to being a musician and producer, he also has his own jewelry line, his own wine label, a VISA card and, to top it off, his own Hello Kitty product line, Yoshikitty.

IGN has some of the concept art from Todd McFarlane Productions.

Comics A.M. | Marvel’s ‘fathers of invention’; Gaiman, Tan win Locus Awards

Jack Kirby

Legal | Brent Staples pens an editorial for the New York Times on the legal battle between the Jack Kirby estate and Marvel: “The Marvel editor Stan Lee sometimes offered general ideas for characters, allowing the artists to run with them. Mr. Kirby plotted stories, fleshing out characters that he had dreamed up or that he had fashioned from Mr. Lee’s sometimes vague enunciations. Mr. Lee shaped the stories and supplied his wisecrack-laden dialogue. And in the end, both men could honestly think of themselves as ‘creators.’ But Mr. Kirby, who was known as the King of Comics, was the defining talent and the driving force at the Marvel shop. Mr. Lee’s biographers have noted that the company’s most important creations started out in Mr. Kirby’s hands before being passed on to others, who were then expected to emulate his artistic style.” [New York Times]

Awards | Writer Neil Gaiman (Sandman, The Graveyard Book) and artist Shaun Tan (The Arrival, Tales from Outer Suburbia) are among the winners of the 2011 Locus Awards. Gaiman’s “The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains” won for best novelette, while “The Thing About Cassandra” won best short story. Tan won for best artist. [Locus Online]

Legal | Jeff Trexler reviews the legal battle between Warner Bros. and the heirs of creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster through the filter of the Neil Gaiman/Todd McFarlane decision, where a judge ruled Gaiman has copyright interest in Medieval Spawn, Angela and other Spawn characters. [The Beat]

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Comics A.M. | Asterix family feud heats up; WonderCon’s Hollywood appeal

Asterix

Publishing | In the latest twist in a bitter, and prolonged, family feud, the daughter of Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo is seeking to have her parents declared mentally incapable of running their affairs. Uderzo’s only child, Sylvie, accuses her parents’ advisers of “pillaging” and “destroying an entire family.” Albert Uderzo, 83, fired back by accusing his daughter and her husband of “legal harassment” stemming from his 2007 decision to remove them from senior positions in Editions Albert-Rene, the publishing company he founded in 1979, following the death of Asterix co-creator Rene Goscinny. The family quarrel erupted into the public eye in 2009, when Sylvie Uderzo criticized her father’s decision to sell his stake in the company to Hachette Livre and authorize the publisher to continue Asterix after his death. [The Independent]

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