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By the Numbers | Waiting for Marvelman

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In “By the Numbers,” ROBOT 6 takes a look back at the events of the past five days … in numbers.

With Thursday’s announcement that Neil Gaiman is returning to the Marvel Universe and bringing with him Angela, the character at the center of his eight-year legal battle with Todd McFarlane, we’re left to wonder about the whereabouts of Marvelman. We also look at the surprise departures at DC Comics, and what the right price is when you name your own.

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Angela cosplayer celebrates Marvel’s Neil Gaiman news

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Few were more excited by this morning’s announcement that Neil Gaiman will introduce Angela into the Marvel Universe than Kearstin Fay Nicholson, who referred to it on the Comic Book Resources Facebook page as the “greatest news I’ve heard all day.” That’s because the Chicago-based cosplayer won The Superhero Costuming Forum‘s 2012 Most Epic Female Costume Contest for her take on the Spawn character — and deservedly so.

You can see for yourself below, and on Nicholson’s photo gallery.

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From McFarlane to ‘Weird Al': Six questions with Ryan Stegman

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Thirty-six questions. Six answers. One random number generator. Welcome to Robot Roulette, where creators roll the virtual dice and answer our questions about their lives, careers, interests and more.

Our special guest today is Ryan Stegman, artist of Superior Spider-Man, Scarlet Spider, Fantastic Four, She-Hulks and more.

Now let’s get to it …

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Rob Liefeld is ready for his close-up

Rob Liefeld and Eazy-E

If you’ve been wondering how Rob Liefeld has been occupying his time since walking off three DC Comics series, scorching the earth around him as he left, the answer, at least in part, is Bloodstrike #34. However, he also found three days to transform a portion of his memoir into a 100-page screenplay about the formation of Image Comics. Of course.

The outspoken creator provided DreamMovieCast with excerpts from the project, tentatively titled Icons, which unlike Manti Te’o’s dead girlfriend, is not a hoax. Or, rather iCons, as Liefeld clarified on Twitter. “Small ‘i’ dubble meaning,” he wrote.

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Comics A.M. | Shuster attorney appeals Superman decision

Action Comics #1

Legal | A federal judge this week made final his Oct. 17 decision that the heirs of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster surrendered the ability to reclaim their 50-percent interest in the property in a 1992 agreement with DC Comics, triggering an almost-immediate appeal to the 9th Circuit by Shuster estate lawyer Marc Toberoff. Jeff Trexler delves into the legal strategy behind the attorney’s motion for final judgment. [The Hollywood Reporter]

Legal | Todd McFarlane has settled his lawsuit against former employee Al Simmons, who earlier this year released a book in which he claimed to be the inspiration for Spawn. McFarlane had accused Simmons of violating the terms of his employment pact and breaching his duty of loyalty. Settlement terms weren’t disclosed. [The Hollywood Reporter]

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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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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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