John Byrne vs. Erik Larsen vs. Neil Gaiman vs. Todd McFarlane...
Above: The cover to SPAWN #9 which introduced Angela, Cagliostro, and Medieval Spawn.
Full disclosure: I am a fan of the works of both John Byrne and Erik Larsen. At least twice, I interviewed John for BACK ISSUE. I met Erik twice.
Initially, I wasn’t going to blog again about the whole Neil Gaiman versus Todd McFarlane feud, but things just became very interesting when Erik Larsen started posting on John Byrne’s message board…
Erik Larsen: "Neil got a far better deal than he would have elsewhere (as promised) and Neil decided that wasn’t enough and the issue has still not been resolved. The other three writers all took the same deal and were perfectly happy with it. You don’t hear people talking about how Dave Sim was ‘screwed’ because Todd McFarlane ‘only’ paid him $100,000 to write a single comic book… Todd has spent millions defending himself against a guy who, at best, co-created a couple characters."
John Byrne: "Imagine how much he would have had to spend if he weren’t a champion of ‘creator’s rights’!!!"
Mr. Steve Bissette clarifies the whole mess and, also, contributes his own insights on the latest rumblings…
Steve Bissette: "The Kings of their respective and venerable fiefdoms have no idea what it’s like for those less fortunate and well-heeled than they (including those freelancers who make every one of their deadlines without fail), but it’s sure bleakly entertaining to hear them talk it up."
Steve Bissette is correct. The difference between Neil Gaiman and the other creators who wrote for SPAWN is that Gaiman created new characters in his story for SPAWN #9. And, I’m sure that Dave Sim would certainly have a problem if Todd McFarlane started saying he owned a piece of Cerebus because the character appeared in SPAWN #10.
As I’ve said before, I don’t think money is the issue here. Unless agreed upon, being given a very large amount of money doesn’t mean that you automatically loss any ownership of your intellectual property.
I did, finally, read through the thread on John Byrne’s message board. It’s mostly a bunch of nonsense. Erik Larsen is defending his defenseless friend. Byrne is being King of his message board, as usual (which is fine, really). But, the main problem with Byrne and Larsen is that they are the type(s) of comic book professionals who have been treated quite nicely by comic book publishers. Yeah, Larsen left Marvel to work on his own creator-owned comic (which was/is great). Byrne was one of (if not "the") hottest creators in the 1980’s. However, until creators, especially those of privilege (as much as that is), talk amongst each other and band together, I don’t see much more improvement for Creator’s Rights in comics. If the big name creators feel like they are treated well by publishers, they aren’t going to be too concerned about anyone else. There’s not going to be much motivation for them to commit to change.
Anyway, as it stands now, the courts have ruled that both Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane share equal ownership to the characters that were first introduced in SPAWN #9 which include Angela, Cagliostro, and Medieval Spawn.