The World vs Todd McFarlane: Book Extract - Todd Runs Neil Around


TODD RUNS NEIL AROUND


The meeting in Phoenix didn’t go as well as planned, with neither side seemingly capable of being able to see the other’s point of view.

Neil Gaiman was quite clear as to what he saw happen at the meeting.

“Todd kept saying ‘but you can trust me and I will send you, I will send you bigger checks than you will get if you have a contract.’ And I said ‘Todd, call me silly, but I would much rather have a written contract and $500 in royalties than $1,500 that is going to turn up on a whim and could end the moment that you decide it's not convenient.’

“He said that he thought that was crazy and I said that that was how, you know, just assume that was how I was billed. And we then wound up – then everything ended very badly in terms of Todd had to wrap up rather quickly. Larry Marder had come out for that meeting because they just learned that Marc Silvestri had left the Image partnership that day, so they had to sort of get on the phone and try to sort that out.

“The way it was left, ended was Todd saying ‘Do you trust me?’ I said ‘I trust you completely.’ He said "Good. Then I will work this out in a way that is going to be fine." He said "I'm really pleased you came down here. You have been completely reasonable and we will sort this out." And he also said that, he mentioned to me he just bought Miracleman. And he said ‘What are you going to do with Miracleman? What are you thinking about?’

“I said ‘I don't know at this point.’ And he said ‘Well, I have had lawyers look over the agreement that you made with Alan Moore and we think we could break it, but obviously we are going to honor it. So you have -- you know, we are going to respect your third of Miracleman, but we need to figure out what it is and it may be a bargaining chip." And I said "Well, that's fine.’[i]

In a last-ditch effort to bring things back on track, Larry Marder was brought in to help mediate a settlement between the two creators. At the time, Marder was working for Image Comics in the role of Executive Director.

“I was asked by Todd or Neil if I could help mediate whatever misunderstandings there may have been at that point in time. I called Neil and said, that’s my understanding that I should try to -- try to bring everybody to some sort of terms and that I was willing to give it a try. I asked Neil what he thought it should be, I believe. We were talking about Angela, Medieval Spawn and Cagliostro. We were trying to establish the terms of Neil's DC contract because Neil said that -- that we were trying -- what we were trying to do is attempt to define what rights he may have had under his DC contract, because I believe we were trying to match his DC contract.

“Neil sent me a fax saying that he believed that this is the way that it broke down. I wrote it up in a sheet for him to try to figure out if what he was telling me over the phone and what he had written down, to put it in a more logical fashion. I submitted it to Neil and we talked about it on the phone and I made some corrections. And then I think I asked if I could see the relevant parts of those contracts or if I could actually see the contract and he sent me some materials, but they were red lined and they didn't seem like the final version to me, but I submitted it anyway.

“I submitted it to Todd to show him that this is what we believe from my discussions with Neil, that this is that these are the terms of his DC contract. I think what happened was Todd kept it for a while and then -- and then I worked out the work-sheet for Todd that would have some sort of counter-proposal or some sort of understanding as to ways of defining these things with questions regarding some of -- some of the language because the language, I think it was imprecise.

“My goal was to get them to come to some sort of agreement that both sides could agree upon. Neil would say that he was looking for something comparable to his DC agreement. Todd was saying, ‘I don't understand what these terms mean.’ So Todd dictated a counter-proposal.

“I spoke to Neil. He asked me some questions. I don't remember. He asked me some questions, and then I spoke to Todd and we clarified what Neil asked. Then from my point, I don't believe I talked to Neil again after that until we received a letter from Neil’s counsel rejecting the whole thing.[ii]

The deal being offered to Gaiman was, in his eyes, far worse than his DC Comics contract for Sandman, so he had no problems in rejecting it. The two parties met again, this time in Oakland, to discuss the problem. They began the process of thrashing out a deal, and in June 1997, McFarlane phoned with an offer of a swap - Cogliostro and Medieval Spawn (subject to McFarlane accounting for and paying Gaiman current to date) for McFarlane's giving to Gaiman all of McFarlane's claims, involvement and tangible property in respect of Miracleman. Gaiman agreed.

This is to confirm the main points touched on in our conversation of July 15, 1997. You agree that with regard to the character of Angela, her appearances, spin-offs, merchandising and foreign translations of Spawn 9 or the Angela mini-series, that you'll be using the figures we put together based on the DC deal (I'll attach my letter to you following the Oakland meeting to this).

That my rights in Cogliostro and Medieval Spawn as above will be exchanged for your share of Miracleman. However, you will make all payments up until the date of exchange for the use of the characters, based on the same figures as above. You'll include whatever you have in the way of inventory or film for Miracleman, received from Eclipse in the bankruptcy buy-out.

The date of exchange will be that of the first accounting, currently planned for August 1st.
That there will be a $5,000 'bonus' paid to me on the handover fee, essentially as an apology for having dragged this thing on so long.

That I have, exclusive of any other Angela projects I might do with the Todd McFarlane division of Image, the rights to do a one-off Angela comics project, and a one-off Medieval Spawn project, on each of which I would keep 100% of the revenue: that if these are team-up projects they could go to other comics companies, but if they exclusively feature the character in the title, I agree to do them with Image (although not necessarily with you). That you will make your best efforts to ensure that there is a "created by Neil & Todd" credit for Angela in her appearances in other comics, or other media.[iii]

The clauses pertaining to Angela were important for Gaiman, as he’d already broached the possibility of Batman/Angela and Phoenix/Angela crossovers with DC Comics and Marvel respectively. As Gaiman would author them, both companies were very receptive.

“l started talking to DC Comics and to Marvel Comics,” Gaiman told the court. “To DC Comics I talked to a man named Denny O'Neil, who was the editor of Batman, about doing a Batman/Medieval Spawn book and talked to Mike Carlin, who was the editor of the Justice League titles, about doing an Angela crossover at DC and talked to a man called Chris Claremont, who was an editor at Marvel about doing an Angela/X-Men. Getting a feeling for what we could do.[iv]

It was here that alarm bells started sounding for Gaiman. It appeared that nobody could reach McFarlane to discuss the projects.

ARNTSEN: Did you talk with anyone in Todd's companies about these one-off projects?
GAIMAN: Yes. I spoke to Larry Marder and later to Beau Smith.
ARNTSEN: First, tell the jury about your conversation with Larry Marder.
GAIMAN: I told Larry that I was looking to do these things and couldn't put a deal in place unless Todd could confirm with the companies that we had this deal as written in the thing.
ARNTSEN: What did Larry tell you?
GAIMAN: He'd talk to Todd about it. Todd was really busy.
ARNTSEN: And Beau, who's Beau Smith?
GAIMAN: Beau Smith was somebody who'd originally worked with Eclipse. He later went on to work for Todd on the toy front. And Beau was working in some capacity and I'd known him for years. I phoned him and said, "I really want to get these projects under way. Can we get something out of Todd in writing so that we can just move on with it?"
ARNTSEN: And what did Beau Smith tell you?
GAIMAN: He said, "Sounds good to me. I'll talk to the Toddmeister.[v]"

August 1 came and went without the exchange happening. McFarlane sent over the physical materials that he’d bought from Eclipse, related to Miracleman, but not the trademarks or the rights to the character. Nor any monies or accountings. Instead of giving Gaiman Miracleman, McFarlane began the process of registering the trademark for the character.

At this stage, Gaiman threw his hands in the air. He decided that McFarlane was never going to honor his various promises, so he handed the situation over to his lawyer. It would take another four years for the case to come to court.

BONUS: THE DOCUMENTS

You can order, and read, The World vs Todd McFarlane via Amazon at this link, or via Amazon Australia.



[i] Gaiman Deposition, Jun 24, 2002
[ii] Marder Deposition, Jun 19, 2002
[iii] Letter from Gaiman to McFarlane, July 1997
[iv] Gaiman testimony, Angela trial
[v] Ibid

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