Gaiman: "Every time I would run into Todd in a courtroom he looked a little more sad."

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gaiman mcfarlene2 Gaiman: "Every time I would run into Todd in a courtroom he looked a little more sad."
Neil Gaiman took his victory lap after the settlement in his lawsuit against Todd McFarlane with comments to the Washington Post’s Michael Cavna, talking about the copyright precedents set by all the various rulings over the years.

“I think the various decisions, particularly the [Judge] Posner decision, were huge in terms of what the nature of dual copyright in comics is,” Gaiman told WaPo. “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.

“Truthfully, I think all of the decisions were incredibly good for all kinds of copyright,” Gaiman continued, noting that the case is now taught in schools. “Now the statute of limitations — three years — begins with the discovery of the violation. You can’t secretly file copyright on someone else’s things.”

Gaiman hasn’t seen McFarlane of late. “But every time I would run into Todd in a courtroom he looked a little more sad.”

Comments

  1. Gaiman and McFarlane should do a comic together.

  2. Synsidar says:

    How many successful superheroes haven’t been created as parts of shared universes?

    SRS

  3. I respect them both a lot. They’ve indivdually done a hell of a lot for creator rights. A shame they’ve had a falling out: I can see both sides of the argument (from my admittedly limited point-of-view) but it’s a pity they couldn’t come to some kind of mutual agreement earlier than this.

    Glad to see it’s resolved anyway. Now: Marvelman?

  4. “How many successful superheroes haven’t been created as parts of shared universes?”

    Probably most of the ones created prior to ALL STAR COMICS or FANTASTIC FOUR, respectively, as well as some that came after.

    I wouldn’t expect Superman, Batman, the Flash, Green Lantern or Captain America to have been created with the idea of a “shared universe” setting in mind.

    (Things may get fuzzier with the Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four. I don’t know if Lee, Kirby or Ditko have ever talked about whether these characters were meant to be part of a Marvel Universe when they came up with them.)

  5. Charles Boomkowski says:

    When is Neil launching his next Kickstarter campaign so he can bilk more money out of his fans?

  6. >> I wouldn’t expect Superman, Batman, the Flash, Green Lantern or Captain America to have been created with the idea of a “shared universe” setting in mind.>>

    In fact, the first Captain America story refers to the Human Torch as a comic book character, and not as someone who actually exists in that world.

    >> Things may get fuzzier with the Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four. I don’t know if Lee, Kirby or Ditko have ever talked about whether these characters were meant to be part of a Marvel Universe when they came up with them.>>

    When these various characters become part of a connected universe is open to debate — the Hulk first appears in FANTASTIC FOUR in #5, as a character in a comic book Johnny’s reading, and isn’t treated like someone who exists, for instance. So while Stan and Jack seemed to regard FF as taking place in a universe that also had the Sub-Mariner in it, as of #4, it wasn’t a world that had the Hulk in it too until #12.

    Spider-Man clearly shares his world with the FF as of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1. But a lot of the early crossover stories at Marvel read like inter company crossovers, where the other hero is a specially-arranged guest star. It takes a while for the connections to build up to the point that the shared-universe aspect is more than just something the creators are having occasional fun with — while the whole Marvel Universe seems to turn out for the FF wedding, the Galactus Trilogy thereafter ignores any question of whether there are any other superheroes in New York. It’s a slow process.

    Meanwhile, over at DC, even the existence of the JLA didn’t make all the editors treat the characters like denizens of a shared universe — it was like that in that book, but that didn’t mean it was like that in the other books. Superman could have an Atlantis and Aquaman could have another, contradictory one. And until guys like Roy Thomas and E. Nelson Bridwell started overtly stitch things together, the universes were shared on an ad-hoc basis, but not a consistent one. Some people Bob Haney and Murray Boltinoff, for instance, didn’t care about whether things needed to be shared a particular way; they did stories the way they felt like it.

    Based on that, Wolverine and the Punisher may be pretty early on the list of successful superheroes created as part of a shared universe, but for the majority of successful characters before that, the series they were created for was their world, and to whatever degree it was shared with other series was secondary if considered at all.

  7. Synsidar says:

    I wouldn’t expect Superman, Batman, the Flash, Green Lantern or Captain America to have been created with the idea of a “shared universe” setting in mind.

    They’re certainly parts of them now.

    If someone wants to write a story about a superhero, he’d probably be much better off doing a WFH story for a corporate-owned character than he would be creating his own superhero, much less trying to create his own universe. The effort he put into creating the universe wouldn’t pay off in the future, because he couldn’t produce enough stories using those characters to profit from all of them.

    Of course, if he creates a character for use in a shared universe, then he’s dependent on the good will and cooperation of other creators (and the publisher) for producing stories about him. If he runs out of ideas for stories to tell about his hero(es), then what?

    There aren’t many benefits to owning the copyrights to characters if their use depends on also using other creators’ characters. The sad fates of the Ultraverse characters, who are probably stuck in publication limbo forever, are examples of the limited benefits.

    SRS

  8. “Based on that, Wolverine and the Punisher may be pretty early on the list of successful superheroes created as part of a shared universe, but for the majority of successful characters before that, the series they were created for was their world, and to whatever degree it was shared with other series was secondary if considered at all.”

    Yeah. And I wish that was still the way they run these books. I think I was one of the three people on the Internet who had no problem whatsoever with your “Kang Dynasty” arc on AVENGERS being completely self-contained. (Or Morrison’s X-MEN stuff, for that matter, which I think was happening around the same time.)

  9. “The effort he put into creating the universe wouldn’t pay off in the future, because he couldn’t produce enough stories using those characters to profit from all of them.”

    That’s an odd way of looking at things. Creators like Kurt, Erik Larsen, John Byrne, Mike Mignola, Mike Allred, Robert Kirkman or Mark Waid seem to be doing fine owning their own superhero universes. (And there have even been crossovers between some of them.)

    “There aren’t many benefits to owning the copyrights to characters if their use depends on also using other creators’ characters. The sad fates of the Ultraverse characters, who are probably stuck in publication limbo forever, are examples of the limited benefits.”

    As I understand it, the problem with the Ultraverse characters isn’t that they’re owned by different people, but that nobody’s exactly sure who owns them at all.

  10. Snikt Snakt says:

    “I think I was one of the three people on the Internet who had no problem whatsoever with your “Kang Dynasty” arc on AVENGERS being completely self-contained.”

    I think most people had a problem w/it dragging on far too long…

  11. Chuck Melville says:

    “I think most people had a problem w/it dragging on far too long…”

    Did it drag!? I really didn’t notice.

  12. “I think most people had a problem w/it dragging on far too long…”

    Most of the complaints I recall seeing were from people who got nervous because there was a big story going on that was being “ignored” by the other titles. They wanted to know how everything “fit together,” and it wasn’t immediately evident, and that was an issue for them.

    It wasn’t for me, though, since I care more about stories and characters than about the continuity aspect. I simply figured that the few days or weeks in which the story was playing out fell in-between the gaps in other titles. That worked fine for me, and I didn’t lose any sleep over it.

  13. Omar Karindu says:

    There are a few isolated instances of rather oddly casual “shared universe” moments in some pre-Silver Age DC Comics.

    Batman #130 has an odd tale of a giant hand stealing armored cars; at the story’s end, the hand is revealed as a creation of the bald mad scientist Luthor. Little is made of the crossover appearance of Superman’s archfoe.

    Over in Detective Comics, a one-shot Batman villain, Arnold Hugo, started turning up as a recurring villain the comic’s Martian Manhunter backup strips.

  14. >> Creators like Kurt, Erik Larsen, John Byrne, Mike Mignola, Mike Allred, Robert Kirkman or Mark Waid seem to be doing fine owning their own superhero universes.>>

    And if Stuart Immonen and I do SUPERSTAR, a superhero we own, not part of a shared universe, we have some say over it staying in print, and we reap the benefit if we sell licensing rights.

    If Stuart and I were to do a company-owned project called something, like, say, SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY, we’d have no control over whether it stayed in print and if it was licensed for other media at all, what we’d get would be dependent on DC’s largesse.

    There are advantages to either approach, whether it’s superior to choose one or the other depends quite a bit on what your aims are. As Scott McCloud and I have noted, if he’d done ZOT! for a wok-for-hire publisher, he’d have been fired for lateness, the book would have been turned over to others and would most likely be canceled and forgotten today. Under his control, it gave him far more of what he wanted by doing it (and can continue to do so in the future, as well).

    I also may be biased, but I think creating the universe of ASTRO CITY worked out pretty well for me, Alex and Brent. Far more so than introducing various of those characters into the DC or Marvel Universe and hoping they caught on amid the cacophony of already-existing characters on those particular stages.

  15. Come to think of it, how many superheroes created for an existing shared universe after, say, 1970, when the universes were well and truly shared, have made it to the movies and TV (in starring roles, as opposed to cameos on JLU or something):

    The Punisher, Wolverine and various other X-Men, Swamp Thing, the Human Target, Elektra, various latter-day Teen Titans, Steel, Ghost Rider, Blade… I’m sure I’m missing a few.

    Superheroes created either as solo franchises or part of a newly-born shared universe: The Rocketeer, the Crow, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Night Man, Jon Sable, Spawn, the WildCATs, Savage Dragon, the Tick, Aeon Flux, V for Vendetta, the Watchmen, Kick-Ass, Wanted, Hellboy, the Mask (?), Big Guy and Rusty, Mystery Men, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Barb Wire, Static…

    On that score, at least, I think the “build the setting yourself” characters had more success in getting to one screen or another (possibly because they weren’t considered secondary characters in their own settings) and did better by their creators financially.

    kdb

  16. Kurt,

    Is your POWER CORPS. ever coming back? That should have been in the 52 relaunch.

  17. I wouldn’t expect it to, Ghost. But you never know.

  18. Shawn Kane says:

    “I simply figured that the few days or weeks in which the story was playing out fell in-between the gaps in other titles. That worked fine for me, and I didn’t lose any sleep over it.”

    That’s the way that comic book continuity should work: A shared universe but not beholden to what happens in other books.If I were a kid picking up the Avengers at the time and then picked up an issue of Spider-Man the same month, my first thought would NOT be “What about the alien invasion in the Avengers?”

  19. Was Swamp Thing really a shared universe character to begin with?

    He started in “House of Mystery” or something similar and then had his own series of pretty self contained stories published by DC but (I thought) not part of DC proper till much later.

  20. Swamp Thing’s first DCU connection that I recall is in #7, when he meets Batman. But sure, given that first story, I wouldn’t think he was created to be part of a shared universe; he was connected to one later.

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