Back in the early-90s Image Comics, and Todd McFarlane’s Spawn in particular, were flying high, but it wasn’t enough for ol’ Todd that every issue of Spawn was selling well over a million copies, he wanted people to think the comic was actually, you know, good. Todd’s own writing wasn’t really up to that task, but he had a solution — he used his giant pile of newfound cash to convince some of the comic industry’s most acclaimed creators to guest write issues for him. So, improbable as it now sounds today, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Dave Sim and Frank Miller all wrote an issue of Spawn.
Most of these issues were better than your average Spawn, but ultimately weren’t that memorable. The exception was Gaiman, who went and did something silly — he tried to add some depth to Spawn. In the span of a single issue he introduced the idea that there have been multiple Spawns throughout history, and created the characters Cogliostro and Angela. Cogliostro, Angela and various historical Spawns continued to be major characters in the book and found their way into movies, cartoons and toy lines, but Gaiman never saw much in the way of royalties from any of it.
So in 2002 Gaiman sued McFarlane, and McFarlane sued Gaiman back and so on and so forth for years on end. Well, after a decade of legal battles the two have finally come to an agreement that awards Gaiman 50 percent ownership of all the Spawn characters he created. Happy ending I guess, but don’t think for a moment that this settlement happened because Todd and Neil saw the error of their ways and are now best buddies. No, this finally happened because (hit the jump for further Spawn analysis)…
a) The Spawn franchise is deader than a doornail at this point. New issues don’t even make the Diamond top 300 anymore. Name the most obscure comic you can think of — it probably sells better than Spawn. The amount Todd McFarlane was spending on this lawsuit was probably way more than Spawn is still bringing in at this point.
b) Gaiman is now an internationally popular, wealthy author who would probably prefer people forgot he used to do things like write issues of Spawn for hire. He doesn’t need the money and was probably willing give up a lot of cash so long as he got the moral victory.
So yeah, hope you enjoyed this Spawn talk, because there’s a very good chance we’ll never talk about it again.
Still waiting for my copy of Spawn #1 to be worth a million dollars. Someday.