Update II
Cover Story
They say a picture tells a thousand words. Ladies and gentlemen, the cover to Hellspawn #13.

 

This Has A Oh-My-Goodness Value Of 8 Out of 10


Update I
Bucking The Story

I hear from a source close to Mark Buckingham that the Todd McFarlane offer to Neil Gaiman is indeed an old one and that as of Sunday, Neil has not contacted Mark about any updates to the situation – and that’s apparently the first thing Neil would do…

What is looking more likely is that Todd McFarlane, who while he may own the rights to the Miracleman property, does not own the rights to publish old Miracleman stories. And that Neil may be in a better position to negotiate with the creators who do, hence Neil’s possession of the film.

The thing is, he’s had that film in his basement for three years… I hear from another source that Gaiman’s not that happy with Mike Sangiacomo and Newsarama for misrepresenting the situation. Nothing has changed of late and there are still many problems over the Miracleman rights that will prevent publication.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 7 Out Of 10


Bagge Pedalling

Also, my bad, apparently Peter Bagge is “just” writing a Spider-Man story, and that he approached both Dan Clowes and Robert Crumb for the art duties, though both turned it down.

This Has A Tippex Value Of 7 Out Of 10


What follows is a story from employees of one of Todd McFarlane’s current business operations. Understand the biases involved, sources are not happy, may have a personal agenda and may be simply using me. I haven’t a problem with being used, but wish my readers to remember that when reading the following article. Go back and check the Rumour Barrier while you’re at it too…

Anyway.


Toy Story

I hear Todd McFarlane’s companies may be in trouble. According to company sources, offices of Todd McFarlane are closing down in Plymouth and employees from accounting and production (down to half of what they were recently) are being given harsh moving conditions to Tempe, a suburb of McFarlane’s home town, Phoenix, Arizona. in order to reduce employees even further and to pressurise them on salary conditions. This will be happening in early July.

Apparently McFarlane also gave a big speech to his employees in September, saying that he wouldn’t be doing any of this, but may instead move people into a smaller building with less rent. Indeed, an external firm was commissioned to find such a property. Which is why many employees began to settle down, get mortgages, raise families, buy big trucks…

Little Nicky Mountain

With many of McFarlane’s employees already polishing their resumes and filling in job application forms, the future of McFarlane’s Toys may be down to the success of their Shrek merchandise. Mind you, I hear they do have 150,000 Little Nicky items gathering dust in a public warehouse in Seattle WA. At 50c per case per month, that works out at $6,250.00 just to store the figures every month. And they aren’t selling.

I’m told there are also big problems with the sports figures. Large licensing fees have to be paid to both the player and the player’s association. These costs need to be added to the retail price of the toys but they can’t. The key retailers in the toy market won’t let McFarlane toys increase their pricing.

I understand McFarlane is pushing the company to expand the line of sports figures against the pleading of his financial people. He’s also planning on changing the direction of the collector’s club to mirror this. In the future McFarlane wants the Collector’s Club to feature sports figures instead of the characters that he created in his comic books, like Angela.

The Price Of Quality

And I hear it’s not just the toys that are suffering. Until recently McFarlane’s accounting people didn’t touch Production, the comics side. Now they do. And the word is they say the comics lost one and half million dollars last year. They don’t feel that he is willing to listen to reason and make the drastic changes necessary to stop the financial bleeding – and if they raise objections, they won’t stay employees of the company very long.

This is partly down to the general decline of the comics market, and McFarlane’s desire to pay his comic creators large amounts of money for their work, have high-cost paper stock for the comics and keep the price at a point lower than many competitors.

But I also hear McFarlane’s management style has been a cause for concern for some within the company, allegedly having little attention span in meetings and a propensity to make things personal. One reported conversation when McFarlane had to let go a high ranking employee in early December is reputed to have gone, “it’s too bad that he had an employment contract because I really wanted to fuck up his Christmas.”

Tempe Ho!

A source tells me, “Not a single financial employee is willing to relocate to Tempe. If you were a banker that had loaned McFarlane money, how would you feel about the way this is unfolding?”

I’m told employees were given a week to decide whether they would move to the new offices or leave the company and many feel that’s not enough. For a start, there seems to be a real problem with trust. I hear that when one employee from Sales moved offices across the country, McFarlane was meant to pay all his moving expenses… but didn’t. Now, plenty of employees feel they have no reason to trust him.

The story goes that Todd made an increased salary offer to each employee individually, save for the shipping department, and the in-house legal counsel who was let go. The offers are considered to be low – on average, one or two thousand dollars per person. Then he gave everyone a week to decide.

Larry Marder, acting as McFarlane’s mouthpiece, returned Tuesday May 8th, to get everyone’s answer. Marder brought each person into his makeshift office and asked them if they were willing to accept the offers as written. Any attempt to compromise, counter offer, ask for clarification or request for more time to make a decision were taken as a “No.”

Then Mr. Marder asked each person to sign an agreement stating that the employee would stay until June 29th and train their replacement. If they did as requested, they would receive an unspecified severance payment and an unspecified performance bonus. When asked the details of the package, they were told it was a really good one, based on a formula Todd had devised.

Questions about the formula or the bonus, were answered Todd will decide, based on how well you train your replacement. How Todd will know how well employees trained their replacements if they’re in Plymouth, and he’s in Phoenix received no response.

The word in the offices is that his mission is to get as many “No’s” as possible, but make big offers to certain key staff to move down. And so McFarlane will manage to cut costs and lay off staff without having to hand over big payoffs. However, some doubt his knowledge about who the important people really are. As a result, many feel hurt or insulted, and a large number are planning to leave – many of whom have the skills and knowledge that the company may well need in the upcoming months.

Toy Division

In happier times, about a year after the launch of McFarlane’s Toys, it appears Hasbro offered 10 million dollars to purchase the company, along with the toy rights to Spawn. Financial advisors recommended that if they opened a dialogue, they could get up to 30 million for the company. Indeed Paul Burke who originally financed the toy company for McFarlane, before he was deposed, recommended this route, using the money to set up another toy company with more of McFarlane’s toy ideas, just not Spawn. Each of the (then) 15 employees would also become millionaires with the profit sharing scheme. But McFarlane didn’t want to sell those precious Spawn rights.

That offer must look more and more attractive right now… with 18 lines of Spawn toys created and the market not that willing to bear any more…

In the end, these are McFarlane’s companies that were built up from nothing based on his popularity, his talent and his vision. He has every right to manage them as he sees fit and does not owe the world, or his employees, a living. However some would suggest that there were other, more humane ways of managing the current situation that seem to have been used in the last few weeks…

No response was received by TMP as at the time of this publication.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 3 Out Of 10


Why Mike Dringenberg Will Never Work For Vertigo Again?

Word is that at a convention a while back, Norm Breyfogle’s wife drank Karen Berger’s drink at a bar – either by mistake or for a laugh. Turns out the drink was spiked with LSD and artist Mike Dringenberg was fingered for it, though he denied it. Nevertheless, the story goes that Karen believed Mike had spiked the drink for her and so…

This Has A Rumour Value Of 3 out of 10


Signs And Portents

When Newsarama 4.0 [congratulations on the new set up guys!] posted Mike’s report into Todd McFarlane giving Neil Gaiman the rights to Miracleman in exchange for the rights to Angela, something didn’t sit right in my head.

In previous discussions about the Miracleman/Angela rights situation, Gaiman has stated that Todd McFarlane had already offered him the rights to Miracleman in exchange for not contesting the rights to Angela. This was 5 years ago. And Gaiman declined then. Why?

  1. There was much doubt as to what exactly Todd then owned of Miracleman and whether he’d bought an empty husk where the rights used to be from Eclipse. There was debate as to whether the rights had reverted to Dez Skinn as original publisher.
  2. And there was certainly the opinion that the rights to Angela from which Gaiman stated McFarlane hadn’t paid him any royalties on, based as it was on a handshake deal, were worth a lot more than the rights to Miracleman.

And now we’re supposed to believe everything is sweetness and light because this time Todd made the same offer Gaiman reported him as making years ago and this time Gaiman seems to have accepted without a fuss?

Despite McFarlane moving Gaiman-created characters liked Cog and Angela out of his Spawn Universe, McFarlane has never admitted that Gaiman owns any of Angela and has replied to Gaiman’s claims saying there’s two sides to every story.

Now, there’s something going on here. Certainly Todd seems to think so. When the Newsarama report was posted on the Spawn message board yesterday, McFarlane reponded (using his ‘secret squirrel’ identity we’ve all learnt to know and love):

      Don’t believe all that you read.

 

    TODD

Mike then replied, asking:

      I[‘m] a bit perplexed about several things regarding my story on newsarama about Todd turning over Miracleman rights to Neil Gaiman.

      1. the number of people who think it is false or made up.
      2. the odd reaction from someone that people believe is Todd “don’t believe everything you read.”

I agree that people should be skeptical, however, if in fact this is Todd talking I wonder what he is trying to say. The article very clearly states that in an interview with Neil Gaiman that Gaiman said he received papers from Todd that turned over all rights to Miracleman to him. He was also sent all the original film for the series, which Todd had in his possession. Neil said he wanted a lawyer to examine it because he did not trust Todd.
SO what’s the deal?

I tried repeatedly to get a response from Todd, talked to 4 people at TMP and all said they would talk to Todd. I never heard back from any of them, or from Todd.

CUTTING TO THE CHASE:
If Todd wants to challenge what Neil said, he SHOULD HAVE THE GUTS AND THE DECENCY TO DO IT WITHOUT MASKING IT IN SOME KIND OF NON-DENIAL.

If it’s true, and I have always found Neil to be an honest man (why would he lie about such a thing? That’s just stupid), then Todd should announce it and embrace it. He should simply say that he felt Neil could do a better job with MM than he and leave it at that.

As for my own credentials, I have been a reporter for big city newspapers for 25 years. I have written a weekly, syndicated column on comics for 8 years. I do not suffer fools. If Todd has something to say, he should say it, return my phone calls, or shut up.
Mike Sangiacomo

Todd again replied, stating:

      Dear Mike;

 

      Let me see if I can clear up a few things that ‘perplex’ you and calm some of the emotions that are running high.

 

      You state that you don’t understand what I am trying to say. Then let me see if I can make it more clear:

 

      Just because someone says something (in this case it is Neil) doesn’t make it so. The mere verbalizing of something is not a guarentee [sic] of fact.

 

      Also, by my not responding directly to a question or query isn’t an admission of truth to the question or story.

 

      And by posting a quick response isn’t deemed as you call it a ‘challenge’. There is such a thing as not wanting to air dirty laundry in public.

 

      I’m also surprised that my not giving a direct reponse to something as being ‘gutless’. I would think that your 25 plus years of experience may have brought you the insight that there may be multiple reasons why an individual may not respond directly.

 

      And as for your 25 years of journalism, I am confused as to what you have done in the past has to do with what another individual might say out loud. Truthful or not. Story truth is based on the writer’s resume it is usually based on facts. Again I would have thought that this may have crossed your mind while defending yourself.

 

      And in closing, you can request a phone call all you want but I am under no obligation to meet your need. As a veteran writer we both know that I am stating the obvious.

 

      So I wish you the best of luck in the future, but caution you that in any given interview you may be dealing with truths, half truths, perceptions and just plain bad memories.

 

    TODD

And Mike responded with:

      I don’t care if you’re Todd or not, are you arrogant enough to think someone can kill a story by not responding to it?

 

      I checked out the story to my satisfaction and posed the question to Todd’s organization. At that point the ball was in his court. We don’t hold up stories simply because someone stonewalls us.

 

      As far as not being willing to airing [sic] dirty laundry, please. Todd has never been shy about letting people know where he stood in the past.

 

      This was a no-brainer – Either Neil is telling the truth or not.

 

      Since Neil is on record and Todd is not, I’ll go along with the English guy. Todd can weigh in any time he cares to, but he should be man enough to do so under his own name.

 

    Don’t bother responding to this thread, because that’s my last word.

And then of course there’s the fact that Mike Moran appeared in Hellspawn #6 and #7… and Miracleman looks like he’ll appear in issue 12, according to the suggestive solicitation.

This one could run and run folks!

This Has A Rumour Value Of 6 out of 10


Spider-Bagge

Anyone read the new Comics Journal? Go check out http://www.tcj.com. According to Dan Clowes, Peter Bagge is going to be drawing Spider-Man, as a kind of ‘Joe Matt’ with superpowers. I shudder to think… Clowes, however, turned it down. As did Robert Crumb. I wonder what Gary Groth makes of all this.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 4 Out Of 10


Plugarama

A friend of mine has started up a new comics e-commerce service aimed at British readers (no pesky cross-Atlantic shipping) in a manner that actually resembles a comics store in terms of display and design. Intriguing. Check it out at:

http://www.comix-shop.co.uk

There’s a new Sleaze Castle book coming out for Comics 2001, at Bristol. I’ll be there doing live All The Rages… in fact, I’ll be needing a guest writer for that weekend. Any volunteers? E-mail me at: [email protected].

The Fantastic Fun Day is happening next Sunday in Pimlico. See last week’s column, or e-mail [email protected].
for details.

Everyone seems to have ignored Bay City Jive, a humour comic from Wildstorm by John Layman. It’s funny in a guilty secret type way and does a great job of parodying the seventies black action hero. Go pick up a copy if you haven’t.

Still doing a bunch of Ebay sales at :
http://cgi6.ebay.com/aw-cgi/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewListedItems&[email protected]&include=0&since=-1&sort=2&rows=50 – almost finished guys! Only another three long boxes to put up!

Do check them out…

This Has A Sell Out Value Of 8 Out Of 10


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