Erik Larsen, one of the founders of Image Comics, can be a wonderful person who can't wait to take people along on an amazing journey through the comic book landscape. He gave my buddy Franchesco! a major gig drawing a She-Dragon one shot. He tried like hell to shepherd Ant into existence, doing more work than the creators did to make it happen. When he was in charge at Image, a lot of series that you never would have expected like PvP saw the light of day on his watch. Larsen can be a great guy.
But Larsen can also be an asshole. There was the Name Withheld business and declaring that great artists don't need writers. He was part of the Image crew that brought over all sorts of big name talent to Image like Jerry Ordway and Keith Giffen, then cut all their books loose in space. His endless bitching about how Spider-Man got more press for having Obama on the cover than his own Savage Dragon did. His constant locking horns with other comic professionals.
Larsen's mouth has cost him a lot. During the debate over who owned the rights to Marvelman/Miracleman, Todd McFarlane and Neil Gaiman got into it loud...well, McFarlane was loud, Gaiman was his usual quiet though fatally assertive self. Larsen jumped into the fray, taking a number of shots at Gaiman. Gaiman took Larsen to court and was awarded thousands of dollars for his trouble. You'd think that, when it came to anything involving Marvel/Miracleman or the whole Angela/Medieval Spawn brouhaha, Larsen would know to keep his mouth shut.
Nope. Larsen was just getting warmed up. This is a Twitter exchange from last week. It started off with Jimmy Palmiotti, Dan Slott, and Colleen Doran talking about the pros and cons of work for hire and creator-owned projects. (Doran is actually a perfect voice for this issue. She is a longtime advocate of creator rights and indie comics, but has stated that her work on Sandman pays her medical bills.)
And then Erik Larsen, the Sleeping Giant, got involved....
Jimmy Palmiotti: point was that if we create something new for a big company, they should share with us a small % of the creation.
Erik Larsen: If you create something you should own it. If anything the big company should get that tiny percentage.
Tom Daylight: not if the big company was paying your rent whilst taking a risk on your creation
Dan Slott: So like Neil Gaiman and all the IP he created while working on SPAWN. That’s what you’re saying?
(Poke poke poke.... -- G)
Erik Larsen: I would[n't] expect to own Spider-Man on a horse, no, or characters derived from existing ones.
Erik Larsen: I meant ORIGINAL creations not evil twins or variations. Don’t expect to own Rainbow Batman.
(What's this?!? Neil Gaiman is coming out of the booth! I'd like to apologize to all the folks at home for what they're about to see.... -- G)
Neil Gaiman: so you’re pleased I got Angela then? Good to know.
Jimmy Palmiotti: hahahaha
Erik Larsen: i dont believe you “created” a Spawn hunter with Spawn earrings who is an angel instead of a devil in a vacuum, no.
Erik Larsen: if Angela was an original creation she could stand on her own and she doesn’t. She’s a variation on a theme. A cypher.
Gavin Higginbotham: 3…2…1… And… Bleeding Cool article.
(Yup, you called that one. -- G)
Erik Larsen: ugh. Don’t encourage them. In any case–it’s nothing new. Neil Gaiman gloating over stealing from Todd McFarlane
Erik Larsen: part of her design are things from Spawn though– his mask. And her whole gig is that she’s a Spawn hunter.
Erik Larsen: take away the Spawn elements and she’s just another comic book redhead and who cares?
(Wait...what? -- G)
Erik Larsen: “create something for us worth billions and we’ll pay your rent.” Seems fair.
Dan Slott: I bet a LOT of Spider-Man fans who are now Savage Dragon readers pay a LOT Erik’s rent.
Erik Larsen: but then–no stories involving Angela are really original.
(Does that include McFarlane's? -- G)
Erik Larsen: I do think Neil Gaiman deserved something for Angela but it should have been a percentage. It’s a character derived from Spawn.
Neil Gaiman: you really haven’t been following any of the case, have you?
(Neil Gaiman -- Master Of The Understatement. Next show in two hours. -- G)
Erik Larsen:The difference between Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman is that Alan didn’t insist on owning characters derived from ones he didn’t create.
(Uh, yes, he did, it was IN THE FUCKING CONTRACT. May I ask how a "staunch advocate" of creator rights doesn't know about the biggest ownership tussle in modern comics? -- G)
Mike Luoma: Interesting take on Neil Gaiman/Angela thing – but isn’t that what other creators are doing at big 2, creating ancillaries?
Erik Larsen: yeah and I think the big two deserve to own those.
This is really disappointing. I mean, Larsen is basically saying that "creator rights" belong to the company, but it's only bad if the company is a media conglomerate instead of an independent comic creator. Or a buddy of his. There are so many incidents of the Image creators contradicting their own stated mission, Larsen should be outraged over that. But no. He's creating false dichotomies just to piss on Neil Gaiman, whose reprints of Sandman sell more copies than any recent issue of Savage Dragon.
The reason I give John Byrne a pass when it comes to things like creator rights is because he's not a particular advocate of creator rights (during the debate about Jack Kirby, Byrne said, "I'm proud to be a cog in the machine"). It's like these so-called Constitutional advocates -- when you make that your identity, I expect better of you. Better knowledge, better conclusions, BETTER THINKING.
Larsen says he stands up for creator rights.
You call that, "standing up?"