How Spawn & Todd Bought Eclipse

Or; How Miracleman Became a Casualty of Todd McFarlane’s 1996 Copyright Cleanup

I’m following up on last week’s pair of posts

  • SpiderBaby Archives: Flashbacks to 1993… Miracleman on Stage? Was an Australian Play Based on Miracleman Produced in 1993?”
  • and

  • “SpiderBaby Archives: Flashback to 1993, Cont.—Whither Miracleman? Or; How Miracleman Was the Least of Problems for Eclipse Comics by December 1993…”
  • Those two posts lead directly into the following, which needs little explanatory text. It took about two years for everything to pan out regarding Spawn, the Spawn Spogz, and the eventual limbo Marvelman/Miracleman was consigned to after March 1997…

    Here’s the official Eclipse two-sided promotional card for the Spawn Spogz:

    So, you see, these silly things… they were the ultimate undoing of Marvelman/Miracleman, so to speak.

    By the time the Spogz were being ballyhooed, Eclipse‘s days were already numbered.

    I’ve never seen the Spogz themselves—were they ever manufactured and shipped? Anyone know?—but within the year, Eclipse Comics had ceased publication of all titles and projects (see The Comics Journal #165, January 1994, “Newswatch: Business News: Eclipse Copes with Divorce and Back Debt,” pg. 12) and was out of the game by the end of 1994 (see TCJ #172, November 1994, “Comics Publishers Suffer Tough Summer: Body Count Rises in Market Shakedown,” pp. 13–18) and soon filing for bankruptcy (TCJ #174, February 1995, “Newswatch: Eclipse Files for Bankruptcy,” pg. 25).

    There’s more in my files, but what’s the point? It’s all past history now.

    But for Todd McFarlane—those Spogz, and the Eclipse bankruptcy, was a cause for concern. Why? Clearly, there were no intellectual property rights transferred in the Spogz deal—note the promotional ad citing Todd‘s ownership of Spawn and all rights—but still, it bothered him.

    He couldn’t risk someone acquiring something that might complicate his plans.

    He couldn’t risk someone like himself acquiring whatever it was Eclipse‘s liquidation was selling.

    As I mentioned in the last SpiderBaby Archives post, I was among those contacted to participate in the Eclipse assets auction. I planned to bid on the films for the comics I had a hand in, Bedlam! and Fearbook. Dean Mullaney had called earlier in 1994 to offer me the films at an absurdly high cost, but I couldn’t and didn’t blame him for doing so—they were, after all, barely in a life raft at that point; his relationship with Cat Yronwode was over, the rift public, and Eclipse was history. So, I waited for the assets auction. I got the letter from the attorney handling the auction, and was given a number and time to call in.

    It was over before the phone calls were made at the scheduled time, with no explanation.

    Then, on March 27, 1996, I was FAXed the following from a friend at Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. This was on page 16 of the March issue of the magazine Fan; in short order, I was also reading about it in the very next issue of The Comics Journal (#185, March 1996, “McFarlane Buys Eclipse Assets at Auction,” pp. 14–15).

    And this was when Todd McFarlane and Marvelman/Miracleman became entangled, legally and otherwise.

    The following summer, I was contracted by Gadfly magazine to write about Todd, Spawn, and the whole Spawn phenomenon (the comicbook, the toy line, the animated cable TV series, the movie, etc.).

    Here’s my complete article, which was somewhat abbreviated for its final Gadfly publication. Enjoy…

    _______________________

    Spawn® and Spawn® Spogz are TM, ® and ©1993, 2011 Todd McFarlane, all rights reserved; images reproduced for archival and educational purposes. The article is ©1997, 2011 Stephen R. Bissette, all rights reserved.


    Discussion (3) ¬

    1. John Platt

      Wow, this is an incredibly important part of comics history. Thank you for sharing this. It puts some of the pieces I remember from the Eclipse bankruptcy in perspective.

      I Googled Spogz. The first site that came up appears to have actual images of the doohickeys. http://www.irishspawn.com/Cards/Spawn/pogs.htm

      And here’s a dude who has uploaded a video of his collection: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcnnkGkH-YM

      Interestingly, the Spogz trademark seems to have lapsed, or at least been appropriated by a candy company: http://obsessivesweets.blogspot.com/2011/01/barratt-spogz-gumbugs.html

    2. James Robert Smith

      Many people who end up accumulating a lot of money end up being assholes. Having come from a position of wanting to exploit his own creations and his own “talent’, it does seem strange that McFarlane would end up becoming the very thing he fled.

      I’ve never understood the trial between Gaiman and McFarlane, the decision, and the fate of Miracleman. How and why was something owned by the likes of Gaiman (and company) even put in a position of being owned by a tissue-thin firm like Eclipse? How was that even possible?

    3. BobH

      There are a handful of listings for the “Spogz” on Ebay as well, so yeah, they were produced.

    Comment ¬

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