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Author Topic: Monster High by Aaron Bordner - The Original Monster High?  (Read 2486 times)

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Offline rco55

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Monster High by Aaron Bordner - The Original Monster High?
« on: February 18, 2018, 07:50:55 AM »
Hey Guys!

I wanted to bring to you something that might be news for many of you, and for the more sensitive, the idea of this happening could affect the way you see the franchise. So I suggest you thread lightly when reading this topic.

I want to assure you that I love MH, but as an artist myself, I have to stick to the artists, not the big companies and what they could have done.

As the title implies, there was a Monster High before Monster High. Not only that. But there was a Frankie, a Clawdeen, A Cleo, a Lagoona, and many other monster girls who studied in a school called Monster High before Mattel's Monster High.

Back in the late 90's - early 00īs the artist Aaron Bordner created a comic about Monster Girls attending to a High School made for them. The idea came to him after drawing some pin-up pieces made for tattoos of a girl Frankenstein. The comic was published under SIRIUS, a known publisher for all things goth and underground back then, and received some attention and got a cult following, but for various reasons it never got to be as big as it should have been.

The main characters of this story were Frankie Stein, daughter of Frankenstein, Lupey, daughter of the Werewolf, Cleo, daughter of the Mummy, among others.

Enter a couple years later, and in 2007 - 2009 Mattel develops Monster High, a doll line about Monster Girls attending to a High School made for them.

Of course, considering how almost every name and character, the storyline, and even relationships between the girls seemed to be lifted from his original comic, this really affected Aaron, who, after reaching out to them in regards to this, only received a "we don't think they look alike" as a response, followed by a letter. What are the contents of said letter, I personally don't know, but I highly doubt Mattel would get involved if it wasn't something that made them feel uncomfortable with people knowing. He was never asked for permission, he was never involved in anything regarding the development of Mattel's Monster High.

I will show you some pictures of the girls, but honestly, if you'd like to see it for yourself, Aaron Bordner has a facebook page, along with a page solely for Monster High, where you can contact him and see the first release of the original comic yourselves.

Here are some of the girls:



I personally reached out to him and he's an amazing dude. Full of passion for what he does and not only he has Monster High (that he hasn't worked on for a while, due to the frustration this caused him) but a very intricate and interesting comic called Alice Sinn. I got the honor to create the cover for the Monster High 20th anniversary release, and it's the profile picture you'll see on the page! :biggrin:

Facebook Page for Monster High: https://www.facebook.com/monsterhighschool3/
Artist Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/worldofaaronbordner/

I wanted to bring this situation out on the light, since I don't think it's been known/talked about a lot. What are your thoughts on this?





« Last Edit: February 18, 2018, 10:53:24 AM by rco55 »

Offline 8BrickMario

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Re: Monster High by Aaron Bordner - The Original Monster High?
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2018, 08:02:48 AM »
Eh, I'm not quick to agree that there was any theft here. Frankie and Cleo are really obvious names for puns on their monsters, and none of the designs seem to have anything that couldn't be coincidental. It looks more like both had their own takes on the obvious design and concept choices that arose from the idea.
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Re: Monster High by Aaron Bordner - The Original Monster High?
« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2018, 09:08:20 AM »
Looks like a coincidence to me. Most of the names are really obvious puns (no way is Monster High the first one to come up with "Frankie Stein") and the idea of a monster high school is not exactly original, either. Likely they were both based on the same basic concept (monster high school with the kids of the old monster movie characters) and the similarities naturally occurred from there.

Also MH weren't out in 2007.

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Offline rco55

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Re: Monster High by Aaron Bordner - The Original Monster High?
« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2018, 09:33:56 AM »
Looks like a coincidence to me. Most of the names are really obvious puns (no way is Monster High the first one to come up with "Frankie Stein") and the idea of a monster high school is not exactly original, either. Likely they were both based on the same basic concept (monster high school with the kids of the old monster movie characters) and the similarities naturally occurred from there.

Also MH weren't out in 2007.

Garrett Sander said that the development of Monster High started around 2007, when Mattel started looking for ideas for a new property. He developed the idea for the project with his brother and pitched it to Mattel.

Just to clarify though - I'm not saying that it is a fact that Mattel stole the idea or anything of the sort, nor am i saying "stop supporting Mattel, don't buy dolls from these monsters!" I just thought it'd be interesting to share this since it's something that has to do with MH and something that has happened and Mattel has been a part of in regards to MH.

Whether it is a coincidence or something else, it is up to each person to decide. In my personal opinion, there are some things that seem too similar, and mattel has kind of a record "borrowing" concepts from other people in order to sell doll lines (MyScene and other examples come to mind), so to me it wouldn't be a shocking surprise if it was real.

In any case, like i said, just thought it'd be interesting to hear what you guys think  :)

Offline neon_jellyfish

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Re: Monster High by Aaron Bordner - The Original Monster High?
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2018, 10:52:58 AM »
I think that with things that are inspired by things which were inspired by yet another things, it's hard to say whose idea is the original one. Both Monster Highs (and Gravedale High, Drak Pack, Groovie Goolies, and many others) were inspired by classical horror movies, and those were inspired by literature, which was inspired by folklore and a bit of history, and so on... And some puns and names are obvious options, so I think it's entirely possible for more people to come up with them without stealing from others. But I also think that it's easy for a big company like Mattel to take advantage of this principle and use others' ideas for their own profit. I have no way to tell what's really going on, so I don't really have an opinion on this.

But I mainly want to say that Aaron's art is awesome! Really love it  :thumb:

Offline SaelaVe

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Re: Monster High by Aaron Bordner - The Original Monster High?
« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2018, 11:04:41 AM »
I find it rather ironic that Bordner got upset at Mattel for "stealing" from him when he himself built his story around public domain characters that he didn't create. lol
I mean honestly, let's call a spade a spade.  Does Bordner truly have any right to cry thievery when his story includes the daughter of Frankenstein's monster?

Now please understand that I'm not trying to downplay Bordner's creativity or the merit of his story.  In fact quite the opposite.  What Bordner and Mattel have both done is precisely what propels storytelling forward.  They took a pre-existing concept and told it in a new and interesting way.  But therein lies the irony: you cannot copyright or trademark a concept.  You can copyright an image.  You can trademark a name.  You can't take an entire idea and claim ownership over it.
If this were the case then Little Witch Academia could not exist since Harry Potter was written first.  Both stories revolve around a high school for witches/wizards with secrets chambers underneath it, include sporting events involving broom-riding, feature an inexperienced protagonist with a notable lack of magical ability/training, and boast a blond antagonist from an influential magical family.

What I'm trying to say is that even if Mattel did "lift" their idea for Monster High directly from Bordner's comic, that doesn't mean that they did anything wrong or needed to ask his permission first, as he doesn't own the concept of a high school for the children of public domain monsters.

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Offline rco55

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Re: Monster High by Aaron Bordner - The Original Monster High?
« Reply #6 on: February 18, 2018, 11:25:06 AM »
Now please understand that I'm not trying to downplay Bordner's creativity or the merit of his story.  In fact quite the opposite.  What Bordner and Mattel have both done is precisely what propels storytelling forward.  They took a pre-existing concept and told it in a new and interesting way.  But therein lies the irony: you cannot copyright or trademark a concept.  You can copyright an image.  You can trademark a name.  You can't take an entire idea and claim ownership over it.

Oh! oh! your comment actually made me super curious about something, maybe you have more of an idea about it than I do, SaelaVe. So, Mattel has trademarked every name of every character on the MH franchise. Does that mean that, say, if someone wanted to use the name Frankie Stein, or Clawd Wolf for a character in the future, they wouldn't be able to? Not sure how that works. Thanks!

And i agree that you can't really copyright a concept, but man...If I had released a comic years ago and suddenly one day I go to the store and I see the name of my comic in big, bold letters and a whole doll line with the names of the characters my comic had, and a similar concept, I'd be a little worried. Just kidding, i'd be freaking out, haha.

Offline SaelaVe

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Re: Monster High by Aaron Bordner - The Original Monster High?
« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2018, 12:10:29 PM »
Now please understand that I'm not trying to downplay Bordner's creativity or the merit of his story.  In fact quite the opposite.  What Bordner and Mattel have both done is precisely what propels storytelling forward.  They took a pre-existing concept and told it in a new and interesting way.  But therein lies the irony: you cannot copyright or trademark a concept.  You can copyright an image.  You can trademark a name.  You can't take an entire idea and claim ownership over it.

Oh! oh! your comment actually made me super curious about something, maybe you have more of an idea about it than I do, SaelaVe. So, Mattel has trademarked every name of every character on the MH franchise. Does that mean that, say, if someone wanted to use the name Frankie Stein, or Clawd Wolf for a character in the future, they wouldn't be able to? Not sure how that works. Thanks!

Yes that is correct.  Companies like Mattel have to file for trademark over names that they want to essentially lock down and claim ownership over.  If their trademark application is accepted they then own that name and no one else can legally use it.

Now I do believe that trademarks can expire.  If a company doesn't re-register their trademarks they can lose them... I think. lol  I'm not sure about that one. ^^;


And i agree that you can't really copyright a concept, but man...If I had released a comic years ago and suddenly one day I go to the store and I see the name of my comic in big, bold letters and a whole doll line with the names of the characters my comic had, and a similar concept, I'd be a little worried. Just kidding, i'd be freaking out, haha.

Oh I one hundred percent agree with you there.  If that happened to me I would be so bummed out.  There wouldn't be anything that I could do about it, but it would completely suck.

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Offline Konzern

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Re: Monster High by Aaron Bordner - The Original Monster High?
« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2018, 12:26:16 PM »
I have to agree that it's purely coincidence.  It seems to find this Monster High, you really have to dig.  My sister has been following Mattel's Monster High since the beginning, I can't even remember how exactly she found out about it, but she was often searching it online for games to play or doll release information.  When I showed her this, she said she had never come across it in many Google searches. 

Schools are a really common setting.  Taking ideas people know and putting them in schools are a great way to get kids interested.  "Hey, it's like my school, but for ______!"  As for the monsters themselves, the biggest three are Frankenstein, the Wolfman, and Dracula. They'd likely become the main characters.

Frankie is a unisex name, and very easy to pair with Stein to make you realize who her parents are.   She'd also be the easiest to fill the trope of the outsider main character who introduces us to the setting as she herself learns, as, even though she's a teenager, she's really only been made a few days ago.  Cleo is a shortened form of Cleopatra, and her being a mummy, she's bound to have Egyptian motifs.   

Even within fandoms, ideas overlap.  Just look up Monster High OCs.  There are many characters who get used a lot, especially ones that Mattel never made, like Sasquatch, trolls, succubi/incubi, dullahans, harpies, even slasher villains. 
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Offline nassib

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Re: Monster High by Aaron Bordner - The Original Monster High?
« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2018, 12:29:45 PM »
Did Aaron trademarked any of his art? Was the comic publish or was it a webcomic?

I mean, the ideas in general as someone already said, were inspired on stuff that was inspired on stuff that was inspired on literature that was inspired on legends and so..
I remember fondly the Ghoul School and the Frankenstones from hannah-barbera. There were also the Gruesomes, although I remember very little about those.
I think Aaron's designs are pretty cool, and I've yet to read his comic. I don't know if Mattel stole his idea or anyone else's, but it's not an entirely new concept at all. Wish Aaron bests of luck with his projects though :)
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Offline Crimson Kitty

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Re: Monster High by Aaron Bordner - The Original Monster High?
« Reply #10 on: February 18, 2018, 03:27:50 PM »
So, Mattel has trademarked every name of every character on the MH franchise. Does that mean that, say, if someone wanted to use the name Frankie Stein, or Clawd Wolf for a character in the future, they wouldn't be able to? Not sure how that works. Thanks!

Yes that is correct.  Companies like Mattel have to file for trademark over names that they want to essentially lock down and claim ownership over.  If their trademark application is accepted they then own that name and no one else can legally use it.

Now I do believe that trademarks can expire.  If a company doesn't re-register their trademarks they can lose them... I think. lol  I'm not sure about that one. ^^;
Yes, trademarks/copyright expire after a certain number of years. That is all part of the deal of trademarking and copyrighting. I am a little rusty on the details, but you usually have to file it under a specific category too. Trademarks last for 10 years (You have to renew around the 7th year if you wish to keep it longer) and copyright usually lasts for 70 years after your death before it becomes public domain. It all gets confusing though because you can transfer and sell copyright and trademarks.

Even within fandoms, ideas overlap.  Just look up Monster High OCs.  There are many characters who get used a lot, especially ones that Mattel never made, like Sasquatch, trolls, succubi/incubi, dullahans, harpies, even slasher villains.
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In all seriousness though, this whole thing falls under that 'we-can-only-guess' gray-area. Perhaps the creators of Monster High had seen Aaron's artwork and thought the very basic idea would be fun to alter and reimagine for a doll line. Perhaps someone who had read Aaron's work casually mentioned the idea and the MH creators ran with it, without ever actually seeing Aaron's stuff. Perhaps the creators of MH never even heard of Aaron's creation. We really don't know. I wouldn't be too shocked if the basic idea was inspired by Aaron, but, at the same time, the idea isn't so unique that we can ever really know. Especially since the more similar details (like Frankie's name, and the main monsters being Frankenstein, vampires, werewolves, and mummies) are all obvious things/puns given the base concept.
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Re: Monster High by Aaron Bordner - The Original Monster High?
« Reply #11 on: February 18, 2018, 04:19:17 PM »
Even within fandoms, ideas overlap.  Just look up Monster High OCs.  There are many characters who get used a lot, especially ones that Mattel never made, like Sasquatch, trolls, succubi/incubi, dullahans, harpies, even slasher villains.

What about Marisol, Avea's half-harpy and Headmistress Bloodgood?  :P

But yeah, I agree with everyone, this isn't a new concept and it's probably just a coincidence. I don't think Aaron's art look that much like Mattel's characters; I've taken a look at the Facebook page and while the monsters may seem similar, their appearance and fashion style is different. His Frankie looks a lot more "punk" rather than preppy, his Cleo is green, Clawdeen and Lupey have entirely different appearances, etc. Monsters and monster girls especially are very common!

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Re: Monster High by Aaron Bordner - The Original Monster High?
« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2018, 05:00:05 PM »
Trolls = There's Kjersti ...
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Re: Monster High by Aaron Bordner - The Original Monster High?
« Reply #13 on: February 18, 2018, 05:41:35 PM »
Even within fandoms, ideas overlap.  Just look up Monster High OCs.  There are many characters who get used a lot, especially ones that Mattel never made, like Sasquatch, trolls, succubi/incubi, dullahans, harpies, even slasher villains.

What about Marisol, Avea's half-harpy and Headmistress Bloodgood?  :P

Darn, I pointed out that she forgot about Kjersti for the trolls, but I totally forgot about Marisol! There is also technically the Harpy CAM, but I didn't mention her since she doesn't technically have her own character
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Offline akirafay

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Re: Monster High by Aaron Bordner - The Original Monster High?
« Reply #14 on: February 19, 2018, 03:27:44 AM »
Huh.
Okay, first thing, I do agree that the best that can be done at this point is guesswork.

That being said.

I am going to go into the minority, but I simply cannot agree with "pure coincidence".
I mean, come on. Sure, the names are obvious puns and could be coincidence.
BUT
Why this selection of monsters for main characters, then? Why make frankenstein best friends with a werewolf? I mean, my obvious choice would be a vampire and a werewolf, which Mattel did, but why the frankenstein? It's not really a "common" monster by all means, it's just one character from a book often featured in movie spin offs. So why not Ctulhu, or Godzilla?
Moreover, the name of the monster is actually not Frankenstein. The monster did not have a name, Frankenstein was the name of the guy who created the monster.  As far as I know, while being a rather common mistake, it was not reflected in movies either.. (this could, again, be a coincidence, of course).
Why black hair with white streaks, by the way? Not like the monster had hair like that...

Ok let's go on. Why a random sea monster. Why not a mermaid? Why a non-specific monster like Lagoona? It's not like there is a set design for sea monsters, yet I see very similar ears.

Cleopatra would not come to my mind as a mummy monster - probably Nefertiti (Nefertari) would, since her mummy was found together with her bust. Also, she does not like a mummy, does she. She looks like a human with egyptian-like hairstyle (though in Mattel MH she did wear mummy-like clothes and after the reboot she got bandages).

And a smart girl with Ghoulia's glasses.

Now my point is - all of these could be a coincidence. But all of them together as a coincidence just seem SO unlikely I just cannot believe that.
Also, the fact that this comics was not known and doesn't pop up in google search or anywhere actually suggests that Mattel could have taken some inspiration there. No big company would risk adapting something that was known as the public backlash could damage it.

Again, though, nothing can be done about it now and I LOVE Mattel's MH. Just wanted to say this, though.

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Re: Monster High by Aaron Bordner - The Original Monster High?
« Reply #15 on: February 19, 2018, 05:08:01 AM »
@Akirafay
Not saying it was or wasn't a coincidence, but have you watched Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School? Ever seen the Munsters or the Adams Family?
Seriously, a monster school was just not an original idea even in the 90s.
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Re: Monster High by Aaron Bordner - The Original Monster High?
« Reply #16 on: February 19, 2018, 05:20:26 AM »
@Akirafay
Not saying it was or wasn't a coincidence, but have you watched Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School? Ever seen the Munsters or the Adams Family?
Seriously, a monster school was just not an original idea even in the 90s.
Yeah, that is true, of course, and yeah, I should have mentioned that Aaron's own idea was surely inspired by the other works in the genre, but that is still rather general inspiration.
Like if I wrote a book about a monster trashing a city, it wouldn't be an original concept since there are many many works with an identical theme, but if my monster was a giant dinosaur-like creature originating in Japan, it would probably be linked to Godzilla (irregardless of the works that inspired Godzilla in the first place); and of course I could have gotten the idea independently, considering my personal fascination with dinosaurs and the fact that I studied Japanese, but then if there were also other recognizable characters, well, the likelihood of me being inspired by Godzilla, either consciously or unconsciously, would increase with each similarity. :X

Offline rco55

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Re: Monster High by Aaron Bordner - The Original Monster High?
« Reply #17 on: February 19, 2018, 06:39:43 AM »
Now my point is - all of these could be a coincidence. But all of them together as a coincidence just seem SO unlikely I just cannot believe that.
Also, the fact that this comics was not known and doesn't pop up in google search or anywhere actually suggests that Mattel could have taken some inspiration there. No big company would risk adapting something that was known as the public backlash could damage it.

Again, though, nothing can be done about it now and I LOVE Mattel's MH. Just wanted to say this, though.


I agree completely. For me it isn't so much the concept since, like many people have pointed out, a school for monsters and the monster choices aren't something that hadn't been seen before.

Rather, it's the way it all works. When you adapt something from a decade to another, in fashion for example, of course you won't have your 2009-2010 fashion doll line dressed in late 90's fashion. Kids won't relate at all with that. Many MH "clone" lines tried to go the punk 90s route and didn't do as well.

Also, we're talking about a billion dollar company, Mattel. Not an artist group, or even studio.

Putting one thing over the other, it just seems so weird to me that Mattel never even had the thought upon doing a market study, to be like "hey, let's see if there's any other media (other than the 1989 movie) published named "Monster High". Oh wait, there is a comic released in the late 90's about basically the same thing we're doing, with the same character names doing the same things on a same setting, and even the same links to one another."

Not even the other examples mentioned had their characters named the same exact way.

The comic was released publicly, so although now it might be drowned in a sea of Mattel's MH paraphernalia, by then it should've pop up.

Not that i don't love Mattel's MH, even Aaron admits that Mattel can do a hell of a toy (in regards to Hot Wheel cars in a livestream) but man, it all seems so weird to me.

Again, it doesn't help Mattel that things like MyScene happened. I don't know if you remember those dolls, but they were basically taller, slender Bratz dolls. Same themes and all, and hardly a coincidence.

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Re: Monster High by Aaron Bordner - The Original Monster High?
« Reply #18 on: February 19, 2018, 06:48:57 AM »
I completely forgot Kjersti, and I'll give you Bloodgood as well since I tend to forget she's the daughter of the Headless Horseman, though I often see a lot of OCs with the missing headed dullahans/replacement pumpkins.  We never got a true Harpy, the CAM is a great base.  Quill never really came to be and I think she was the closest.  But I see a few Sassy Squatches, for example.  Heck, I recently came across the son of John Kramer and the daughter of John Kramer, both designed around Billy the puppet, different creators. 

Anyway, back on topic, like I said, you really seem to have to dig for this.  It's possible they overlooked it or never even found it.  How easy was it to find in the late 90s/early 00s?  You said yourself it developed a niche following, but never exploded in popularity.  And it's very likely Adam Bordner was not even the first person to come up with such an idea. 

As for the names, Monster High School and Monster High.  About as generic as you can get.  If it was something he had come up with, like Cryptington School For Monsters, and you walk into a store, and boom, Mattel has made Kryptington Kidz or something, then you've got an argument.
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Offline rco55

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Re: Monster High by Aaron Bordner - The Original Monster High?
« Reply #19 on: February 19, 2018, 07:18:54 AM »
Anyway, back on topic, like I said, you really seem to have to dig for this.  It's possible they overlooked it or never even found it.  How easy was it to find in the late 90s/early 00s?  You said yourself it developed a niche following, but never exploded in popularity.  And it's very likely Adam Bordner was not even the first person to come up with such an idea. 

As for the names, Monster High School and Monster High.  About as generic as you can get.  If it was something he had come up with, like Cryptington School For Monsters, and you walk into a store, and boom, Mattel has made Kryptington Kidz or something, then you've got an argument.


I'll quote Aaron in things he has said publicly in his FB profile. He has mentioned before that apparently the rights to his idea (Monster High), which were published under SIRIUS, the comic company the released his comic, were sold to Mattel without his permission. That scarred him enough to publish his comics on his own since then.

And another thing - I think a big company like Mattel wouldn't need to get personally involved with a single guy claiming they stole his idea. Can you imagine how many people claim that about things big companies release all the time? but Mattel actually ended up sending a letter to Aaron about this, it seems:

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And like i said, it wasn't the name of the line or the names of the characters, or even the setting and storyline itself that feels weird to me, if they were all coincidences separated from each other. But they're all there, together, almost in the same order.

I'm really sorry if this all seems like a conspiracy theory thread, btw ^^; at this point I've learned to love and appreciate both releases as stand alone things, regardless of what happened. I have the 3 volumes of Monster High School by Aaron myself and over 50+ dolls by Mattel.