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Saturday, June 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Decade-Old Comic Book Feud Comes to a Close

(CN) - A decade-long legal battle over ownership rights relating to comic book characters from the "Spawn" series concluded with the award of certain ownership rights to writer and developer Neil Gaiman.

Gaiman is entitled to 50 percent ownership of issues 9 and 26, as well as issues 1, 2 and 3 of the related comic "Angela," according to the final judgment entered Tuesday.

Originally filed in 2002 in the Western District Court of Wisconsin, the case dealt with Gaiman's agreement to write an issue of "Spawn" for Todd McFarlane and his company. Ultimately this arrangement led to the creation of three unique characters, Medieval Spawn, Angela and Count Nicholas Cogliostro.

Gaiman ended up writing a miniseries involving Angela and did some other work involving Medieval Spawn. When he stopped working with McFarlane shortly thereafter, however, McFarlane and another writer created three new characters, Dark Ages Spawn, Tiffany and Domina. Gaiman said these personas are knock-offs of his original creations.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb, who presided over the case, discussed the similarities of the characters in an opinion written in 2010. "Both Medieval and Dark Ages Spawn committed bad deeds in the past for which they want to make amends, both have sisters whom they loved who married men who were or became the Hellspawn's enemies; both made a deal with the devil to let them return to earth; and both use their powers to help the defenseless," Crabb wrote. "The two characters are visually similar: both wear metal helmets and face masks with rivets; both ride horses and carry oversized swords and battle shields; both have armor shoulder pads with spikes."

The 2010 decision also explored the traits Gaiman's Angela shared with Tiffany and Domina. "All three are warrior angels with voluptuous physiques, long hair and mask-like eye makeup," Crabb wrote. "All three wear battle uniforms consisting of thong bikinis, garters, wide weapon belts, elbow-length gloves and ill-fitting armor bras. ... All three of these female characters are warrior angels who fight in the war between Heaven and Hell. ... All three warrior angels wears masks designed to be the opposite of the Spawn mask; all have hollow eyes. Angela's wings are on her headpiece; Tiffany's are on her back; and Domina's are on her shoulders."

Crabb rejected McFarlane's arguments that each character was an original creation and granted a discovery order for the profits relating to the characters in 2010.

Her two-page final order states that "plaintiff Neil Gaiman is a joint 50% owner of the copyrights to the publications Spawn issues 9 and 26 and Angela issues 1, 2 and 3 and the contents of those publications."

McFarlane's counterclaims were dismissed per the parties' settlement agreement.

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