Sandman vs. Spawn by Shaun Daniels

Sandman vs. Spawn, or better yet, Gaiman vs. McFarlane. Not really the fantasy match up that fanboys drool over but a real life courtroom matchup instead.  This matchup of Neil Gaiman vs. Todd McFarlane recently ended after a 10-year legal battle.  So as the dust settled, the victory went to Gaiman, who is now entitled to royalties in regards to characters he created in the early run of Spawn back in the 1990s.  Gaiman is due a rough sum of $438,000, which includes interest accrued over time.

For people new to comics, or just in the dark in regards to the lawsuit, here is the gist of it: In 1993, Todd McFarlane brought on some of comics’ top writing talents to work on his creator-owned book Spawn.  The writers he recruited included Alan Moore, Dave Sim and Neil Gaiman to name a few.  Gaiman’s issue introduced key characters that helped give the book a more defined direction and larger background.  These contributions arguably went on to shape the series, film and animated TV series.  Issue 9 (the Gaiman-penned issue) saw the introduction of Medieval Spawn, Angela and Cogliostro, all characters created by Gaiman.  In 2002, Gaiman filed papers citing an apparent oral agreement between himself and McFarlane in regards to ownership/co-ownership of the characters.  It is unclear if any of the other writers who worked on Spawn were under the same oral agreement as Gaiman.  Even McFarlane agreed that Gaiman had not signed away the rights to aforementioned characters, giving credence to a co-ownership of the characters.  Where the violation in the agreement happened is when McFarlane failed to ask permission or pay royalties to Gaiman after using the characters created by Gaiman.  Years later, McFarlane claimed that Gaiman was working under a work-for-hire status.  The work-for-hire and royalty issues that fueled Gaiman’s lawsuits were in part but not limited to: the foundations that helped forge the comic book company Image, a company McFarlane himself was a co-founder.  To make the situation worse, there was also another component to the Gaiman/McFarlane battle that involved swapping ownership of Marvelman/Miracleman characters in relationship to the ownership of characters Gaiman created in Spawn.  McFarlane was also part of a similar lawsuit with former NHL left wing enforcer Tony Twist.  McFarlane had created a mob enforcer character that bore the name, Antonio “Tony Twist” Twistelli.  Twist cited that McFarlane profited from a character based on his likeness and failed to ask permission or pay royalties.  McFarlane settled out of court with Twist to the sum of $5 million.

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