If this comic book battle were waged in four colors at the proper scale, Metropolis, Gotham and New York City would all have been leveled by the clash. But the years-long dispute between “Sandman” creator Neil Gaiman and “Spawn” creator Todd McFarlane, has been decided by a Madison, Wisconsin Federal Court jury on Thursday, which ruled in Gaiman’s favor on all counts.
The dispute stems from issue 9 of “Spawn,” which Gaiman wrote, and in which he introduced the wildly popular character of Angela, an angel who served as the starring Hellspawn’s nemesis. The ownership of the character, and characters created for a subsequent story arc, were in dispute, with McFarlane claiming total ownership of the characters. Additional claims spinning out of this initial dispute were also in question during the three day trial.
According to a report published by ICv2, the jury concluded that:
- Gaiman had an interest in Medieval Spawn, Cagliostro and Angel;
- A reasonable person would not have understood that McFarlane was claiming full copyright ownership of the characters from the copyright information included in the books;
- McFarlane breached contracts to Gaiman in 1992 and 1997, with the latter being the proposed swap of partial or total interest in the characters in exchange for McFarlane handing over his porting of the rights to British superhero Miracleman, which Gaiman once wrote and in which he has a partial ownership stake (although that too is under a cloud of legal confusion);
- Image Comics failing to identify Gaiman as a writer on some of the books constituted damage;
- And that Image did not have the right to use Gaiman’s name and biography in the recent Angela trade paperback.
The damages portion of the trial began immediately following the decision, and Federal Court judge John Shabaz indicated the case was “going out of here by the end of the week.”