McFarlane vs. Gaiman Decision
US District Judge Judge Barbara Crabb has made a decision over profits for the characters Dark Ages Spawn, Tiffany and Domina. Todd McFarlane and Neil Gaiman have been in a contentious court case going back and forth for a while now.
Gaiman asserted that these three characters were derivatives of his creations Medieval Spawn and Angela. In 2002 a court decision ruled he co-owned those characters. Since the three characters were offshoots of his creations, Gaiman felt he was owed some profits from their use.
Judge Crabb sided with Gaiman citing the similarities of the characters in the decision. You can read the full decision here.
The decision shows the judge clearly read through the issues:
Both Medieval (Gaiman) Spawn and Dark Ages (McFarlane) 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. 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. Both have aspects of the first Al Simmons Spawn: a “neural parasite cloak,” a particularly shaped face mask, green eyes and a red “M” on the chest.
Tiffany and Domina are visually similar to Angela and share her same basic traits. All three are warrior angels with voluptuous physiques, long hair and mask-like eye makeup. All three wear battle uniforms consisting of thong bikinis, garters, wide weapon belts, elbow- length gloves and ill-fitting armor bras. Angela and Domina each wear a long cloth draped between their legs and a winged headdress. Tiffany and Angela are shown in the Spawn Bible as having sharp wings. Tr. exh. 16 at 9, 20. All three of these female characters are warrior angels who fight in the war between Heaven and Hell. When plaintiff conceived of Angela, he saw her as part of an army of 300,000 “female, kick-ass warrior angels, who are hunters, merciless and not very nice.” Hrg. Trans., dkt. #311, at 16. Tiffany and Domina are part of this same heavenly army.
The judge even uses Spawn’s own continuity to seal the case in favor of Gaiman:
In fact, the basic concept of the Spawn series raises questions about the individuality of Dark Ages (McFarlane) Spawn. In Spawn No. 9, plaintiff conceived of a new direction in the story line, introducing a courtly Hellspawn of the middle ages, the twelfth century, to be exact, who stopped to help a damsel in distress and who spoke “medieval.” According to the rules of the Spawn universe, only one Hellspawn could be on Earth at the same time and the Al Simmons Hellspawn was already around.
McFarlane has until September 1 to turn over information on money earned by the contested characters.