Judge rules author entitled to royalties

A federal judge in Wisconsin says author Neil Gaiman is due royalties from three more characters from Todd McFarlane’s “Spawn” comicbook series.

U.S. District Court Judge Barbara B. Crabb ruled that Dark Ages Spawn and two other characters, Domina and Tiffany, are derivative of characters created by Gaiman when McFarlane invited him in 1992 to work on an issue of the Spawn comic.

Last week’s ruling was the latest in a long-running dispute between Gaiman and McFarlane.

In 2002, a jury found that Gaiman had a copyright interest in three characters he wrote, and which were drawn to his specifications by McFarlane: Medieval Spawn and the characters Angela and Count Cogliostro. The value of the copyright interest is still subject to accounting, but at stake are profits from posters, trading cards, an HBO animated series, clothing and other items.

Crabb found that the characters of Dark Ages Spawn and Medieval Spawn have the same distinctive look that “would cause any reader, casual or constant, to see a substantial similarity between them.”

“It seems far more than coincidence that Dark Ages (McFarlane) Spawn is a knight from the same century as Medieval (Gaiman) Spawn,” Crabb wrote.

McFarlane was given until Sept. 1 to produce an accounting of the money earned from the characters.

Gaiman wrote on his blog last week, “I wish I took some kind of joy in this, but I don’t.

“At this point all I hope is that Todd can do an accounting for all the comics I wrote for which he paid no royalties, and the rest of it; and that he’ll settle up and I will make some comics charities very happy; that his comics company will finally come out of bankruptcy; and that I can forget this forever.”

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