Good friend-o-Blogcritics Dirk Deppey of the Comics Journal sends this in:
- In 1994, "Spawn" creator Todd McFarlane, laboring under criticism that he didn't know how to write, invited four comics creators (Dave Sim, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Frank Miller) to write an issue apiece of Spawn for him. Writer Neil Gaiman introduced three characters in his issue which would go on to become intregral to the series, including one who went on to a miniseries and a place in the short-lived Spawn HBO animated series. There was no paperwork of any kind in effect; it was a handshake agreement.
Sometime later, Todd McFarlane purchased the "tangible assets" and intellectual property of a company called Eclipse Comics, which among other things published a series called Miracleman, originally written by Moore and later continued by Gaiman; these assets included the film plates from which the comics were printed, as well as a disputed share of the character itself.
Later, in an attempt to square things with Gaiman, McFarlane offered an even trade: the Miracleman plates and rights in exchange for the free and unfettered rights to the characters Gaiman created (plus royalties, et cetera). Gaiman agreed, and McFarlane shipped him the plates. With me so far?
Shortly thereafter, McFarlane filed for a trademark on Miracleman, announced his plans to publish it himself, essentially daring Gaiman to do something about it. McFarlane's success with Spawn had made him rich, and previous legal maneuverings left him with a reputation for making it rain lawyers when it suited him. Meanwhile Gaiman was just a comics writer; for the longest time, Gaiman looked pretty much screwed.
Then Gaiman had a best-selling novel. And a good bit of money. And a score to settle, and an old character to reclaim.
Yesterday, Neil Gaiman won all nine counts of a lawsuit against Todd McFarlane in a Wisconsin courtroom, potentially winning copyrights to portions of the Spawn milieu, and presumably a good chunk of change. Meanwhile, a sizable chunk of the comics-reading community is having a hearty laugh at McFarlane's expense.
The basic facts can be found here;
The court win is described here;
The laughter can be heard here.