MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Famed comic book writer Neil Gaiman testified Monday that he sees no difference between Dark Ages Spawn and Medieval Spawn, a character he co-created nearly two decades ago.
The battle over Spawn, as well as two scantily clad female angel characters, was being waged not in the pages of a comic book but in a Wisconsin federal court.
Gaiman filed a motion in March arguing that former Spider-Man artist and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane owes him money for characters that Gaiman argues were derived from ones he created in the 1990s for McFarlane's famous Spawn series.
Gaiman, wearing a black sweater, tie and jeans, testified for three hours Monday about how he first came up with the Medieval Spawn character and a red-haired angel that fights it named Angela.
Gaiman testified that three additional characters — Dark Ages Spawn and the angels Tiffany and Domina — were derived from the characters he created named Medieval Spawn and Angela.
A jury found in 2002 that Gaiman was due money for being a co-copyright holder for Medieval Spawn and Angela as well as one named Cogliostro, a one-time Spawn ally.
Over the past eight years Gaiman and McFarlane have tried, unsuccessfully, to determine how much money Gaiman should get based on those three characters. Adding three more to the mix would mean even more money for Gaiman.
Images of the characters in dispute, including the scantily clad angels, were projected in U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb's courtroom during Gaiman's testimony. He described what he said were unmistakable similarities between the characters at issue and the ones he created 17 years ago.
"It looks like the same kind of thing," he said when shown an image of a comic book titled Dark Ages Spawn No. 1. "It's a knight in armory kind of Spawn."
Gaiman said that in the Spawn universe, there is only one Spawn that comes to earth every 400 years, so Dark Ages Spawn has to be the same as the character he created because they both lived during Medieval times.
McFarlane sat at the defense table throughout Gaiman's testimony and was expected to offer his own interpretation of events later Monday. The author of the Dark Ages Spawn comic series was also expected to testify.
McFarlane created Spawn in 1992 for a startup comic book company, Image Comics. Gaiman's Medieval Spawn character and Angela appeared in the April, 1993, issue. Gaiman described how McFarlane told him he had the liberty to do whatever he wanted for that issue.
"If I wanted to do 23 pages of Spawn reading a newspaper, I could," Gaiman said.
Even though Spawn isn't as popular as Spider-Man or Batman, the court case exemplifies the tension among comic artists and writers as they vie for rights to even minor characters that could turn massively profitable later.
Spawn has spawned a successful line of action figures, an Emmy-winning HBO series and a 1997 movie that grossed $87 million worldwide. A sequel is in development, according to Image Comics' Web site.
Gaiman's attorneys said Gaiman plans to donate any money that comes out of the case to charity.
Gaiman, who lives in northwestern Wisconsin near the Twin Cities, worked on the "Sandman" comic book series. His novels include "American Gods," ''Coraline" and "The Graveyard Book," which won the John Newberry Medal.
McFarlane illustrated a number of big-time superheroes, including Batman and Spider-Man, before co-founding Image Comics. He also manufactures action figures and made headlines in 1999 when he paid $3 million for the baseball Mark McGwire hit for his then-record 70th home run in a season.