Wednesday, July 24, 2002
Comic creator free to use Twist's name
ST. LOUIS -- Former NHL player Tony Twist's rights were not
violated when his name was borrowed for a violent mob enforcer in
the popular "Spawn'' comic book series, a state appeals court
The Missouri Court of Appeals' Eastern District said comic book
creator Todd McFarlane was free to use Twist's name in his work of
fiction -- partly because the only resemblance between the player
and the character was a reputation for violence.
"We conclude that a reader could not reasonably believe that
the Twist comic book character is meant to portray, in actual fact,
Twist the hockey player,'' the three-judge panel said in an opinion
written by Judge James R. Dowd.
Tuesday's ruling upheld a St. Louis circuit judge's November
2000 dismissal of a $24.5 million jury award for Twist.
Twist said McFarlane violated his rights by using his name
without authorization. He also argued that McFarlane cost him
endorsements and other business by associating his name with a
character who is a brutal Mafia killer.
"This was a First Amendment case, pure and simple,'' McFarlane
said in a statement issued from the Tempe, Ariz., headquarters of
Todd McFarlane Productions. "This ruling reaffirms that comic
books are an important storytelling medium entitled to the full
protections of the First Amendment; something we in the comic book
community have always known to be true.''
Michael Kahn, an attorney for McFarlane, agreed. "As far as
we're concerned, the court of appeals got it right.''
Twist lawyer John Bardgett Sr. said the appeals court would be
asked to reconsider its ruling.
Twist, 32, formerly among hockey's most feared brawlers, has
been out of the game since June 1999, when his St. Louis Blues
On the subject of hockey fights, he once told Sports
Illustrated, "I want to hurt them. I want to end the fight as soon
as possible and I want them to remember it.'' He since has tried to
soften his image and has been involved in local charity work.
McFarlane, an avid hockey fan, has admitted that he named his
Tony Twist mob killer after the player, who then was with the
Quebec Nordiques -- now the Colorado Avalanche.
But the artist said the resemblance stopped there, arguing in
court documents that "Spawn'' characters "are purely fictional
fantasies and no reasonable person could confuse the plaintiff with
the fictional fantasies and characters portrayed therein.''
"Spawn'' was popular enough to spawn a movie, cartoon series,
toys and other enterprises. It is the dark tale of a CIA assassin
killed by the betrayal of his colleagues, then resurrected in a
deal with the devil. He returns to Earth as a creature with
supernatural powers, struggling to break out of his deal with
One of Spawn's antagonists was Antonio Twistelli, a.k.a. Tony
Twist, a Mafioso who ordered murders and child abductions among
other evil deeds.