Former Blues player Twist wins latest lawsuit round

Sunday, July 11, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- Tony Twist, a former National Hockey League enforcer known more for his fighting than his skating, has been awarded $15 million by a jury that found a comic strip creator had profited by using Twist's name without his permission.

Comic book artist Todd McFarlane, the former principal artist and writer of Spiderman comics, gave the name Antonio "Tony Twist" Twistelli to a violent character in McFarlane's Spawn comics in the early 1990s.

McFarlane had claimed his use of the name was protected under the First Amendment. Twist disagreed.

Twist was awarded more than $24.5 million by a St. Louis Circuit Court jury in 2000, but the judge overruled that decision.

The Missouri Court of Appeals' Eastern District ruled in McFarlane's favor two years ago, citing First Amendment protections, but the Missouri Supreme Court in July 2003 ordered a new trial.

McFarlane appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in December 2003, arguing that "Spawn" characters "are purely fictional fantasies. ..." The high court rejected the appeal without comment in January.

"They made Tony into a Mafia boss," said James Holloran, an attorney for Twist. "He was involved in murders and kidnappings and rapes."

The First Amendment doesn't allow an artist to use someone's name for commercial advantage, Holloran said. McFarlane's attorney disagreed.

"The use at issue in this case is no different from Simon and Garfunkel's use of the name Joe DiMaggio in the song 'Mrs. Robinson,'" said Michael Kahn, one of McFarlane's attorneys.

Kahn vowed to appeal the verdict.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: