It’s been a a little while since Todd McFarlane was involved in a lawsuit, but that sad, empty feeling can go away now, as he is
suing former employee Al Simmons for claiming to be Spawn. For anyone who was around in the 90s this will come as a surprise since Al Simmons, the real person, was a regular at the Image booth dressing as Spawn and explaining how the character was named after him, as McFarlane looked on approvingly.
But it seems the real Al Simmons went beyond what was contracted, or at least so claims McFarlane’s suit:
According to a lawsuit lodged in Arizona federal court, this Simmons came out with a book entitled, The Art of Being Spawn, where Simmons purportedly suggests that his own life was the inspiration for the popular Spawn character. As a result, McFarlane is now claiming that Simmons has violated the terms of his employment pact and breached his duty of loyalty.
In a coincidence on par with Stan Lee employing (and then suing) a guy named Tony Stark (for, say, being a renegade employee), Todd McFarlane Productions says it really had someone named Al Simmons employed at the company. The production company also employeed his wife, Melanie Simmons, working as an executive in its human resources department, who is also named as a defendant.
But McFarlane is adamant that Al Simmons is not the Al Simmons even if this kismet was enough to have necessitated a waiver when McFarlane’s famous comic book first came out.
McFarlane is suing for a modest $75,000, which sounds more like a shot across the bows than a real trademark infringement. According to the lawsuit, it was the publication of The Real Al Simmons autobiography The Art of Being Spawn that spilled the behind the scenes beans, and a resulting libel suit.
Here’s the full complaint:
As noted elsewhere, Spawn.com has attempted to scrub references to The Real Al Simmons’ numerous appearances as Spawn from the wayback machine, without total success. And, as noted above, anyone who hung around McFarlane and Simmons in the ’90s will have a lot to say about this lawsuit—as well as McFarlane’s penchant for naming characters in Spawn after real people—Spawn Al Simmons’ wife was named Wanda, as is The Real Todd McFarlane’s, and both Comic Book Al Simmons and Real Todd McFarlane had besties named Terry Fitzgerald.
Where The Real Al Simmons’ might be in trouble is that cover claim “Including Input from Todd McFarlane.” “Including Input” could mean anything, and a court might decide it means nothing at all.
Ah….it’s good to be back in the game!
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.