THR reports that Image co-founder and "Spawn" creator Todd McFarlane is suing a former employee who claims that he is the inspiration/namesake of the popular comic book character (whose alter-ego is named Albert Francis "Al" Simmons). The lawsuit charges that the ex-employee, who is also named Al Simmons, has violated the terms of his employment and "breached his duty of loyalty." Specifically, at issue: McFarlane claims that Simmons was not the inspiration for Al Simmons in the comics. According to the lawsuit:
"Al Simmons, who was flattered and eagerly gave his consent to McFarlane in 1993 for his name to be a part of 'Spawn,' was not the inspiration for 'Spawn's' central character and no one has ever confused the character with Defendant Al Simmons. Curiously, Defendant Al Simmons has, over the years, as 'Spawn' enjoyed popularity, remarked on how his association with Plaintiffs has provided him with some name recognition or notoriety, where he had none before 'Spawn.'"
The real-life Al Simmons had recently penned a memoir, called "The Art Of Being Spawn," which, according to the THR article, might have helped set off this lawsuit; on the cover, Simmons poses with Spawn. The book's website, www.simmons-spawn.com , is currently offline, but the YouTube channel for Simmons features a video in which the former ball-player describes his version of how the comic book Simmons came to be:
"Thank you for the 20 years of support you've given me and Todd and this project we've launched back in 1992. I was honored by my college roommate to be the namesake of his superhero, that was about to become a comic book phenomenon..."
And in this passage, Simmons describes an alleged phone call between him and McFarlane in which the latter asked permission to use the now-contested name:
"...in 1992, my college roommate, Todd McFarlane, called me and asked if he could use my name in a comic book. I thought: "why not? It'll be a one-time shot, Al Simmons gets run over by a truck on page 3, panel 4 -- end of story! Boy was I wrong!"
But McFarlane's lawyers aren't too pleased with the content of the memoir:
"Defendant Simmons has, in effect, traded on Plaintiffs' fame, brand and copyright protected creation, and now is deliberately using falsities in the Book to further attempt to improperly capitalize and infringe upon the McFarlane Companies' property interests and McFarlane's name, likeness and identity."
This is not the first time McFarlane has been involved in litigation involving the name of one of his characters; in 2004, hockey player Tony Twist won a lawsuit that alleged a mob enforcer in the "Spawn" comic, "Antonio 'Tony Twist' Twistelli," was based on his name and likeness.