McFarlane pushed into bankruptcy court


PHOENIX (AP-CP) - A $15-million US jury award against Spawn creator Todd McFarlane has pushed his comic-book business into bankruptcy court.

Todd McFarlane Productions Inc. of Tempe, Ariz., filed for Chapter 11 protection from creditors Friday in U.S. bankruptcy court.

A jury in St. Louis awarded former NHL player Tony Twist $15 million after concluding that McFarlane and his company profited by using Twist's name without permission and that Twist's publicity rights were infringed.

McFarlane, a Calgary native, gave the name Antonio Tony Twist Twistelli to a violent New York mob boss character in his Spawn comic books in the early 1990s.

Twist, a Canadian from Sherwood Park, Alta., claimed the comic book character hurt his image and cost him endorsements. The former Quebec Nordique and St. Louis Blue was known more for his fighting than his skating, racking up 1,121 penalty minutes before his last big-league game in 1999.

The U.S. Supreme Court in January rejected without comment an appeal by McFarlane that argued his work was free speech.

Last year, he said his McFarlane Cos., then an umbrella of seven businesses, had annual sales exceeding $50 million.

The bankruptcy filing allows McFarlane's company to continue to operate and reorganize its finances while freeing it from the threat of creditors' lawsuits.

In 1999, McFarlane paid $3 million for Mark McGwire's 70th home-run baseball. He also paid $450,000 last year for Barry Bonds' record 73rd home-run ball and owns Sammy Sosa's 66th home-run ball.