‘Spawn’ Creator’s Biz, Long Balls Losing Value

It's been a tough month for legendary comic book artist Todd McFarlane, who sprang into the headlines after paying $3 million for Mark McGwire's 70th home run ball and $450,000 for Barry Bonds' 73rd home run ball.

First, baseball's stunning steroids scandal broke wide open, casting a pall over Bonds' home run record and cutting the value of one of McFarlane's prized possessions.

Then, McFarlane was forced to take his Tempe, Ariz.-based comic book company into Chapter 11 after he lost a legal brawl with former National Hockey League tough guy Tony Twist.

Twist moved to collect on his $15 million court judgment against the creator of Spawn comics.

A St. Louis jury awarded Twist the $15 million judgment after finding a 1999 Spawn comic book character, Antonelli "Tony Twist" Twistelli, a New York mob boss, infringed on the former NHL player's name.

McFarlane could not be reached for comment about his terrible month.

"I think the Barry Bonds ball is not as hot as it could be because people are confused about the steroids issue," said Brandon Steiner, a sports memorabilia maven.

"People are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward Bonds," he said, "and that definitely takes a bit away" from the value of the balls he hit.

The McGwire ball should also see its value drop, partly in sympathy with the Bonds ball but mostly, Steiner said, because McFarlane overpaid for it.

McFarlane's balls are not included in the bankruptcy filing of Todd McFarlane Productions Inc., the nation's No. 3 comic book company, behind Marvel and DC. The keepsakes are believed to be his personal property.

McFarlane cut his teeth drawing Spider-Man comics and then went on to create Spawn. The movie, based on the comic book, grossed in excess of $100 million.

McFarlane has since moved on to create action figures based on rock stars, jocks and movie characters.

The umbrella company for his seven businesses had 2003 sales of about $50 million.

Michael Kahn, the lawyer for McFarlane's comic book company, said he is confidant the company would prevail on appeal.

In fact, he believes he'll be able to argue the case and get an answer before the end of summer.

He said the case points out the tricky nature of First Amendment law and the media.

"If this case was filed in California or New York, McFarlane would have been protected by the law," he said. "But Missouri doesn't offer the same protection as media-centric cities so we will have to take the case up on appeal."

Indeed, the case has been winding through the system for five years.

Twist won the first round, a $24.5 million jury verdict in 2000, which was overturned by the trial judge.

An appeals court reversed that decision and ordered a new trial. That ended in the $15 million verdict in July.

Twist rang up 1,121 penalty minutes and 10 goals across 10 NHL seasons, mostly with Missouri's St. Louis Blues.

McFarlane, an avid sports fan and part owner of the NHL's Edmonton Oilers, came across Twist's name in a box score early in his career and the name stuck in his head.


Spawn comics creator Todd McFarlane has already seen one of his companies file for bankruptcy. Now, steroid scandals may cut into the value of historic home run balls he paid millions for.


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