Biff! Pow! Comic artists clash over copyrights — [pdf]

Sci-fi writer Neil Gaiman and former Spider-Man artist Todd McFarlane’s attorneys have been sparring for years over Gaiman’s claims to a handful of characters created for McFarlane’s classic Spawn series, which features a murdered CIA agent who becomes a demon.

Now Gaiman insists McFarlane owes him for three more characters — a demon named Dark Ages Spawn and two avenging angels in thong bikinis. A federal judge in Madison has scheduled a Monday hearing to listen to both sides’ arguments.

The long-running case underscores the tension among comic artists as they vie for rights to even minor characters in an industry that has grown more lucrative over the past 20 years through movies, graphic novels and international distribution.