ST. LOUIS – Tony Twist is one of the most well-known enforcers in St. Louis Blues history, but a fight off the ice that unfolded decades ago led him to some major fortunes.
Twenty-two years ago this week, on July 5, 2000, a judge awarded $24.5 million to Twist in a lawsuit over his likeness.
Legal battles began after Todd McFarlane, a partial owner of the Edmonton Oilers and an artist of the Spawn comic book series, created a mob enforcer character named Antonio Twistelli.
The shortened name for the antagonist was “Tony Twist,” and the character was portrayed as a mafia boss who consistently planned crimes and sought to steal power from others. According to Comic Book Realm, the fictional character was first introduced in 1992, when Twist was already a few years into in his NHL career with the Quebec Nordiques.
In 1997, while playing for the St. Louis Blues, Twist filed a John Doe lawsuit contending that McFarlane created the character without consent from the enforcer over his name. The lawsuit also targeted HBO, which aired a version of the character in an animated show based on the comic book series.
A Missouri-based jury eventually returned a unanimous verdict against McFarlane and his corporations, claiming that the Antonio Twistelli character had given Tony Twist a negative image and hindered his ability to land major endorsement deals. One year after Twist retired from the NHL, he was initially awarded $24.5 million in the lawsuit for damages over his likeness.
The penalty was hefty enough to potentially push McFarlane out of the comic book industry, so he battled back. McFarlane first appealed the court decision in November 2000, leading to back-and-forth legal proceedings between both sides. A court of appeals later overruled the $24.5-million decision, citing First Amendment protections.
On behalf of Twist, the Missouri Supreme Court ordered a new trial in 2003. One year later, a jury agreed to a $15 million award for Twist. Following that decision, McFarlane and his productions filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2004.
McFarlane attempted to appeal two more times, both of which were unsuccessful. Eventually, McFarlane and Twist ended the legal battles in 2007, agreeing to a $5-million settlement out of court, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch via Comicsbeat.com.
The $5-million settlement is larger than Twist’s career earnings in the NHL. Over a ten-year NHL career that ended in 1999, Twist earned $3.05 million, per HockeyZonePlus.com. Twist had 10 goals, 18 assists and 1121 penalty minutes over 445 career NHL games.