Netflix Settles Copyright Lawsuit Over Fish-Headed Villain in ‘The Umbrella Academy’

Artist Kevin Atkinson accused the streamer and Gerard Way, the creator of the comic the series is adapted from, of copying his character, which first appeared in 1996.

Netflix and Dark Horse Comics have settled a copyright lawsuit from comic book artist Kevin Atkinson alleging the idea for a fish-tank-headed villain in The Umbrella Academy was lifted from him, according to Atkinson’s attorney.

Details of the deal, filed on Wednesday, were not made public as the filing is sealed. The agreement was reached less than a month after the judge overseeing the case granted Netflix’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit for a second time. Atkinson was given one last chance to fix his claims but opted to settle.

Atkinson sued last year claiming that the source material, published in 2008, from which Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy is adapted, copied his design for a character that first appeared in 1996 in his Rogue Satellite Comics. Both characters are villains known for having talking fish in bell jars as heads with normal human bodies.

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To establish a copyright infringement claim, there must be proof of actionable copying, which involves access to the copyrighted work prior to the creation of the infringing work and evidence of similarity. If access cannot be demonstrated, a party may substantiate copying by showing a “striking similarity” between the disputed works.

U.S. District Judge Robert Schroeder has twice refused to allow the lawsuit to proceed. In May, he sided with The Umbrella Academy comic creator Gerard Way, who was named in the complaint, that he did not have access to and had not seen Atkinson’s work.

On substantial similarity, the judge found that neither the character nor the plot meets the standard.

“The ‘total concept[s] and feel’ between the two storylines are not comparable,” the order reads. “Rogue Satellite Comics is stylistically done in black and white, with a ‘campy’ vibe; by contrast, ‘The Umbrella Academy‘ is sharp, crisp and colorful.”

Netflix distributes the series and is not credited as a producer.

Dark Horse Comics and Netflix did not respond to requests for comment.