Superman Through the Ages! Forum

Superman Comic Books! => Superman! => Topic started by: Ruby Spears Superman on April 13, 2007, 07:43:56 PM

Title: Copyright issues
Post by: Ruby Spears Superman on April 13, 2007, 07:43:56 PM
 Today I came across a copy of Chris Ware's Rusty Brown and in it he makes several visual references to Superman and the Justice League. At one point he even has a naked Supergirl doll come to life and talk directly to the main character. While looking at this I began to wonder if this is legal. Does Ware need permission from DC in order to go this far with the characters? I doubt Marvel would allow an independent creator to go that far with one of their characters.   

Title: Re: Copyright issues
Post by: Super Monkey on April 13, 2007, 08:57:48 PM
it depends...

I don't know how the law works here.

DC a LOT more fan friendly than Marvel. Marvel would sue a pre-schooler for drawing Spiderman with a crayon if they could and hate the fact that they can't.

Title: Re: Copyright issues
Post by: NotSuper on April 14, 2007, 02:03:29 AM
To quote another super-hero, Duffman: "Whatever happened to fair use? Ohhhhh yeah!"

Title: Re: Copyright issues
Post by: Permanus on April 14, 2007, 06:02:01 AM
Normally, fair use includes parody purposes, so I think Chris Ware is safe. It would probably be a bit different if the characters appeared prominently on the cover.

Title: Re: Copyright issues
Post by: TELLE on April 14, 2007, 08:01:40 AM
Like on the cover of Cracked about 20 times?  Or Bill's Superman speech in Kill Bill 2? Or any other reference to Superman in art or pop culture?

On the other hand Dave Sim got a letter from Marvel about featuring his parody character Wolveroach on too many covers of Cerebus and Jeffrey Brown received similar treatment after trying to sell the art work from his Wolverine parody/homage.

Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan graphic novel prominently features a Superman-like character called "The Super-Man".  The character also pops up in many Ware one-off strips.  Since Jimmy Corrigan is one of the most critically lauded and popular graphic novels for adults ever, I'm sure someone in DC legal has seen it...

Title: Re: Copyright issues
Post by: Super Monkey on April 14, 2007, 08:44:10 AM
It not like Chris Ware is some unknown creator, anyone who reads or makes comics knows who he is.

Title: Re: Copyright issues
Post by: Permanus on April 14, 2007, 10:02:19 AM
Mickey Mouse Meets the Air Pirates is a fairly good example of fair use pushed a bit too far. The court ruling said that "some" resemblance was fair, but the characters in the comics were actually presented as the actual Mickey and Minnie, dropping their drawers for quickie sex and generally behaving in a rather non-Disney fashion. It does lead one to wonder what "some" means, though. Probably depends a bit on how the judge is feeling. (

Title: Re: Copyright issues
Post by: Ruby Spears Superman on April 14, 2007, 12:42:21 PM
 This was clearly stated as Supergirl, and the part that made me raise an eyebrow in question was the lifesize nudity sequence where the main character busts through a glass window to rescue a dying Supergirl lying naked in the snow. Before then she was only portrayed as an action figure. My thinking was even if DC had no problem with Ware's use of her in the story, how much would they let Ware do with her? The scene only took place in the boys mind, but you still have to wonder how far his imagination would be allowed to go before DC took issue with it. I've heard of the Mickey Mouse example you described before and that was one of the things that sprang to mind when I saw this.

All kinds of other comics use Superman references all the time, but it's usually just a character wearing a Superman T-shirt or something with the symbol or the character on it. Does anyone know if they have ever taken legal action against someone for how a character is used? I've seen Ware's work before and there definitely seems to be a very Superman oriented theme running through the Rusty Brown series but this is the first time I have ever seen him interacting with one of the characters. 

Title: Re: Copyright issues
Post by: TELLE on April 14, 2007, 10:28:32 PM
The Rusty Brown story is protected, or at least defendable, because the character is fantasizing about a doll --an actual product that exists in the real world (I think it's the very sexy a Mego Supergirl)
It does seem that the one area where DC/Warners may draw the line in issues of copyright infringement and art (as opposed to commerce, like someone starting a for-profit fan magazine about Batman and using lots of copyrighted imagery on the cover, as was the case about 15 years ago) is when we get to actual visual representations of a characters sexuality, especially where that depiction contradicts "canonical" DC depictions --depicting Batman as gay, for instance, seems a big no-no. DC refused to allow images to be used in an academic book of essay/queer readings of Batman a few years ago.  Or the current art controversy:

Text infringements are less likely to provoke legal ire, as the millions of fan-fic and slash fiction sites attest:

By not prosecuting every infringement, however, DC harms its position, IMO.

DC is guilty of a few infringements itself over the years, most recently with the suit over the Winter Bros.

Title: Re: Copyright issues
Post by: ShinDangaioh on April 15, 2007, 12:45:36 AM
Marvel has ran afoul of copyright issues as well.

Royal Roy-Richie Rich

Champions went toe to toe with a small RPG company called Hero Games and LOST, since Champions was their Superhero RPG and their trademark.

Title: Re: Copyright issues
Post by: jamespup on April 15, 2007, 09:01:30 AM
This essay on Royal Roy makes some interesting points: