D.C. Loses "Superboy"?
April 17, 2006 11:04 AM   Subscribe

D.C. Loses "Superboy" Copyright Battle. On March 23, 2006, the Ninth Circuit District Court ruled that the wife and daughter of "Superman" co-creator Jerry Siegel -- not D.C. Comics -- owned the copyright to "Superboy," beginning retroactively as of November 17, 2004. He additionally opined (but did not rule) that the "Smallville" television series infringes on their copyright.
posted by WCityMike (38 comments total)
 
This news item makes a particular story development that just occurred in the D.C. Universe all the more interesting, don't you think?
posted by WCityMike at 11:07 AM on April 17, 2006


In addition, here�s an even trickier situation � DC currently still owns a trademark on Superboy, so no one can publish a comic using the name Superboy, even if they owned the copyright to the character! Therefore,

Don't they lose the trademark if they don't use it?
posted by delmoi at 11:16 AM on April 17, 2006


DC, not D.C.

Delmoi, they've used the trademark as recently as a few months ago.
posted by solid-one-love at 11:18 AM on April 17, 2006


DC, not D.C.

You say tomato, I say tomahto. Either way, D.C. (or DC) is an abbreviation ...
posted by WCityMike at 11:22 AM on April 17, 2006


link to a pdf of Jerry Siegel, cursing (witch-doctor style) the 1975 Superman movie. Man was this guy bitter - he'd fit in perfect on Aint It Cool.
posted by the theory of revolution at 11:23 AM on April 17, 2006


for Detective Comics :)
posted by keswick at 11:23 AM on April 17, 2006


I thought this was about Washington D.C., and I was wondering why I never knew we had our own superhero. (Other than Cool "Disco" Dan, of course.)
posted by OmieWise at 11:23 AM on April 17, 2006


No chance of a resurrection then I guess. It's one comic book death where the character will have to stay dead.

And as the article says, there is the possibility that the post-Crisis Superboy could return, just without the title. But I don't see DC reviving the character if he isn't going to be Superboy, so I don't think we'll see a Nightwing-type situation.

Bah. Either way, DC seems to be intent on killing, replacing, or otherwise lobotomizing every character I find the least bit interesting these days it seems. (Couldn't they have just axed Supergirl instead? I would cheer if that happened)
posted by kosher_jenny at 11:31 AM on April 17, 2006


You say tomato, I say tomahto.

Nope. The name of the company is not D.C., no matter how that tomato is sliced.
posted by solid-one-love at 11:36 AM on April 17, 2006


Couldn't they have just axed Supergirl instead?

What, again?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:36 AM on April 17, 2006


So let me get this straight:

If I make a Superboy-like character in appearance, characteristics, story, origins, etc. I'm infringing on the Superboy copyright?

But if I make any random character and name him Superboy, I'm infringing on DC's Superboy trademark?
posted by junesix at 11:40 AM on April 17, 2006


Hate to get into this semantics tussle but it really is DC Comics and not D.C. Comics regardless of the abbreviation history. It's like IKEA: it's an abbreviation for Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd but the company only exists as IKEA.
posted by junesix at 11:46 AM on April 17, 2006


from the article: The "Smallville" claim will go towards one simple decision - is "Smallville" a TV show about Superboy, or is it a show about a young Clark Kent?

You know there's nothing to start the week like a nice semiotic discussion about superhero identity in the courts.
posted by camcgee at 11:56 AM on April 17, 2006


delmoi : "Don't they lose the trademark if they don't use it?"

IANAL, but I was under the impression that it isn't that you have to use a trademark in order to keep it, but that you have to protect it in order to keep it. That is, even if you don't use it, you can keep it as long as you prevent anyone else from using it. Any lawyers in the house who can verify/correct this?
posted by Bugbread at 11:58 AM on April 17, 2006


If this ends with Smallville being pulled off the air, my wife will turn into a third-trimester-pregnant She-Hulk and destroy that courtroom.

Just warning you ahead of time. She's crazy for that show...to the point that if we were having a boy, he would have been named Clark. No kidding.
posted by Kickstart70 at 12:29 PM on April 17, 2006


She's crazy for that show...to the point that if we were having a boy, he would have been named Clark.

So, when is little Kara due?
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:57 PM on April 17, 2006


Oh, friggin' fine. DC Comics it is. Never let it be said that MeFites don't love their minutae.
posted by WCityMike at 1:33 PM on April 17, 2006


...or defending an obvious mistake to the point of tediousness...
posted by Artw at 1:42 PM on April 17, 2006


... or whipping a subject past death to the point where we're flogging the maggots out of the corpse ...
posted by WCityMike at 1:54 PM on April 17, 2006


...or tediously whipping SuperBoy in his minutae.

wait, what?
posted by davejay at 2:18 PM on April 17, 2006


“Never let it be said that MeFites don't love their minutae.”

Minutiae
posted by Smedleyman at 2:21 PM on April 17, 2006


I was in a comic shop the other day. Very little I could find that was readable. Beyond poor storytelling - there were three or four word balloons pointing to the wrong character - stuff like that. Just shoddy work in general on top of some crummy art (which I typically don’t notice unless it’s very good (Alex Ross, say) or very bad). I mean in a WTF is going on sorta way. Not in the series, but within the actual work. And I’ve been reading comics a long time.
So ultimately - who cares? Superboy? Screw him.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:24 PM on April 17, 2006


Smedleyman - eh? is this just comics you were picking up at randow?
posted by Artw at 3:02 PM on April 17, 2006


Smedleyman wins. About the minutiae comment, not the complaining.

Quality criticisms aside, it takes too much work just to figure out who Superboy is these days. So yeah, screw him.
posted by Gary at 3:08 PM on April 17, 2006


So Siegel can have Superboy, but he's not allowed to call him a superhero.

Where's Pot and Kettle when you need them.
posted by seanyboy at 3:09 PM on April 17, 2006


This news item makes a particular story development that just occurred in the D.C. Universe all the more interesting, don't you think?

What, the big Supernova?
posted by WolfDaddy at 3:27 PM on April 17, 2006


Thank god I don't read cross-overs, the whole Infinite Crisis thing sounds appalling. That said, House Of M looked worse.
posted by Artw at 3:31 PM on April 17, 2006


MAKE MINE MARVEL, BITCHES!
posted by keswick at 3:56 PM on April 17, 2006


“is this just comics you were picking up at randow?” (sic)

Yes and no. Ones that attracted my attention or ones that I had followed in the past, but I always like to look at new stuff. Some we’re ok obviously, but as a general pattern it looks as though the quality had degraded.

Also - yeah, it’s damned hard to figure out who is who - there are several ‘Superboy’s - not to mention different writers writing the same character with very different patterns of speaking and other otherwise easily remedied problems (not to mention continuity, etc.) and there are other cheap tricks as well - I looked at one series that were all labled “#1” - etc.

It seems mostly like tricks to get you to buy rather than attempts to tell a story. I won’t even get into character.
But I understand it’s the same thing with money (bad money drives good money out of circulation) and other things.

Seems to me comics are headed back to being for kids and that is being used as an excuse not to write well.

Given that, plus the loss of sales which is likely to follow - really, does it matter who holds the copyright?

20 years from now I doubt anyone will remember DC or Marvel comics if they keep this up.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:11 PM on April 17, 2006


There *are* good comics out there at the moment, but Sturgeons Law most definately applies. Especially with all the near impenetrable crossovers flying about at the moment (except Seven Soliders of course. Seven Soldiers is ace).

Following creators, rather than characters, seems to be the bets way to guarantee quality.

Seems to me comics are headed back to being for kids and that is being used as an excuse not to write well.

I wish. That would mean that kids actually bought the damn things...
posted by Artw at 4:34 PM on April 17, 2006


From what I gather, the comics market has become (according to a lot of folks writing within the industry) an industry which produces product almost exclusively for other people who want to become producers of said product. That is, comics now are largely for people who want to be comic artists, not for kids just wanting to read comics.

I have no idea if that's true, but that's what I've gotten from reading interviews with various comic artists.
posted by Bugbread at 5:12 PM on April 17, 2006


It seems mostly like tricks to get you to buy rather than attempts to tell a story. I won’t even get into character.
But I understand it’s the same thing with money (bad money drives good money out of circulation) and other things.


Yup.

Seems to me comics are headed back to being for kids and that is being used as an excuse not to write well.

Not quite. At least, not the way I see it. Right now I'd say American comics are catering solely to the fanboys, and not even bothering to attract newer readers. And there are very few enjoyable titles being put out by the big two that are actually fun. Right now it's about this adolescent angst and stupid violence masquerading as being "grim and gritty" for the spandex set. And I don't mean that all superhero comics should be silly slappy giggly fun (though it would be great to see more humor titles like Nextwave out there) and that Batman should go back to acting like Adam West. But there is a middle ground between that and the overly paranoid dick that they've been writing Batman as these past few years. I'd rather they cut the stupid sensational messy crap and write good stories that are contained to that particular title.

The accessibility thing is why they lost so much ground in the first place to manga. With most manga series it's easier to get into a title that's new to you than with comics put out by the big two.
posted by kosher_jenny at 6:47 PM on April 17, 2006


I find it awfully hard to believe that trademark trumps copyright when you're talking about the same item -- because proven prior usage is a strong defense for trademarks over legal registration.

I can't register "Seinfeld" as a trademark for a TV character if Jerry Seinfeld simply neglected to do so, and then say "sorry Jerry, you can't sell DVDs of your show because I own the trademark to it".

Plus, trademark is specifically trade-related. Use it or lose it. No limitations on how long, as long as you're actively using it. But you have to use it.

It doesn't matter that General Motors created some car 50 years ago -- if it hasn't sold that car, nor sold anything even remotely related to that car model in 50 years, I can create a car model with the exact same name.
posted by RalphSlate at 7:08 PM on April 17, 2006


Poor Cassie.
posted by signal at 8:00 PM on April 17, 2006


I totally thought that copyright would beat trademark because in Giant Size Corporate Lawyer Annual #6 copywrite took down patent hard. And then, of course, in Cigar Chomping Executives #65, trademark got its ass handed to it by Wolverine.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:47 PM on April 17, 2006


kosher_jenny : "I don't mean that all superhero comics should be silly slappy giggly fun...and that Batman should go back to acting like Adam West. But there is a middle ground between that and the overly paranoid dick that they've been writing Batman as these past few years."

Agreed in principle, but not in the details. Batman's shtick/hook/angle/keytrait is the paranoid dick character. It's what makes him different from everyone else. So I think it's perfectly fine to write him as a paranoid dick. The problem comes when they make everyone (or just plain too many folks) into dark, gritty dicks.
posted by Bugbread at 6:51 AM on April 18, 2006


Noboddy gonna win : (
posted by zarisa at 8:12 AM on April 18, 2006


“Right now I'd say American comics are catering solely to the fanboys, and not even bothering to attract newer readers...”

That’s even worse, man.

/There’s a reason there are genetic and legal downsides to inbreeding.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:05 AM on April 18, 2006


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