There are a number of comic sites online quite legally republishing digital versions of comics now considered to be in the public domain, based on extensive research and sourcing original copies. One of them is the Digital Comics Museum – run by a team clearly determined to honour contested ownership when companies like Warner Bros. recently asserted rights over early appearances by the original Captain Marvel, first published by Fawcett.
Warner are the current owners of Fawcett copyrights and in a post to the DCM forum, the team announced the company’s legal representation had contacted them to inform that several Fawcett books previously on DCM were in fact not in the public domain and must come down.
DCM dutifully complied, stating WB is within their rights to ask for removal.
The takedown is part and parcel of the complex history of the original Captain Marvel, now the star of WB’s new Shazam! film but whose name now belongs to DC rival Marvel, whose own Captain Marvel has been reinvented several times to ensure it stays that way.
Contesting rights to the ownership and names of superheroes goes back to the genre’s earliest days, particularly when it came to protecting Superman against his upstart rivals, as noted briefly here on Comic Book Historians – especially in the case of the original Captain Marvel, who was at one time far more popular.
There’s still plenty to read and enjoy on the Digital Comics Museum that is in the public domain. Check it out here.
I have to say though, that given all the fierce protection of elements of his name, it’s unlikely Warner have any plans to bring us new adventures of Hoppy the Marvel Bunny as part of this assertion of their rights. Which I’m sure will come as a great disappointment to our readers.
MORE CAPTAIN MARVEL
• An Oral History of DC’s CAPTAIN MARVEL/SHAZAM: The Fawcett Years, Part 1 By Zack Smith, Newsarama Contributor – first in a great series
The early Captain Marvel books now known to be owned by Warner and not in the public domain are: Captain Marvel Adventures nos. 3-6, 46-129, 131-141 and 143-150; Captain Marvel Jr. nos. 29-34, 36-106, 108-117 and 119; Captain Marvel Story Book nos. 1-2; Fawcett’s Funny Animals nos. 31-79; Hoppy the Marvel Bunny nos. 1-15; The Marvel Family nos. 1-3, 5-80, 82-89; Mary Marvel Comics nos. 1-28; Master Comics nos. 61-126, 128-132; Whiz Comics nos. 3-6, 64-98, 105-118, 130-153 and 155; and Wow Comics nos. 36-69