Warner asserts copyright over early Captain Marvel appearances

There’s a long time rivalry between Superman and the original Captain Marvel, both on and off the page
There’s a long time rivalry between Superman and the original Captain Marvel, both on and off the page

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

Hoppy the Marvel Bunny
Hoppy the Marvel Bunny

Comic Book Historians: How DC keept Superman Super

Digital Spy: Captain Marvel Shazam Explained- Why there are two Captain Marvels

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

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John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

One thought on “Warner asserts copyright over early Captain Marvel appearances

  1. Warner Brothers at it again. From Wikipedia: “A popular myth (spread in part by Groucho himself) surrounding the movie is that the Marx Brothers were threatened with a lawsuit by Warner Bros. for the use of the word “Casablanca” in the title, it being an infringement on the company’s rights to the 1942 film Casablanca. Groucho responded with a letter asserting that he and his siblings had use of the word “brothers” prior to the establishment of Warner Brothers (and many others had before that), and often the story is told that Groucho threatened a counter-suit based on this assertion. He also mentioned that he would consider further legal action by pointing out to Warners that the title of their current hit film Night and Day infringed on the titles of two Marx Brothers films: A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races.

    The true story is that the original storyline for the film was intended to be a direct parody of Casablanca, with the characters having similar-sounding names to the characters and actors in the 1942 film. Groucho Marx has said that an early draft named his character “Humphrey Bogus”, a reference to the leading actor in Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart.[1] Warner Bros. did not actually litigate, or even threaten to litigate, but it did issue a formal inquiry to the Marx Brothers concerning the plot and script of the film.[2]

    The Marx Brothers exploited the situation for publicity, making it appear to the public that a frivolous lawsuit was in the works, and Groucho sent several open letters to Warner Bros. to get newspaper coverage.[2] These letters were among those he donated to the Library of Congress, and he reprinted them in his book The Groucho Letters, which he published in 1967.[3]

    In the end, the matter died without legal action, and the storyline of the film was changed to be a send-up of the genre rather than Casablanca specifically.[2] Warner Bros. now owns the distribution rights to this film via Castle Hill Productions.”

    Where there’s a hit there’s a writ.

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