Comic books have been part of America’s popular culture since the 1930s. One feature of many comics is the battles between superheroes and villains. However, as Phoenix lawyer Andrew Turk points out, many battles have occurred over the years in courtrooms over the comic characters we all love. For example, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who created Superman, sold the rights to their character to National Allied Publications for $130. Siegel and Shuster later sued to set aside the contract and regain rights to their creation. Other comic creators had similar experiences. In this report, Turk offers five tips to comic creators to help avoid legal problems.
Tip #1: Find a Lawyer. Turk suggests that comic creators should have a lawyer look over any contracts they might be thinking about signing. While knowledge of intellectual property law would be a good thing for your lawyer to have, any lawyer will know something about contract law and can offer advice that may help to avoid legal battles down the road.
Tip #2: Use Other Resources. If you don’t know any lawyers or feel you can’t afford to hire counsel, there are resources available to help. Turk points out that are several books explaining legal issues that comic creators might encounter. He also suggests that you might get some good advice from established comic book creators or comic book store owners.
Tip #3: Clarity Is Key. It’s important for comic creators to be clear about what they want, what they are looking for. Turk says that comic creators who want to keep the rights to their creations should be looking to make a deal with a smaller publisher. On the other hand, the big companies like Marvel and DC will pay more money. Josh Blaylock, who owned Devil’s Due comics, got an assignment to publish GI Joe comics. The downside for him was that all the new characters he created for those comics belonged to the owner of GI Joe.
Tip #4: Know Future Worth. Turk says that, “If you’re looking to sell your own character, or your own story, try and figure out what it might be worth.” For example, it might be in your best interest to take a little less money at the start of the deal if you think a movie and merchandise might be waiting down the road. You might take less money but retain rights to characters that will be valuable later on.
Tip #5: Don’t Copy. Turk urges comic creators who like existing comic characters to be very careful about how much they copy those other characters. As an example, Turk cites Captain Marvel, created by Fawcett Comics and extremely popular in the 1940s. Fawcett stopped publication in the 1950s because a lawsuit by DC Comics alleging that Captain Marvel was a copy of Superman. So a comic creator who creates a new character similar to an existing one may end up in a court fight with a big company.
Andrew B. Turk is Senior Counsel in the Litigation and Health Care Practice Groups of Clark Hill P.L.C. in Phoenix, Arizona. He has extensive experience with health care litigation as well as with tort and insurance litigation. His practice currently emphasizes complex civil litigation, including health care, medical malpractice, and business disputes. he also has experience with wide range of commercial matters, trade secret and insurance coverage litigation and elder abuse litigation. He also frequently provides ADR services as a mediator or arbitrator. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of Sequence Media Group.