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  1. #1
    Ultimate Member Ascended's Avatar
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    Default Would You Want Indies to Use A Public Domain Superman? Others?

    If you're not familiar with the public domain, for our purposes it's a list of intellectual properties and characters that anyone can use, and includes notable names such as Santa Claus, Robin Hood, King Arthur, Zeus, Thor, Snow White, and Aladdin. And under current law, in a few years Steamboat Willie and then Action Comics #1 will enter the public domain as well, meaning that anybody will be able to use the original versions of Mickey Mouse and Superman.

    So my hypothetical question is this; IF these characters do actually enter the public domain (and yes it's a big "if" just roll with me here) would you be interested in seeing Image/Dark Horse/IDW/whoever introduce their own Superman? Forget about the legal issues and reasons for this not to happen; just pretend that, somehow, those problems have been dealt with, Superman is available to everyone, and you now must contend with whether to use this or not. Would you be interested in the indies adapting their own version of Golden Age "leap tall buildings" Superman, or no?

    Keep in mind, the Superman entering public domain bears little resemblance to what the character has become. No flight, no heat vision, no Lex Luthor or rogues gallery to speak of really, no Daily Planet, Jimmy Olsen, or kryptonite. No parents even; originally Clark Kent grew up in an orphanage. All those classic elements will eventually reach the public domain as well, but only after reaching the current time limit of public domain law; meaning that something which debuted ten years after Superman will take ten years to enter public domain after him.

    For an example of what comics can build on public domain, look at Marvel's Thor. Presumably the differences between an indie's Superman and DC's would be as stark as the differences between Marvel's Thor and the figure from Norse mythology. Other examples of public domain figures in comics include Grant Morrison's Klaus from BOOM! and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

    So what do you think? Do you say "If I wanted to read about Superman I'd be a DC fan in the first place! Keep any version of him out of my comics!" or do you say "I already fan casted Jon Hamm as Superman for a Hellboy crossover movie!"

    And if not Superman, then what about other characters? The year after Action Comics #1 enters public domain, Batman's first appearance will as well. Then Captain America, Wonder Woman, and so on. Would you be interested in versions of those characters under one of the indie publishers?

    Posted the same question to the Marvel board too, in case that publisher is more appealing in this scenario.

    https://community.cbr.com/showthread...uperman-Others
    Last edited by Ascended; 03-21-2021 at 12:07 PM.
    "We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe."

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  2. #2

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    Sure. Some takes like God's and Monsters would work better here.

    Honestly I just see Public Domain Superman running the gambit from good to alright to bad to terrible. Which isn't that different from what we already have from DC.

  3. #3
    Invincible Member MajorHoy's Avatar
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    With the copyright/trademark renewals that DC has made over the years, I'm not sure if anybody will be to just publish their own "Superman" comic books / stories. It's not like with original Captain Marvel, where there was a long lapse in time where no new stories were published so Marvel Comics was able to grab the character's name and keep DC from using it for the title of a comic book / stories (resulting in DC eventually throwing in the towel and renaming that character "Shazam!").

  4. #4
    Ultimate Member Ascended's Avatar
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    The legality of it all, and the odds of Disney/Warners not lobbying the hell out of Congress to extend the public domain deadline (again), are indeed really big damn hurdles to cross. In fact, if it happens it'll be setting legal precedent, I believe.

    But that's not the point, my good Major. The point of this thread is whether you'd want another publisher to use Superman if he did end up in public domain.

    And I agree with Mr. Kenway that a public domain Superman would run the range of quality, much like we already have from DC. I dont think the public domain would really result in overall better Superman stories, it'd just result in more variety.
    Last edited by Ascended; 03-21-2021 at 01:14 PM.
    "We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe."

    ~ Black Panther.

  5. #5
    Mighty Member LordMikel's Avatar
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    If Superman went public domain. Everyone would jump and do a Superman comic. It wouldn't be a series, perhaps a mini at most. As someone said, some would be good, others junk. People would buy them cause of the interest, the hype, and curiosity. They would all be pretty forgettable though. I suspect at least three of them would kill him in the end.

    Now Marvel (And McFarlane or Larsen) could do something more with him. Superman is a thrown out of his own dimension and finds himself in a new one. Depowered and not remembering much of his past, he realizes this new world is the world he must live in now. Granted anyone could do a storyline like that, but why? It would be interesting to see Superman relating to other established characters. Not brand new characters created for this new public domain Superman in a new world.

    At the end of the day, I simply don't see it mattering. I don't think anyone is going to say, "Are you reading the Image Superman? So much better than the DC one."
    I think restorative nostalgia is the number one issue with comic book fans.
    A fine distinction between two types of Nostalgia:

    Reflective Nostalgia allows us to savor our memories but accepts that they are in the past
    Restorative Nostalgia pushes back against the here and now, keeping us stuck trying to relive our glory days.

  6. #6
    Ultimate Member Ascended's Avatar
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    See, I *could* see someone saying "the Image Superman is way better than DC's!" I don't know if that would actually happen, but I can imagine it.

    The Golden Age social crusader involved himself in normal people problems a lot more than the modern version, and Image doesn't have to protect the character's image the way DC thinks it does, so I can see a indie Superman that delves into territory Clark rarely enters these days, and reigniting the appeal of the original Golden Age guy. A lot of us Super fans say that the character doesn't stand for anything now, not like he used to, and the indies getting their hands on the OG version might be capable of doing what DC is too afraid to do.

    Or not, I don't know how it'd play out.
    "We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe."

    ~ Black Panther.

  7. #7

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    Personally not very interested, to be honest. People have already written all kinds of Superman analogues, especially at Image (think Supreme), and even within the DC confines plenty of different takes on the character already exist. I'm sure it'd lead to some interesting creations, but my preferred indie comics are usually those which play in different genre spaces than superheroes. The biggest hits in the independent space carved out identities of their own, rather than copying what the Big Two were doing.

    That said, it would allow way more people than ever before to work on the series and publish their takes on it, which I'm sure would be interesting to fans.
    It could be amusing if, say, a contest lets five different creative teams all begin writing the same week with just the premise from the very first issue, and then to see where they would take it next. Do they wind up with similar powers, supporting characters, villains, etc.? But if everyone just follows the original's publishing schedule in lockstep, waiting for new issues to enter the Public Domain to pilfer their content it'd be less interesting.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ascended View Post
    The Golden Age social crusader involved himself in normal people problems a lot more than the modern version
    I could see something like this work. DC have done a lot of planet-sized threats already, so scaling it back to a much more local level makes sense to differentiate. If you mash Superman into Sheltered for example, you could have this one dude who jumps real high live alongside a confined doomsday cult. Might just be gimmicky, though.

    (Pedantic note: I don't think you could even really call the comic Superman, or use much of the iconography, since those are Trademarks. You'd only be able to use those names within the pages, and you'd have to check on a per-monthly basis what new elements you'd be able to lift over. Seems like a big balancing act and a lot of planning would be required to make it work as an ongoing series... Time you could also spend creating your own unique characters and stories, which you'd own the copyright to for your entire life.)
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  8. #8
    Ultimate Member Ascended's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TotalSnorefest View Post
    (Pedantic note: I don't think you could even really call the comic Superman, or use much of the iconography, since those are Trademarks. You'd only be able to use those names within the pages, and you'd have to check on a per-monthly basis what new elements you'd be able to lift over. Seems like a big balancing act and a lot of planning would be required to make it work as an ongoing series... Time you could also spend creating your own unique characters and stories, which you'd own the copyright to for your entire life.)
    Copyright and trademark are two things I didn't spend much time studying but I believe you're right; Image or Oni or Marvel or whoever couldn't use the Superman name on the cover of a book, nor could they use the modern "S" shield design. They'd have to call the book, I dunno, "Kent" or "the Man from Krypton" or something (I believe Krypton was mentioned in Action #1 so it's fair game) and they'd have to design their own shield, based off the original police badge looking one. There'd be hurdles to jump for sure, but from what I understand it wouldn't be as hard as you might think. Definitely a hassle a original creation wouldn't have to deal with, which is a point in favor of not bothering to use a public domain Superman...but that new creation also isn't going to be a global icon either.

    I think if I were a publisher, I wouldn't bother rushing my own Superman just for the sake of using the name, but I'd most definitely be keeping an eye out for that perfect pitch too, and then really take the time to do it right once I found it. I feel like if Superman ever did hit public domain (same goes for Batman, Captain America, whoever) you'd either see every publisher under the sun take a stab at it, or nobody would.
    "We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe."

    ~ Black Panther.

  9. #9
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    This becomes a very complicated matter. On the one hand, it'll be great to see Superman put into public domain, it means that the law works in the ethical approach. And it may be a case like many other characters in the public domain where we see a mixture of quality between great and awful.

    However, they run the risk of potentially damaging a brand name. I go back to 'Hunt down the Freeman' for this where that game single handedly killed the hype for a half life 3 for a few years, with it only really growing back from that VR spin off they did.

    The circumstances between both franchises are different, but oversaturation could also kill the character to the point where he ends up in the background of the main DC universe.

    It could be a great way however to pick up new writers and artists for the official superman comic.

    So do I hope Indies get to use Superman? Well... Yes, but not for the market to be flooded with crappy Superman books from every publisher out there.
    I'm not a fan of the character anyway, but I don't want to see him dropped from the official DC universe.

  10. #10
    Astonishing Member Zelena's Avatar
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    My point of view is similar to TotalSnorefestís: I donít see the point.
    If you want to tell the story of an alien who has landed on Earth when he was a baby and who has a super-strength, you can. Itís not necessary to call him Superman. (By the way, it has been done by Akira Toriyama and called Dragon Ball.) The quality of Superman stories is not in the name.

  11. #11
    Astonishing Member Killerbee911's Avatar
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    This is were the idea shines imo, It is not worth Marvel or say Valiant to use public domain Superman. But a random company look for attention with maybe a exwriter for DC who did a good Superman run. Create your Superman, sneak in couple other Public domain gems like Ms Fury, Daredevil, Captain Battle and others as world superheroes might be worth enough to try. Of course I think this already Dynamite comics strategy with Project Superpowers so the reality it might not be all that great of an strategy. But Superman is gem that might big enough for it to work.
    Last edited by Killerbee911; 03-24-2021 at 01:24 AM.

  12. #12
    Ultimate Member Ascended's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Killerbee911 View Post
    This is were the idea shines imo, It is not worth Marvel or say Valiant to use public domain Superman. But a random company look for attention with maybe a exwriter for DC who did a good Superman run. Create your Superman, sneak in couple other Public domain gems like Ms Fury, Daredevil, Captain Battle and others as world superheroes might be worth enough to try. Of course I think this already Dynamite comics strategy with Project Superpowers so the reality it might not be all that great of an strategy. But Superman is gem that might big enough for it to work.
    I think the key difference between Superman and those other PD pulp heroes is that Superman is Superman.

    If Superman actually hits the public domain, that'll draw far more attention and higher level talent than what someone like the Shadow usually generates. Maybe a Dynamite Superman wouldn't sell as well as DC's, but it'd still be the biggest seller Dynamite has (until the following year when Batman hits the PD anyway).

    And if Dynamite or whoever did manage to get ahold of a big name writer; someone who genuinely wanted to handle Clark away from the corporate interference? A Waid or Morrison or Gaiman or Hickman? Something like that could maybe even out-sell DC's Superman. At least for a few issues. Writing Clark for another company would likely burn bridges with DC, and I'm not saying any of this would/could happen, but it'd be a hell of a thing to see.
    "We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe."

    ~ Black Panther.

  13. #13

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    I could see PD Superman working like Sherlock Holmes. PD Sherlock Holmes involves adding to his mythos. There are new cases, villians, Sherlock's family is explored more, Sherlock's reasons for becoming a detective are explored etc.

    So Clark would expanded on like Sherlock holmes. Inevitably he would also suffer from flanderization like Sherlock has.



    I'm excited for this upcoming game but I'm pretty sure this isn't what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle intended.

    It seems extreme but it's actually pretty safe to what's out there.....

    I think Marvel and other existing universes like Valiant, Catalyst Prime, Archie, Hellboy, Humanoids etc would make use of Superman. They would get more mileage out of Action Comics.
    Last edited by the illustrious mr. kenway; 03-28-2021 at 05:29 AM.

  14. #14
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    The only reason people want Superman (and others) in the public domain is so that they can be written completely different to what the character is. When you factor in that even if Superman ever did enter the public domain, all the trademarked aspects that DC own wouldnt be available, then whatever the end result is would be so far from being Superman then it would be better to just come up with an original character.

  15. #15
    Ultimate Member Ascended's Avatar
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    That may be true, and if it is who could blame anyone for wanting better and different than what DC has usually offered us?

    For me, I'm not even sure I want Clark in the public domain, as it doesn't exactly seem to be a huge benefit for the vast majorities of IP's therein. But I also can't discount the fact that for the majority of my lifetime (and I'm creeping up on 40), DC has screwed up far more often than they've done it right; they've put sexual predators in charge of editorial, they've put bottom-end talent on the titles, shilled the character for the benefit of whichever pet character creators or management are pushing, and overall done a remarkable job at ensuring Superman rarely says anything worth saying. And then they defend these choices by saying the character doesn't sell like he used to....when they and their choices are precisely why.

    Hard to blame the folks who want to see someone else take a shot. And since I'm a massive fan of the Golden Age, original version and adore stories like Smashes the Klan and Morrison's opening Action arc, which harken back to that social crusader and champion of the oppressed in a way that the modern version almost never does....I wouldn't discount a public domain take out of hand. I have my doubts that it would be successful, even if the legal obstacles could be overcome, but I'd probably be intrigued enough to at least take a look.
    "We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe."

    ~ Black Panther.

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