NEWSARAMA.com | COMIC BOOK CHARACTERS AND THE PUBLIC DOMAIN
So - who owns the heroes of ABC/WildStorm's Terra Obscura? No one, everyone and DC. Kind of.
[. . .] The thing is, the characters weren't, or at least originally weren't the products of Moore's imagination - the heroes of Terra Obscura were, in fact, real comic characters published in the 1940s by Ned Pines under the Standard/Better/Nedor imprint(s). While the fact does little to change the story, it does raise a question or two. No, DC didn't quietly acquire another stable of comic characters as they had done with the Charlton characters in the late '80s by buying them outright - the Nedor characters are themselves in a unique position in terms of copyright: They are in the public domain, and can therefore be freely used by anyone.
The characters described in the story ended up in the public domain because the original publisher(s) are long gone, and they were never trademarked to begin with. The article uses this as a jumping-off point to discuss intellectual property and the extension of copyright by Disney & co., as well as the history of the comics industry. Not sure how it reads to someone with only a passing familiarity with the concepts involved -- I have the issues of Tom Strong the characters appeared in somewhere, which might help -- but you should get the idea.
Please don't ask about Miracleman as far as the whole ownership thing goes. It'll just make my head go 'splody, and I'm very slowly getting back into this. . .
F'r instance, not sure if I knew that Samuel R. Delany wrote the introduction to one of the collections:
Let me pause: [Neil] Gaiman is one of two writers (yes, the other is [Alan] Moore) who have done more to change the idea of what comics are and can be among that strange and anomalous group, serious and informed comic readers, than anyone since ... well, certainly since I started reading them in the 1940s. I've loved them since then; and in the 60s and 70s I was quick to say I thought you could do things in comics that could be done in no other medium; that as an esthetic form, comics were irreplaceable-not always that popular an opinion.
Links added here and there.
Only recently found out Delany wrote a few issues of Wonder Woman back in the 70s, but I get the feeling everyone involved wants to forget about that.
The current issue has a striking cover by Adam Hughes, with story and art by Phil Jimenez. Somebody should write about the obvious appeal of the character for gay men of color (Jimenez and Delany, although I'm not sure if two represents a trend, especially spread over a couple decades. . .), but it won't be me.
Ok, gimme a few minutes. . .
Couple other topics I should touch on; Marvel/Miracleman only exists because DC went after the publisher of Captain Marvel back in the day, and the current rights situation. . . is complicated. Also, Marvel is going through their own little contest or something involving Peter David's Captain Marvel book and. . . no, again, complicated.
There's also an article of faith, which I've never seen confirmed, that the only reason DC continues publishing a low-selling Wonder Woman comic is so the rights to the character don't revert to her creator's estate. Since a) unlike them cartoonist kids, Moulton actually knew how to negotiate a contract and b) they rake in enough from merchandising to make it worthwhile holding on to the rights. Are they selling a Wonder Woman halloween costume this year? Probably make more from a handful of those than they made from the book. . .