Dynamite Entertainment and Dynamic Forces, have been sued by ERB.
So who are they and why is this so important? Well Dynamite Entertainment is responsible for the Warlord of Mars graphic novel series and Lord of the Jungle, while Dynamic forces produces collectibles based on the same works. What’s this to the ERB? Well it stands for Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. You see, he’s the one who originally created Tarzan and the Mars adventurer known as John Carter back in the day which both comic series and products seem to base their work off of. So the family-owned company which holds the existing rights to the works filed a lawsuit last week Thursday in federal court. This was first reported by The Wall Street Journal
ERB accuses the publisher and merch producer of trademark infringement and unfair competition with the release of the two aforementioned comic series. ERB further claim that the comics were published without authorization.
Apparently ERB already told Dynamite Entertainment President, Nick Barrucci back in 2007 that Dark Horse held the licenses for the John Carter of Mars and Tarzan novels. Dynamite Entertainment had approached ERB originally about the possibility of publishing comics based on John Carter and Tarzan.
This was the same year that ERB licensed Disney to make the film John Carter, and also a toy company to come out with 12-inch John Carter action figures.
So the complaint is that the comics released by Dynamite Entertainment, compounded by the fact that there are other titles officially licensed out there, is likely to “Deceive, mislead and confuse the public” about who exactly is legitimately supported by ERB as these comics are “confusingly similar”.
Which titles are in question exactly?
- Lord of the Jungle
- Warlord of Mars
- Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris
- Warlord of Mars: Fall of Barsoom
If that was the intent, then yes, it would be confusing. That would be like if Disney ripped off the Harry Potter series and made a show about magical humans going to school. It is said the confusion may cause, “irreparable injury” to ERB Inc.
The comic has been in publication since 2010, so why all the commotion now? Is it a coincidence that this happened two weeks before the official release of the Disney movie in two weeks time? As convenient as this is; marketing wise; the case raises questions about public domain and the boundaries between copyright and trademark law.
The copyright term has since run its course in the states as it begins at the time of publication to a fixed number of years. Burroughs, an American author, wrote the first John Carter story back in 1912, in America. Even with the fixed number of years which I believe maxes out at 70, we’re well cleared 1982; who said those math classes were useless. This means that the works is part of public domain. This however might all be side stepped if this goes to copyright law outside of the states. In most parts of the world, the copyright length lasts the life of the author plus 50 to 70 years. So Burroughs died in 1950 which means the copyright could potentially last up to the year 2021 outside of the United States. This is exactly the angle that ERB is approaching as they attempt to get a New York federal judge to enforce UK copyright law. Did I already mention the author is American?
To top it all off, ERB also claims trademarks over John Carter and Tarzan. If successful, it would mean that ERB could possibly get perpetual copyright. Before you know it, they’ll be sandblasting images of comic book version John Carter off of elementary school murals. Hmmm… I see a pattern here.
Wait a tic. Didn’t I write about this public domain for John Carter nonsense back on February 1st?
An excerpt about the John Carter movie from one of my earliest articles:
“When I first saw the trailer for John Carter in theaters, my mind immediately went to the graphic novel, “Warlord of Mars” from Dynamite comics, which I saw similarities in costume; for the men because they actually wore clothes unlike the women. I thought this was a theatrical adaptation of the comic book and wondered why they would go to the trouble of changing the name.
As it turns out, after nearly a hundred years in print, the copyright for this story has since expired and is considered public domain. So both the movie and the comic book can be treated as separate entities, which is a good thing since the comic book version is rather risqué; strippers tend to wear more then the females depicted in the graphic novel.”
I did write about this. So it’s also not a surprise that ERB is also harping about the comic’s costume design like I did; to me at least. I’m always mostly right.
The official complaint states that the content for Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris “border on (and in some cases are) pornographic”
“In each issue, [the female character] Dejah Thoris appears with greatly exaggerated feminine features”
“On some covers – covers which defendants refer to as ‘Risque Nude’ exclusive covers – Dejah Thoris appears topless.”
I’d like to be the first to welcome ERB to the wonderful world of comic books. Aimed at boys with a lowered chance at copulation, the comic book industry has been ‘cheesecake’ for a number of decades. Empires have been built on this collective hormonal drive.
The lawsuit doesn’t specify any damages, but it does seek to recall all the comics distributed in the United Kingdom. Oh, and also the complete and utter surrendering of profits made by these works forthwith.
I wouldn’t be surprised at this point if ERB went after DC comics for Martian Manhunter, which is very similar to the martians in the John Carter series. Heh. “No man escapes the Manhunters.” I know. I know. Wrong manhunter.
Almost a hundred years in the making, the theatrical adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs classic sci-fi novel is due to hit theaters March 9.