I read a fascinating interview this morning regarding a comic book writer who is in trouble for using the word “superhero.” (Click here to read the interview.) It appears that Marvel and DC comics share a joint trademark on the word and all its variations (such as super hero, super-hero, etc.). So when comic book writer Ray Felix applied for a trademark for his series A World Without Superheros, he was issued a cease and desist letter from the lawyers representing the comic giants.
I find this really bizarre. The first thing I did was grabbed my copy of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and looked to see if superhero is in there. It is. So that led me to wonder — how can a company trademark a word that is considered part of the English language? It would be like Wonder taking out a trademark on the word “bread.”
In an even stranger twist, Felix states that he has been met with criticism by the comic community. While talking about his situation at an indie comic convention, he was basically heckled. He feels that this is reflection of the mindset of the new generation of individuals in the comic business:
The younger generations in the comics business are just hipsters who look like independent artists but have a corporate mindset of making themselves the next mainstream. Kind of like when MTV created the term “Alternative music” which was the death of the New Wave art form.
While I support an artist’s right to trademark and copyright his or her ideas and creations, I feel that this has crossed a line. It would be like Black Sabbath claiming a trademark on the term “heavy metal.” The archetype of the superhero is ingrained in our culture and the use of the word should not be controlled by any corporate entity.
Feel free to share your thoughts.