A cheaply and quickly produced work, not intended to be shown to the masses and disseminated only to the extent required to fulfill some non-artistic obligation like claiming a trademark.

The term originated in TheGoldenAgeOfComicBooks, when there was a big rush to copyright as many characters and titles as possible, but the actual production time of a comic book made it a bit problematic when days or even hours mattered. The solution? Create a simple mock comic, often just a cover and some unrelated filler made up of garbage sheets, and submit it to the copyright office. The term itself comes from the fact that these comics often weren't actually distributed to newsstands, just going straight to the ashcan (period vernacular for trashcan) once they did their job.

Starting in TheDarkAgeOfComicBooks, an "ashcan" copy of a comic, often black and white and limited in distribution, would sometimes be distributed as a promotional item. These comics were called "ashcans" for marketing reasons (i.e. to imply rarity and value like the Golden Age versions) but really had little to do with [[TheGoldenAgeOfComicBooks Golden Age]] ashcans.

If, by chance, these works ever actually ''do'' see distribution, expect TheyJustDidntCare to be taken to new levels. See also FranchiseZombie for other cases of exploiting a trademark.


[[folder: Comic Books ]]

* The most widely-known example is ''Flash Comics'', which was actually the title of two different ashcans from different companies seeking claim to the title. Creator/DCComics' ''Flash Comics'' combined cover art from ''Adventure Comics'' #41 with pages from ''All-American Comics'' #8; Fawcett's ''Flash Comics'' (also printed under the title ''Thrill Comics'') featured the origin of Captain Thunder, who made his first regular appearance as [[{{Shazam}} Captain Marvel]] in ''Whiz Comics'' #2 (there was no ''Whiz Comics'' #1).
* DCComics' ''Action Funnies'' ashcan contained pages from ''Detective Comics'' #10 and cover art that would later appear in color on ''Action Comics'' #3.
* Fawcett's ''5-Cent Comics'' and ''Nickel Comics'' ashcans (black-and-white, no cover art) marked the respective debuts of Dan Dare and Scoop Smith, both of whom subsequently appeared in ''Whiz Comics''. ''Nickel Comics'' became a regular series, but without Scoop Smith.
* ''Eerie'' #1 was a hastily assembled digest of horror comic stories with a print run of a few hundred copies, created by publisher James Warren to deny the title to rival publishers Myron Fass and Robert W. Farrell, whose company was named Eerie Publications.
* Following the DCImplosion (where DC Comics cancelled a whole bunch of titles all at once) they "published" ''Cancelled Comic Cavalcade'', two 250 page editions of the comics which had been cancelled just to ensure copyright on the stories which had already been written & drawn. Only 35 copies were made, though black-and-white photocopies of the originals exist. The reprint was notable for being the first "appearance" of [[JusticeLeagueOfAmerica JLA]] member Comicbook/{{Vixen}}.
* DC Comics, owner of WonderWoman, made a huge mistake back then: they never though about making a "Wonder Man". Marvel Comics played a prank to them by doing so first. They were not serious about it: it was a one time villain, who dies at the end of his single adventure. But, when the rights to this minor character were about to expire (and DC would be able to use them), Marvel Comics resurrected the character and turned it into a steady character for the Avengers, retaining the rights.
** Marvel has another case: while DC was suing Fawcett regarding how close was CaptainMarvel to their own Superman, Marvel created ComicBook/CaptainMarVell (given the company name, they couldn't be blamed). Then DC bought Fawcett and incorporated the now rebranded ''{{Shazam}}'' into their universe. In turn, Marvel has had to publish a Captain Marvel title every year or two since, leading to a number of ongoing series, limited series and one-shots featuring a range of characters using the Captain Marvel alias (the original Mar-Vell, many of his sons and clones, and the current one that used to go by Comicbook/MsMarvel).


[[folder: Film ]]

* While most prevalent in comics, other entertainment fields have done similar things, including the 1994 ''Film/TheFantasticFour'' movie. The flick was made on the cheap, and never intended for wide-release. The studio was given a certain number of years to make the film, and would lose the rights if no film was produced. By the term of the contract, they had to make a film. No one specified it had to be a good one. It only exists in bootleg copies - including [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coayT3aUn8k online ones]].
** This was parodied in ''Series/ArrestedDevelopment'', where it's stated to be one of several movies made by Imagine Entertainment ([[SelfDeprecation the studio that makes the show]]) for just such a reason: Ron Howard was told by a drunk lawyer at the company Christmas party that Imagine's license on the Fantastic Four would expire if it remained unused for 6 more days. They made a film where the people working the bar were hired to be the actors, then hired them to work at the film's wrap party 5 days later.
** Subverted with the farmed-out Marvel properties, ''[[Film/TheAmazingSpiderMan Spider-Man]]'', ''[[Film/XMenFirstClass X-Men]]'' and (appropriately) ''[[Film/FantasticFour2015 Fantastic Four]]''. Since they are done on a large scale and intended to be seen by large audiences to make a profit, its not quite this trope though and argument can be made that the movies are simply being made to so they don't lose the license. Your mileage may very how true this may be, since they are still made to make a profit not not done on the cheap.
* Creator/SamRaimi and friends had ''Within the Woods'', a short film that was a prototype of ''Film/TheEvilDead1981'' made to convince his townsfolk to finance the project.
* The 1966 adaptation of ''Literature/TheHobbit'' was this. Producer Bill Snyder bought the rights to make a film from J.R.R. Tolkien's estate on the cheap, and just before it was set to expire the popularity of Tolkien's ''Literature/LordOfTheRings'' books skyrocketed. Realizing he could make serious cash selling the rights, he decided to get it extended. However, a film had to be made and released in order for that to happen. With the contract set to expire in one month, he got Gene Deitch to hastily produce a 12 minute film using still drawings and got it finished in 30 days, which was then screened in a Manhattan theater on the day the contract expired. The deal being fulfilled, the contract was extended and Snyder sold the rights for $100,000 (in 1960s money). In 2012 the film finally resurfaced when Snyder's son [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBnVL1Y2src uploaded it on YouTube]].
* ''Film/HellraiserRevelations'' was made in a few weeks so that Creator/TheWeinsteinCompany could hold onto the rights to the ''Franchise/{{Hellraiser}}'' franchise long enough to get a planned remake off the ground. The result is widely regarded as the worst film in a franchise that has seen its fair share of bad sequels, to the point where Creator/CliveBarker (who wrote and directed the original film) [[https://twitter.com/RealCliveBarker/status/105189711416524800 publicly]] [[DisownedAdaptation disowned it]].


[[folder: Live-Action TV ]]

* On February 9th, 2015 (at 1:30 AM!), ''Winter Dragon'', a 30-minute adaptation of part of ''The Eye Of The World'' (the first volume of Robert Jordan's ''[[Literature/TheWheelOfTime Wheel of Time]]'' series) appeared on [[Creator/{{Fox}} FXX]]. What keeps it from being just another OneEpisodeWonder are the circumstances of its production. [[https://twitter.com/Sedavision According to the director's tweets]], [[ChristmasRushed filming began on January 20th and post-production was completed on February 4th]]. The TV rights to the ''Wheel of Time'' series were set to revert from Red Eagle Entertainment (who has held them since the mid-2000s) to The Bandersnatch Group (which is owned by the Robert Jordan estate) on February 11th. Needless to say, [[http://www.tor.com/blogs/2015/02/wheel-of-time-pilot-harriet-statement Jordan's widow was not pleased]].


[[folder: Music ]]

* BobDylan's ''[[MeaningfulName The Copyright Extension Collection]]'' was an official 4-CDR release by Sony of many unreleased sessions and alternate takes from the early 60s. Much of this music was not considered commercially viable, so had not been released. However, the rules at the time the music was made was that it would go into the Public Domain after 50 years unless it was released officially. As the title suggests, it was released as a way of renewing the copyright. They did not want to draw much attention to it, so released it as a limited edition of 100 copies in Germany and some other parts of Europe, and did not promote it. The set became immensely popular and copies sell for high prices - the music has not been released again. Ironically, its limited availability and official status has encouraged far more downloading than it would have done if they had let it pass into the public domain.


[[folder: Video Games ]]

* Japan had a law prohibiting arcade cabinets from being distributed without games. Manufacturers obliged by providing very simple games good for little else but testing the monitors and controls. Creator/{{Sega}}'s ''Dottori-kun'' and Creator/{{Taito}}'s ''Minivader'' are typical examples, featuring primitive black-and-white graphics and no sound.
* In 2007, Atari commissioned a simple flash game produced in just four days in order to maintain trademark on StarControl.