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Could You Write a Webcomic about Public Domain Superheroes?:

Erik Howlett
Exactly What It Says on the Tin.

Basically, I'm curious to know if this is something an aspiring writer could do. I've looked it up, and there are a lot of stories and characters that are considered public domain, and not just myths, fables, fairy tales, and classical literature like Zeus, the Pied Piper, Alice Liddel, and Sherlock Holmes.

Apparently, there are a lot of old comic-book characers from the Golden Age of Comics that still fall under public domain, thanks to their creators and publishers not filing for copyright or some such fallacy. Even those being used by Dynamite Press for their Project Superpowers series still fall under public domain technically. They've just been interpreted differently by Dynamite for their specific stories. Heroes like Pyroman, the Black Terror, Miss Masque, and the Green Lama, and even villains like the Klaw apparently fall under this category.

So, I wonder, could you write a webcomic about some of these characters, tailoring them to fit your story and setting, without being reprimanded in some way, or worrying about some kind of fallout?

If you're sure that they're in the public domain, then you can do whatever you want with them.
Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
 3 Yamii Denryuu, Tue, 19th Mar '13 5:16:54 PM from You know, that place Relationship Status: Chocolate!
become god kurrin
And since webcomics are rarely official published professional stuff and often fancomics, even if you use non-public domain characters, no one is likely to care much.
Sam just... punched his own face and died in a marsh. And Pippin got lost, and Frodo was dead.
Erik Howlett
And if one was interested in possibly publishing a webcomic through a site like Indy Planet or something? Do you think that it would still be alright, so long as the characters were still public domain and all that?

Just make sure your version of said public domain hero is different from somebody else's copyrighted material, if any copyrighted material exists. For instance, if you do a comic about The Black Terror, make sure your version is different from Alex Ross's over at Dynamite (as I understand it, though, you can keep his iconic costume) because Ross and/or Dynamite has copyrighted THAT version.
 
Erik Howlett
@Robbery: So then, if -for example- I retooled the origin of Ace Magazines' superheroine Lightning Girl so that she was Hawaiian instead of Caucasian, that might work? I thought about doing that because her origin from Ace lists her as a "Navy Brat, " so I thought it might be interesting if her dad (a Naval Officer) married a girl from the islands, and she grew up in Hawaii around the time Pearl Harbor happened, and got her powers sometime after that, providing her means to fight the people who hurt her family and the islands.

If you're going to seriously change the characters, I'm not sure what the point is in using them, rather than just inventing your own.
Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
 8 Ars Thaumaturgis, Wed, 20th Mar '13 8:53:43 AM Relationship Status: I've been dreaming of True Love's Kiss
I think that something similar has been done in the past; perhaps researching that case might provide more information?

[edit] A link to the comic, I believe.

edited 20th Mar '13 8:57:33 AM by ArsThaumaturgis

[up][up][up] If Lightning Girl is public domain, then there's no reason why you can't do that.

[up][up] Generally I'm of that opinion as well, but sometimes you might want to use a particular character because they have a certain level of recognition, on a purely visual level; getting back to the Black Terror, who I mentioned above, a lot more people know what he looks like than know anything at all about the character (for instance, he wore the skull and bones 'cuz he was a pharmacist and it meant "poison, " and he wanted to be "poisonous to criminals"). I know that Fletcher Hanks' Fantomah has shown up a lot recently mostly because she looks freaky. Other times you might just like a certain character or certain aspects of a character. Or maybe you think the character got short shrift or poor development and think you can improve it.

I should point out too that the issue of copyright holders is likely only going to come into play if your work is published and you make money. If you're doing something that you're not making money from, if you were to include a "so and so is copyright of Such and Such Publications" you could probably get away with using any character you wanted. If the character is public domain, though, then go nuts.

edited 20th Mar '13 9:10:18 PM by Robbery

 
 10 btravern, Mon, 25th Mar '13 10:35:10 AM from Nowheresville
Untitled Work in Progres
I'm a little late to this thread, but Wikia has a whole subsite devoted to public domain superheroes if you need to research some extras.

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Total posts: 10
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