ComicMix Suffers Setback in Star Trek/Seuss Mashup Lawsuit

Revoking part of an order she handed down this summer, federal Judge Janis L. Sammartino ruled December 8 that Dr. Seuss Enterprises gets to engage both copyright and trademark claims in a lawsuit against ComicMix for a crowd-funded book project titled Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!

The litigation began last November, during a Kickstarter campaign to fund Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!, featuring the writing of David Gerrold, the art of Ty Templeton, and the editorial skills of ComicMix’s Glenn Hauman, Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) filed suit for damages claiming the project infringed their copyright and trademark on Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go!

The judge had dismissed the trademark infringement portion of the claims in June (“ComicMix Gains Partial Victory in Dr. Seuss Lawsuit Over Literary Mash-Up”), however, The Hollywood Reporter story “Lawsuit Over Mashup of ‘Star Trek’ and Dr. Seuss Gets Past Alpha Quadrant” said the judge has considered an amended complaint and is allowing all the claims to move forward including one for unfair competition. (Here’s the full opinion.)

The biggest difference is the analysis of trademark and quite notably, what is causing ComicMix some trouble on that front is the font of its title.

Nominative fair use is an important concept in trademark law, referring to certain allowances to use another’s mark for purposes like commentary, criticism, comparative advertising, or parody. The standards were articulated by an appeals court in 1992 in a case where newspapers used toll numbers to conduct polls of The New Kids on the Block.

Sammartino looks at three factors to determine whether ComicMix has an appropriate defense of nominative fair use in this dispute. On two of those factors — whether the product in question is readily identifiable without use of the trademark and whether ComicMix has done acts that would falsely suggest sponsorship or endorsement by Dr. Seuss Enterprises — the defendants get the edge. But ComicMix can’t dispense with the trademark and unfair competition claims thanks to that other factor — whether its use of Dr. Seuss’ mark is more than reasonably necessary to identify it.

The mark in question is the title, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

Judge Sammartino explained:

Defendants not only use the words ‘Oh! The Places You’ll Go!’ in the title of Boldly but also use the exact font used by Plaintiff. The look of the lettering is unquestionably identical on both books, down to the shape of the exclamation point. This situation is similar to that in Toho [a precedent case]. The Court finds it was unnecessary for Defendants to use the distinctive font as used on Go! to communicate their message (i.e., that Boldly is a mash-up of the Go! and Star Trek universes).

The reference to Toho is a callback to a case made by Toho, the controller of the Godzilla intellectual property, against a book publisher in 1998.

Glenn Hauman portrayed the decision to ComicMix readers in a positive light, focusing on this part of the ruling — “Judge rules that an illustration style can’t be a trademark”.

Yesterday, Judge Janis Sammartino handed down a ruling in our ongoing case, Dr. Seuss Enterprises v. ComicMix, allowing the case to proceed to discovery while narrowing the allegations in significant ways.

Quoting from the decision:

Plaintiff cited no authority to support its assertion that its general “style” is a protectable trademark. Plaintiff only argues that the book can be subject to both trademark and copyright protection and that distinctive characters can qualify as trademarks. Plaintiff claims the Ninth Circuit has recognized Plaintiff owns trademark rights to “the character illustration of the Cat [in the Hat’s] ‘stove-pipe hat’.” But the illustration of the Cat’s hat is different than the general “illustration style” and non-specific “characters and backgrounds found throughout” Plaintiff’s books, in which Plaintiff asserts trademark rights now. And Plaintiff does not allege trademark rights in any specific character or background image in [Oh, The Places You’ll] Go! The Court is not holding illustrations of specific characters within Go! are precluded from trademark protection, but at this stage of the proceedings and based on the information in front of the Court, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s claimed general “illustration style” is not protectable.

Hauman continued:

…When we speak of an artist’s “trademark style” we’re not actually speaking of a legal trademark, and as such it’s not something that can be legally claimed.

And this means that if, say, Ty Templeton draws a portrait of me looking like I was drawn by Dr. Seuss, there’s not a thing Dr. Seuss Enterprises can do about it.

Of course, this is generally a good thing. This means that no artist can be charged with stealing someone else’s “trademark style” or the way they draw (or for that matter, how they shoot a photograph or a movie). We all learn from each other, we all influence each other— particularly in comics— and we all build on other works and artistic traditions and styles to create new works of art to tell stories.

The judge summed up her decision — “the Court again cannot say as a matter of law that Defendants’ use of Plaintiff’s copyrighted material was fair,” which could be up to a jury if the case goes to trial. She denied ComcMix et al’s motions to dismiss DSE’s claim of copyright infringement, trademark infringement and unfair competition.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter for the story.]

Forever War Comic Book Sequel

With the much-anticipated The Forever War graphic novel adaptation in bookstores this week, Titan Comics has announced the next installment in novelist Joe Haldeman, Gay Haldeman, and Marvano’s epic science-fiction comic book series, The Forever War: Forever Free.

Titan’s new comic series adapts the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award-winning books inspired by Haldeman’s own Vietnam War experiences.

The Forever War series tells the story of William Mandella – survivor of a catastrophic interstellar war. Mandella, together with a small group of human survivors, returns to Earth to find the human race greatly changed.

Evolved into a group mind called Man, society is now intrusive and autocratic, denying all individuality. The veterans plan to escape by means of space travel, but, when their ship starts to fail, Mandella’s team begins to search for the enigmatic entity responsible – The Unknown.

Since the original publication of The Forever War, Joe Haldeman – a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient – has produced a continuous string of SF classics. In addition to winning major awards, the author has garnered praise from top writer, Stephen King: “If there was a Fort Knox for science-fiction writers, we’d have to lock Joe Haldeman up.”

The Forever War: Forever Free #1 hits comic shops and digital platforms in April 2018.

The Forever War TPB (144pp, $19.99, ISBN: 9781785860898) is available in bookstores now. Check out the trailer here.


Free THOR Comics, Including One by J. Michael Straczysnki

Free, as in, you don’t have to have Amazon Prime, or Kindle whatever, just an Amazon account. Today only! Because it’s Beware this ends up being the start of a subscription to Kindle Prime after the first 30 days.

  • Thor by J. Michael Straczynski Vol. 1
  • Thor: God of Thunder Vol. 1
  • Thor Visionaries: Walter Simonson Vol. 3

Daniel Dern sent the link with the comment, “All are well worth reading. The art’s great in two. God of Thunder in particular, Esad Ribic, not that Walt Simonson’s Thor is anything but fabulous as well. Get ’em while you can!”

[Thanks to Daniel Dern for the story.]

Working Wonders

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1256)  I haven’t yet seen Wonder Woman (P. Jenkins dir. 2017).  I hear Anna Feruglio Dal Dan sat through some of it having misheard WW would fight Eris (goddess of discord), not Ares (god of war).  That’s an inspired misconception.  I agree with Nancy Lebovitz it seems potentially more interesting than the usual combats.  One thinks of the anecdote about Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933; United States President 1923-1929), to whom at a dinner (when asked “Why do you attend such affairs?” he supposedly answered “Must eat somewhere”) his effusive hostess said “I have a bet you’ll say more than two words tonight” upon which he replied “You lose.”  Wonder Woman meets Eris.  Each raises up her Aspect and takes on her Attributes.  Lightning.  Thunder.  Wonder Woman cries “Eris, I am here to fight you à outrance.”  Eris answers “You lose.”  Or just “Aha!”  A while ago – before the 2017 movie – in the company of Len Wein and others who were singing “Wonder Woman!  Wonder Woman!  All the world is waiting for you…. and the wonders you can do….  Make a hawk a dove, stop a war with love” (C. Fox & N. Gimbel 1975, from the L. Carter television series – note WW’s antipathy to Eris in that version – also older ones– if not by name; the question is, what to do against discord) I had clean forgot Len’s involvement with her.

Horror Comic “Box of Bones” Coming from Rosarium

Box of Bones is Rosarium Publishing’s latest comics project, by Ayize Jama-Everett (The Liminal People, The Entropy of Bones) and Eisner Award winner, John Jennings (Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred, Blue Hand Mojo: Hard Times Road). With a mix of fantasy, horror, and sci-fi writers, Box of Bones will lead readers on a fantastical journey to the depths of the darkest parts of history.

Described as “Tales from the Crypt Meets Black History,” Box of Bones is a supernatural nightmare tour through some of the most violent and horrific episodes in the African Diaspora.

When Black graduate student, Lyndsey, begins her dissertation work on a mysterious box that pops up during the most violent and troubled time in Africana history, she has no idea that her research will lead her on a phantasmagorical journey from West Philadelphia riots to Haitian slave uprisings. Wherever Lyndsey finds someone who has seen the Box, chaos ensues. Soon, even her own sanity falls into question. In the end, Lyndsey will have to decide if she really wants to see what’s inside the Box of Bones.

Jama-Everett and Jennings have assembled a talented group of artists for this ten-issue project, including cover artist, Stacey Robinson (I Am Alfonso Jones), David Brame (MediSIN), Avy Jetter (APB: Artists against Police Brutality), and Tim Fielder (Matty’s Rocket). The first issue (penciled by Jennings) will appear digitally later this fall with the first five-issue trade paperback appearing in late summer 2018.

How To Draw Superheroes in Six Easy Steps

Have you ever wanted the great power and responsibility of drawing Spider-Man? Do you look at the pages of Black Panther and wish you could draw a Wakandan king? How often have you been tempted to break the fourth wall and draw Gwenpool?

Now fans can learn how to draw like a super hero with How To Draw Variant Covers by Chip Zdarsky (Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, Howard The Duck, Star-Lord.) First appearing on the back of a blank variant cover on Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #1, HOW TO DRAW VARIANTS will debut on the covers of select Marvel comics this fall. Each custom cover features a step-by-step process for drawing one of Marvel’s iconic characters – along with some helpful “Zdarsky Advice” for good measure.

“I don’t really know how to draw so this whole thing feels quite irresponsible,” said Chip Zdarsky, who must know how to draw. Right?

“I don’t know about everybody out there in Mighty Marveldom, but when I first started collecting comics, one of my hobbies was trying to draw my favorite Marvel heroes and villains,” said editor Devin Lewis. “Carrying on the grand tradition of the classic HOW TO DRAW COMICS THE MARVEL is this series of HOW-TO Variants by Chip Zdarsky, one of the most… unique?… voices in comics today. In addition to giving REALLY ACCURATE instructions about how to draw each of these characters, Chip’s bringing his brand of humor to each and every piece, and we can promise that whether you’re a Marvel fan old or new, at least ONE of these ‘em will give you a chuckle!”

Marvel will publish HOW TO DRAW VARIANTS for these titles this fall —

  4. CABLE #150
  6. CHAMPIONS #13
  7. DAREDEVIL #27
  9. FALCON #1
  11. HAWKEYE #11
  13. MIGHTY THOR #700
  15. ROYALS #9
  16. SPIDER-GWEN #25
  19. VENOM #155
  20. X-MEN: GOLD #13

Who Are The 1,000,000 BC Avengers?

[Based on a series of press releases – because I love the art.]

MARVEL LEGACY #1 introduces the AVENGERS OF 1,000,000 BC – and that’s only the opening of the most important comic story of the year!

This fall, MARVEL LEGACY #1 will guide you through the pages of time, back to the dawn of 1,000,000 BC – when the very first Avengers took up the responsibility of being heroes. And this action-packed 50-page issue is just the tip of the iceberg for the coming MARVEL LEGACY, which finds all of Marvel’s heroes on journeys that will change them forever.

MARVEL LEGACY #1 provides the starting point for more than a year’s worth of stories. Mysteries, returns, and infinite possibilities await Marvel readers. This is the one comic no one will want to miss, and what better way to debut it than with a party!

FOOM Magazine also returns, and will be presented in a format similar to the fan favorite magazine of the 70’s. Included within its pages are in-depth articles about the creation of MARVEL LEGACY, an overview of the many EIC’s that have forged Marvel Comics over the years, an examination of the Marvel bullpens of the past, a spotlight on the Infinity trilogy, a guide from Deadpool that looks ahead to his newest Legacy book – and so much more!










Journey Planet 31, Something Good To End 2016


James Bacon invites one and all to download Journey Planet #31, co-edited by James, Christopher J Garcia and Pádraig Ó Méalóid.

In December 1966, fifty years ago now, a 15-year-old Irish teenager called Tony Roche did a remarkable thing. He published the first issue of a comics fanzine called The Merry Marvel Fanzine.

What was remarkable about this was that this was the first comics ‘zine on this side of the Atlantic. They had already existed in the US, but it would be over six months before the first British comics fanzine, Ka-Pow, produced by Phil Clarke and Steve Moore, would appear, in July 1967.

By producing The Merry Marvel Fanzine, and subsequently Heroes Unlimited, Tony Roche, all unbeknownst to himself, helped set in motion a tradition of ‘zines and communication between comics fans that continues, unbroken, to this day.

Tony went AWOL in the summer of 1969 – like many another – leaving the fan community to pursue an international academic career, culminating in a Professorship in Irish Literature in UCD. But he has now reappeared, and had opened a treasure chest full of unbelievable goodies, some of which he has allowed us to share, including artwork, articles, his Merry Marvel Marching Society membership card, and a previously unpublished Letter of Comment written by Alan Moore, shortly after his fifteenth birthday.

This issue of Journey Planet includes

  • An oral history of the time from Tony, which traces his adventures, including trips to a New York comic con and the very first British comic con
  • Fan artwork by legendary comics artist Paul Neary
  • An unpublished Alan Moore letter, sent to Heroes Unlimited in late 1968
  • Articles on Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent, and The Avengers by Tony Roche from Heroes Unlimited
  • Unpublished correspondence from BBC presenter John Peel to Heroes Unlimited
  • A few words from Dez Skinn

And more!