Saturday, 20 June 2015

NewsWatch: Marvel Threatens Aardvark-Vanaheim

'NewsWatch' reporting by Tom Heintjes & Kim Thompson
The Comics Journal #91 (July 1984)

See the offending covers to Cerebus #54-56 here...

JIM SHOOTER (ex-Editor-In-Chief, Marvel Comics):
(from, 29 August 2011)
...The legal issue was because Sim did a Wolverine parody, "Wolveroach," in Cerebus. No problem with that. But it sold well, and therefore, Dave kept doing it. One use of a trademarked character as parody is protected, but multiple uses constitute infringement, which if left unchallenged, can weaken a trademark. Marvel's legal beagles sent Dave a cease and desist letter. Dave went ballistic (though he was wrong) and ranted against Marvel in his book. When I heard about the mess, I went to our in-house counsel, convinced them that Dave was actually a friend and that we should solve the trademark problem by retroactively licensing the use of the Wolverine trademark for Dave's parodies for a dollar. Marvel did exactly that. When a subsequent issue of Cerebus came out, I was expecting that Dave would say something nice about Marvel. No, he continued ranting. I ran into him at a convention later and asked him why he did that. He said he'd gotten such an enthusiastic response to his ranting that he didn't want to stop. And he seemed stunned that I would be offended... 


Travis Pelkie said...

I know Dave's told a story in more recent years that Jim Shooter talked to him at a con not long after the Wolveroach issues, but I can't remember the details.

And what's Dave's current view of these issues? Is his current thinking that using the characters on the 3 issues like that was too far, and he shouldn't have done it? I can't remember, but I think he's stated his view more recently.

Something to post tomorrow, right? ;)

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

Hi Travis,
FYI - There was an extensive article by Dave on 'Parody & Copyright' in Following Cerebus #3 in 2005 were he addresses this.

Will Collier said...

Shooter wrote on his blog a while back that he'd told Dave (after all the Wolveroach business blew over) basically, "Next time you want to do something like that, just give me a heads up and I'll send a waiver letter." Which I thought was a pretty grown-up and reasonable way to handle things.

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

Hi Will,
Thanks for the heads-up regarding Jim Shooter's Blog. I've updated the original post for his comments on the Wolveroach tussle. Good spot.

Will Collier said...

Shooter may never have seen it, but Dave did write a bit about "you guys can knock off yelling at Marvel about Wolveroach," either in an Aardvark Comment or Note From The President or in an intro to one of the Swords collections (I don't remember which), I won't try to paraphrase it from memory, but from what I can recall it was the kind of hatchet-burying note Shooter griped in the blog comment about never getting.

Will Collier said...

Ah, here it is, from a post down that comment thread:

"Regarding the Wolverroach issue; From the introduction to Swords of Cerebus Volume 6 from 1984 "By the way, just so you guys stop sending Jim Shooter nasty letters about the way the whole thing handled.. .."Although it was a giggle at the time...I concede the point guys. It was unfair usage. If I stick to using Marvel characters to the same extent that Chris made use of the character S'ym in the X-Men I wouldn't expect to hear a peep out of them.""

Anonymous said...

I can see both sides on that one. Dave had done a pretty extensive parody of the Moon Knight character throughout High Society, including featuring the character prominently on many covers, apparently without objection from Marvel. I can see how Dave could have been under the impression that Marvel understood what he was doing.

- Reginald P.

Travis Pelkie said...

I'm not positive, but didn't Dave print the Marvel lawyer letter with little or no comment? Or was he ranting, I forget? And he seems pretty "oops, sorry, won't do that again" about the matter in the posted TCJ article, so Shooter's comments...well, I'm not sure about everything in them.

I assume the letter from Marvel's lawyers with the info about "retroactively licensing the use of the Wolverine trademark for Dave's parodies for a dollar" is in the Cerebus archive somewhere. *ahem*

Also, I'm not sure how the solicitation process worked in '84, but I would have thought that 54-56 would have been planned and ready before the sales numbers came in, so I'm not sure about "it sold well, and therefore, Dave kept doing it". I could certainly be wrong, of course.

I certainly can see Marvel sending a cease and desist letter, though. It is funny that it only came once the popular money making character was being parodied on the covers, and not when the other Roach identities were featured.