Off The Panel: The Word “Superhero”
There are many opinions out there on this topic. Either you have read the article on this from CBR(The Superhero Trademark FAQ), or this piece from Boing Boing(Marvel Comics: stealing our language). Both either represent a side to this argument or gives you the opportunity to get yourself informed of the use of the word superhero in the comic industry. With that said, I have my own view of this issue. And I look at it in terms of if it is right for both Marvel and DC to jointly own the trademark to it still in 2013-2014. My answer to this is, who cares? Honestly who cares about the use of the word superhero,
Marvel and DC did what they had to from a business point of view. Having trademark of the word meant that they both were able to get the money out of it that they knew it was worth. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially knowing that they were on top and preferred to hold that position at the time. If you were as big as the two, would you not want to cement your place as the companies that the masses would look to when they heard or see the word superhero? This is a reasonable move and claim that they seized the opportunity for something they are known best for now and thrive from. Maybe that argument could have been made years ago with a little more weight as the quality was rocky from both. But, right now both are going strong and even as I hate using the word over-saturated, that is how the industry would become if everyone was able to use the word superhero.
I am a fan of indie comics and even as they are limited by the use of the word superhero, I have not seen where they could be held back by this. Anyone can call foul, or stealing, but is indie not supposed to be a term used for something outside the box? At this point in time, anything indie should represent the capability of those writers to be able to bring something new to the table that mainstream comics from the big two can’t when they focus on superheroes. As the article from CBR states, they can still call their heroes superheroes within the books, but even so they have no need to advertise them as such. Comic books, magazines, cardboard stand-up figures, playing cards, paper iron-on transfers, erasers, pencil sharpeners, pencils, notebooks, stamp albums, and costumes are all just forms of production in the end. I believe that superheroes in general shouldn’t have to be advertised as one to be one, actions and writing should be able to define them as such.
Image Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, Valiant Comics, all three have done great things with their library of heroes. Many of them aren’t anything close to superheroes rather than interesting characters with a unique story. It’s not as hard as people think to find ways around this and they managed to do just that. I can name many off the top of my head, though one of my favorite references is Image’s “The Bounce”. A book that explores a world where they are new to the idea of superheroes and superpowers. The Bounce is a hero yes, but never is he even called one despite trying to help people. He doesn’t need to be labelled or advertised as one because we see him as one with our own eyes. Dynamite has their pick of pulp heroes and unconventional heroes such as Red Sonja and Conan. All who do the same as any superhero, yet aren’t tagged as one. Then you have such books as Saga, Invincible, or the number of new books that have come out within these few months that have all sold out because they had great creative teams. That’s all you need, superhero is just a marketing tool.
So in 2013, and going into 2014, am I okay that Marvel and DC still hold joint trademark of the use of the word superhero for their products? Yes, I’m fine with it and whether readers like it or not, it’s nothing threatening to indie comic companies in the long run. It’s just business, and if you know the business then it shouldn’t affect you to such an extent. Go to any store out there and there are just as many people buying comics from companies outside of Marvel and DC, and it’s not because of marketing as superheroes. It is because every company out there today has something to offer which the other doesn’t. If only just one book you read from each company, you know you read it for the fact that it is something different from the others. They all have their own approach to the idea of storytelling and heroics, that much should be enough to make you overlook the fact alone that a few are able to advertise their products with the word superhero.
Maybe if they’re still holding on to it in the next 10 years there can be some argument, but at the rate Marvel and DC are moving in terms of movies and TV series, that shouldn’t be expected to happen for a long while.