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Rebecca Jansen
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Posted: 07 April 2021 at 1:40pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

I've been told that Marvel didn't get the Edgar Rice Burroughs rights from DC mainly to undermine a competitor, but DC didn't have the liscense for that long, and they did do a fantastic job in my opinion. But, then Marvel 'failed', they stopped publishing the ERB properties and yet nobody else was able to take them on.

I saw Marvel get the Hanna-Barbera rights away from Chalton in the late '70s, and again, after a short while they didn't publish them anymore and nobody else was for quite awhile. Were the rights still theirs even when they weren't publishing anything? New material was still made and appeared in Europe. There were similar things with Dennis the Menace going to Marvel from Fawcett, appearing for a short while and then disappearing and nobody else being next. And they did three Smurfs comics and that didn't continue although there were loads of Smurf comics in Europe.

Now, the latest thing I'm learning of is they acquired Star Trek 'away from' Malibu in the late '90s. Then those series ended and there was a gap again of nothing published? Was this not some sort of deliberate practice of the company targeting rivals? Why would the owners of these properties sign such deals? I know Star Trek bounced around a few companies for awhile but without any real gap of no titles at all being the case. Did Paramount being dumber or get some kind of compensation for exclusivity for some length whether in print or not?

Mark Evanier at least intimated that the Hanna-Barbera comics sold very well, said something that the superhero centric people in New York didn't like them because they were 'west coast'. But if they sold why not keep putting them out? Was Marvel not a real business? There was quite a long gap where there were no H-B comics available in North America, and that hadn't been the case ever. Same with ERB. Sitting on those two seems to have had some purpose when there was new material for Europe still produced.
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Steve Coates
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Posted: 07 April 2021 at 5:16pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. was the stated copyright holder for the 52 issue run of the 1972-1977 DC series Tarzan.

Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. was the stated copyright holder for the 29 issue run of the 1977-1979 Marvel series Tarzan.

Copyright records of 1979 have Marvel described as 
Marvel Comics Group, a division of Cadence Industries Corporation, employer for hire.

So, I don't see how Marvel would have control over the ERB properties, but legal contracts are more complicated than copyright registrations.

v. 1, no. 29, Oct79. Claimant: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. Appl. author: entire work except p. 4-5, 8-9, 12-13, 18-19, 20-21, 24-25, 28-29, 32: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., employer for hire. Created 1979; Pub. 1979-07-03; Reg. 1979-08-10; TX0000306241
v. 1, no. 29, Oct79. Claimant: Marvel Comics Group, a division of Cadence Industries Corporation. Appl. author: p. 4-5, 8-9, 12-13, 18-21, 24-25, 28-29, 32: Marvel Comics Group, a division of Cadence Industries Corporation, employer for hire. Created 1979; Pub. 1979-07-03; Reg. 1979-08-10; TX0000306242
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Rebecca Jansen
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Posted: 07 April 2021 at 6:09pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

I guess I'm wondering if the legalities included publishing for a minimum span of time with a right still remaining that the license is not offered to anyone else for another span of time. Marvel published Hanna-Barbera comics for exactly two years as I remember it, then all titled ceased pretty much simultaneously and there were no H-B comics for many years. With the ERB comics, Marvel ended Tarzan and John Carter the same month and year, October 1979 cover dates (#29 and #28 respectively), and then no ERB comics for a long time. Did they reach the minimum requirement and then cancel them knowing they could sit on the properties keeping them from anyone else?

The Marvel Star Trek titles I looked at seemed to either have last issues dated March 1998 or June 1998. It looks like for at least a year and a half there were no Star Trek comics from anyone.

Edited by Rebecca Jansen on 07 April 2021 at 6:17pm
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Peter Hicks
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Posted: 07 April 2021 at 6:14pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

Donít know about Marvel in particular, or even comics in general for that matter.  But movie studios absolutely do  buy up rights to IP even if there is no firm decision to make a movie.  They might sell the rights later.  They are even content to sit on the rights and make no movie at all, under the justification they stopped their competitors from making money with it.

Michael Chrichtonís publisher sold the rights to his book Congo in a bidding war for $4 M, but the the studio did not make the movie.  When it was time to sell the rights to Jurassic Park, there was a flat fee of $1 M.   Studios were judged by their proposed director, budget, and schedule to actually make a movie.
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Rebecca Jansen
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Posted: 07 April 2021 at 6:21pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

I made a little bit of money once on a published short story of mine being optioned. It was never made. Optioned meaning they had the option to. I did have to give part of the payment to an agent in L.A. for it to be official. I would've had some further payment if it had gone into production. I haven't made any use of the agency since though, just a one time blip is all I was.
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Steve Coates
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Posted: 07 April 2021 at 7:22pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

Well, Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc was the claimant on 151 copyright listings in 1979. That is a lot of irons in the fire.
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Jason Czeskleba
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Posted: 07 April 2021 at 8:23pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

Regarding Tarzan... it really isn't accurate to suggest that Marvel stole the license from DC in a predatory move.  The simple explanation is that ERB Inc wasn't happy with the Tarzan work that DC was producing. 

ERB Inc. owned the rights to all the work produced by the licensing company, and a notable source of income for them was selling that work to overseas publishers (this had started decades before when Dell was publishing the character).  However, when they made the switch from Gold Key to DC, the sales of Tarzan comics overseas declined.  The overseas publishers started complaining about Kubert's more savage portrayal and less smooth art style (compared to the Russ Manning style that had predominated at Gold Key).  They also weren't happy with adaptations instead of original stories.  As a result, ERB Inc. wound up contracting with Russ Manning to have him and his assistants produce material exclusively for the foreign market.

So when DC's license expired, ERB elected not to renew it.  At the time, they had a stable of writers and artists who had been producing work for the overseas market, and their plan was to ratchet this up start their own publishing venture in the US.  Before this happened however, Robert Hodes (the general manager of ERB Inc.) was let go and Marion Burroughs took over management of the corporation. She decided it wasn't wise to embark on a self publishing venture and cancelled the proposed ERB line of comics.  Since they hadn't been happy with DC, they reached out to Marvel to license the characters instead.


Edited by Jason Czeskleba on 07 April 2021 at 8:25pm
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Jason Czeskleba
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Posted: 07 April 2021 at 8:46pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

As for the Hanna Barbera characters, Marvel never licensed the rights to them.  Rather, they simply published the books as part of a distribution agreement.

In a situation similar to Tarzan, the H-B comics material produced by the licensees was sold overseas to foreign publishers.  These publishers were very unhappy when the license switched from Gold Key to Charlton (which was done in a cost-cutting move, since Charlton underbid Gold Key).  The work produced by Charlton was substandard and had characters acting out-of-character.  So H-B yanked the license from Charlton and hired retired Gold Key editor Chase Craig to organize a group of creators to produce the material.  Their original intent was to self publish, but they were told distributors were not willing to handle a new publisher because of pressure from the existing companies.  So they engaged in talks with Archie, Marvel, and DC, and wound up going with Marvel as the publisher.

When Marvel decided to cancel the books, that did not prevent the characters from moving to another publisher since Marvel didn't have a license to the rights.  At that point H-B revisited the idea of self publishing, but it fell through for a variety of reasons (check out Back Issue #59, published by Twomorrows, if you want all the details).

Anyway, the point is that in neither case (Tarzan or the H-B characters) did Marvel take the rights away from another publisher.  Nor did Marvel have the power to prevent the characters from being published by someone else, immediately after their own titles ended.



Edited by Jason Czeskleba on 07 April 2021 at 8:47pm
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John Byrne
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Posted: 08 April 2021 at 5:54am | IP Logged | 9 post reply

I was surprised a while back to learn that Tarzan is public domain--sort of. Apparently, anyone can do a Tarzan comic, for instance, provided the name is not used on the cover.

Weird.

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Steve Coates
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Posted: 08 April 2021 at 6:26am | IP Logged | 10 post reply

Correct you are John. A very good example of trademark and copyright differences.
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Ed Love
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Posted: 08 April 2021 at 10:10am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

The power of active trademarks over otherwise public characters is hotly debated in various groups I am a member of. There is actually very little in terms of decided case law addressing the issue. The few places where you might expect it such as the Sherlock Holmes case a few years back didn't seem to address the trademark issues at all, just the copyright ones. There was a Zorro case, but that was not in American courts. Many people seem to think that the active trademark is sufficient to block all use, or at least enough to get you sued.

Despite that for 3 decades, this was basically the situation between DC and Marvel over the trademark to the title and name of "Captain Marvel". DC had the rights to the original character, but Marvel had the trademarks to the name. DC published the character under the Shazam moniker which was also used for the television series and cartoons, but were able to call the character "Captain Marvel" in the stories and shows themselves. And now, many of the original Fawcett Captain Marvel comics and stories are also public domain themselves including the all important first appearances. The only one DC owns outright is Black Adam as his first and sole golden-age appearance was renewed. Which is why I think DC is pushing that character so hard.
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Vinny Valenti
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Posted: 08 April 2021 at 10:32am | IP Logged | 12 post reply

I still find it bizarre that after all these years, both Captain Marvels happened to have movies released within months of each other!
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