Dan Taylor, creator of the critically acclaimed Super Hero Happy Hour comic published by GeekPunk, has announced that the name of his series has had to change, due to Marvel and DC co-owning the term “Super Hero.” It’s just Hero Happy Hour from here on out. …I can’t see it. The term super hero, a.k.a. super-hero or superhero, has been around for a long time. If DC ever owned it, you’d think we’d have heard about it before now. Marvel came along after DC. If they had a claim on the word, surely they’d have said something about DC’s use of it; and vice-versa. Also, it’s my impression that for a long time there, DC barely acknowledged Marvel’s existence. How could they have come into joint possession of such a basic term?
GeekPunk’s press release reads:GeekPunk is announcing that their flagship comic book title featuring superheroes patronizing their favorite bar & grill during their off-hours will now be entitled Hero Happy Hour beginning with the fifth issue of the ongoing series. According to creator Dan Taylor, “The decision to change the title was brought upon by the fact that we received a letter from the trademark counsel to ‘the two big comic book companies’ claiming that they are the joint owners of the trademark ‘SUPER HEROES’ and variations thereof.”
A further problem is that Marvel and DC haven’t been the only comics publishers in existence. There’ve been lots of others. I don’t recall ever hearing it mentioned that other companies weren’t allowed to say super hero.
At this point, superhero comics have been around for quite a while. The concept of the superhero is part of the common intellectual furniture of our culture. Just now, when I googled on superhero, the first hit I got was the Washington Post using the word in a headline. Not until today have I ever heard it suggested that one corporation or another owned the term.
So, the next question is whether there’s anything Marvel and DC could have done that would legitimately give them joint ownership of an existing, commonly used piece of our vocabulary. I don’t think there is, but I think they’re pretending they’ve done it. Perhaps they’ve filed some sort of claim on it, and are now going to try to force Dark Horse and other comics publishers to stop using the single most recognizable piece of comics terminology in all of American pop culture.
If so, they’ve got their nerve.
I’m sorry to see that GeekPunk has knuckled under. Maybe they just didn’t have the resources to pursue some extended legal action. But I hope no one else takes this seriously who isn’t physically or fiscally obliged to do so, because what it looks like to me is a land grab, pure and simple, and a piece of brazen effrontery.