I’ve been thinking lately about the whole “The Big Guy versus The Little Guy” thing, when it comes to comic publishers. Specifically, when it comes to Marvel and other people’s comics, and the way that the former really doesn’t seem to be looking too good in that area recently.
Weirdly enough, I didn’t initially put together the announcement of Marvel’s Warlord of Mars comics with their recent release of Mystery Men – a comic that shares its name with Bob Burden’s Flaming Carrot, with a trademark that may or may not have been swiped on the very day that Universal Movies – The studio that adapted Burden’s comic into a movie, back in 1999 – lost its hold on the name, which is… suspicious, to say the least (Marvel deny sniping the trademark to the name, saying that the TM was available when they looked into the matter). After all, they’re pretty much unrelated, right? One is just announcing a new licensed book, and the other is just expanding a franchise with a questionably named title…
…Except, of course, Marvel’s Warlord of Mars book will come in direct competition with Dynamite Entertainment’s already-existant Warlord of Mars comics, a fact that’s completely ignored in Marvel’s official PR for A Princess of Mars, which instead talked about “bring[ing the Edgar Rice Burroughs] novels to comics for a new generation,” as if someone isn’t already doing that very thing (The books are public domain, so this is less about copyright, and more about simply ignoring content that’s already out there). It’s possible that such PR-speak is ignorant, as opposed to malicious (Although Dynamite’s Warlord of Mars books have been out for, what, eight or nine months now, and have covers by Alex Ross and Art Adams, both of whom have done work for Marvel during that time, so… You’d think they’d know, right?), but when noticed next to the cavalier attitude towards Bob Burden’s ownership of Mysterymen as a title, it seems a little worrying.
It’s probably too much to think that Marvel just doesn’t care about reusing other people’s ideas, because… well, as creators/caretakers of their own intellectual property, they clearly understand the value of ownership of ideas and titles and the whole shebang. But these two moves, happening so closely together, suggest an attitude of “We’re what’s happening!” that ignores or overwrites other people’s effort in favor of making their own seem more impressive or original. That would be disturbing at the best of times, but when you factor in that whole “history is written by the winners” thing, and look at Marvel’s market share in the direct market, there’s something oddly depressing about the whole thing. I’d like to think that Marvel can’t just run roughshod over other people’s work, but… they’re Marvel, and these days, that means Disney. Who’s going to stop them?