Public Domain Super Heroes

What are trademarks and copyrights?[]

This is a legal issue, so by its very nature, it can be confusing. I did find these two articles to be useful in clarifying the differences, particularly the second, which deals with cartoon characters. Perhaps these can be useful in developing an FAQ.

Roygbiv666 23:38, September 11, 2009 (UTC)

Message from David M. Singer[]

David M. Singer is an acquaintance of mine and since he's not saavy on how to post messages on these kinds of forums, he asked me to post the following message for him:

“I have recently posted comments regarding the copyright status of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents as public domain characters. My comments were incorrect. I must make the following clarification: John Carbonaro and David Singer, Singer Publishing Company, Inc. and Deluxe Comics, have reached a final settlement in the lawsuit between the parties (entitled John Carbonaro, et. al. v. David Singer, et. al., 84 Civ. 8737 (S.D.N.Y.)). Singer acknowledges Carbonaro’s registered copyrights and trademark in the “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents®” and has consented to be permanently enjoined from utilizing any of the “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents” characters, stories or artwork or Carbonaro’s trademark. Under the settlement, Carbonaro will receive, among other things, an assignment of all rights to “Wally Woods T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents,” previously published by Singer.”

archie/mlj heroes[]

are the original versions of the archie/mlj heroes in the public domain?

Yes the original golden age versions of the heroes were not renewed and are in the public domain. Their sliver age appearances on the other hand are copyrighted. Also heroes like Fly and Jaguar who first appeared in the silver age are not public domain. Crimsoncrusader 03:11, January 7, 2011 (UTC)

more disputed characters[]

i was going to use certain characters for a webcomic so in addition to reading about them here i read toonopedia. toonopedia said certain characters belong to ac comics. when i contacted ac comics they confirmed this in a email

"Yes, that is true. CAPTAIN FLASH, THE AVENGER and dozens of other GA characters are now AC Comics properties. In fact this week we release a book featuring THE AVENGER, CRIMEBUSTER and YANKEE GIRL"

so someone should see exactly what characters they own.

  • This makes no sense. Once the characters are in public domain, the characters are in public domain. And, unless I missed something, none of the issues that Captain Flash, Avenger, Crimebuster and Yankee Girl ever appeared in were ever renewed (and, in case of Yankee Girl, there were never properly registered to begin with). That said, AC Comics does have its own versions of all of those characters, versions that are quite distinct from the originals - it definitely owns those. They never claimed exclusive rights to those characters, and I'm not sure why they would start now. --Strannik01 20:51, September 13, 2011 (UTC)
  • Black is often inconsistent in his claims and how he makes use of characters regarding trademarks, copyrights and public domain status. He also claims to have a letter that grants him exclusive rights to some of the Fiction House material although none of that has been renewed except for some Sheena stuff thanks to the 1950s tv series. What he's probably doing here is the equivalent of what DC did to him, claiming trademark not copyright and doing a little sabre rattling in hopes to deter legitimate competition. However, I don't think he's actually filed the trademarks in the past just as you don't actually have to file a copyright to have some copyright protection. Which probably explains how Dynamite has been able to file trademarks for characters and titles that he should have by dint of consistently publishing books with them on the covers and by name: Black Terror, Fighting Yank, and Green Lama. At least Dynamite changed the name of Miss Masque to Masquerade. Part of me feels sorry for him because he has gotten a raw deal in regards to this, to DC's threatening over Phantom Lady, and to Diamond's changes in profit margin/sales requirements in order to carry books (I never see Black's books at stores anymore). But, his inconsistent behavior and changes he makes to reprints without notation (such as changing the rank of Captain Midnight) often annoy me and have ultimately turned me off to searching out his reprint books as a resource. If the stories are public domain, then they are available copyright wise. If he claims ownership via trademarks, just make sure you don't violate the trademark which protects titles, logos, covers and promotion. The characters themselves still can be used in the actual comic. -- Ed Love184.35.11.34 12:09, October 3, 2012 (UTC)
This bears repeating over here

I have pointed out here, several times, that in the case of a PD work, I.e., copyright-free, one CANNOT use trademark to protect that work in any way whatsoever. This is covered under the US Supreme Court decision Dastar vs. 20 th Century Fox. The court said, and I quote, “this would allow the creation of a mutant copyright of indefinite duration, and this they may not do.” So, while DC attempts to re-assert trademark over a title by bringing back characters periodically, it has little legal effect following Dastar.

Hence, Bill Black can claim to trademark the product. "Bill Black's Captain Flash", but cannot trademark "Captain Flash". Any unique or distinctive work Black produces is of course, copyright protected to him. -- KJR 09:46, October 4, 2012 (UTC)

Front Page[]

Should we improve the wiki's front page by adding the fact were including public domain characters from literature radio and film.

What sort of improvements would you like to see? Crimsoncrusader (talk) 02:55, September 4, 2013 (UTC)

Is Nelvana of the Northern Lights actually in the Public Domain?  The publisher responsible for the upcoming reprint of her adventures states otherwise. 20:45, April 1, 2014 (UTC)

Ya, we've been over this. Using a wonderful website calld google, you too can find out the information you need! Bell Features was sold to F.E. Howard. F.E. Howard closed down. Cy Bell literally sold a trunk full of whatever he had leftover to the guys who eventually founded Nelvana Animation. They either foolishly believed they bought a company Cy Bell didn't even own or deliberately lied to Corus Entertainment when they sold Nelvana Animation to them. Who knows? Who cares? The sale to F.E. Howard is a matter of public (and legal) record. It was done. Finitto. As per Canadian copyright law, everything F.E. Howard owned became public domain 50 years after it closed. If Corus Entertainment only knew how to use google as well, this whole matter would be put to rest.Cebr1979 (talk) 22:13, April 1, 2014 (UTC)

Lensman series[]

Just thought you should know that the Lensman series, the inspiration for Green Lantern Corps, that's all in the public domain. HTH 18:04, September 1, 2014 (UTC)

Black Jack[]


Nice to meet you all! Pardon my inexperience on this Wikia but I'd like to point out something interesting I found researching some Public Domain Characters and found this:

This is for the Character Black Jack and apparently the Owner "...Sato will not actually be renouncing his copyright. Instead, he has chosen to not enforce it..."

I wasn't sure if this was worth a mention as it's a rather tricky situation and what I assume is Japanese Copyright but if its useful in any way I might as well post.

OmniJunk (talk) 01:24, March 27, 2016 (UTC)OmniJunk

be careful, Black Jack is not the name of the character it's just the title of the manga, an homage to an earier medical manga about a different character named Black Jack. JoeFrankenstein (talk) 05:22, March 27, 2016 (UTC)

Oh thank you, I'm sorry i should have mentioned that it was a derivative, that being said would this warrant a entry to PDSH?

OmniJunk (talk) 09:00, March 27, 2016 (UTC)OmniJunk


You have Hugo Danner and the Black Bat, but no entry for Calafia the original public domain Wonder Woman. Calafia and the Gray Lensman (first threee books are public domain) both have WIkipedia entries. HTH 16:24, April 16, 2016 (UTC)

Wow! So, what are you saying then? You'd like to make one or you're just randomly saying stuff for no reason? I'm confused by your post here...Cebr1979 (talk) 19:41, April 16, 2016 (UTC)
I was under the impression only the first version of Triplanetary (meaning no chapters with Arisians or Eddorians) was public domain along with other early E.E. Doc Smith books. Matt shade (talk) 18:59, April 16, 2016 (UTC)


So just so we're clear Public Domain means that you can include characters in your stories right.

For example, if I were to write and publish a story with Miss Fury as the main character I wouldn't get sued to Hell and back by whoever owned her previously? I'm just kind of weary about what does and doesn't count as Public Domain.

(Bianca Bellaschnee (talk) 07:33, 9 April 2024 (UTC))

Yup. Those are the rules. But just because certain characters are in the public domain doesn't mean they’re entirely free. Some notable examples still have trademarks with their former owners and might come with stipulations that need to be followed.
For example, only the select issues listed on the articles pertaining to a character’s public domain appearances are free to use. Any elements from media that isn't listed are not free to use and might be best to avoid. Likewise, if a character is still trademarked, you either have to call the character by a different name or keep the name only in the interior of the story and not in the title. LogiTeeka (talk) 08:03, 9 April 2024 (UTC)