Superman v. Captain Marvel
National Comics Publications v. Fawcett Publications
1951: Shazam! It Takes Scarcely More than a Glance
|Action Comics 1
The markings on this cover indicate that it was evidence in the S.D.N.Y case.
|Whiz Comics 2
|Another Superman infringement case involved
Captain Marvel, a boy who could turn into a costumed, super-powered man
by uttering the magic word "Shazam!" The
case dragged on through the 1940s, finally resolving in the Second
Circuit in 1952. Experts on both sides analyzed the various comic books. The district court compared "facial
appearances, costumes, etc., and the superhuman feats performed,"
although, notably, the duplication of powers in the abstract was not
considered. Comparison of the characters
included an analysis of physical attributes, costumes, recounted feats,
setting, dialogue, and story elements. There was also discussion of
the intent of the creators to infringe, citing interviews with artists
instructed to "imitate the 'Superman' strips and the dialogue and
script as closely as possible."
In Judge Learned Hand's appellate opinion, he accepted the findings of infringement of the District Court and primarily detailed the arcane copyright notifications required under the now-defunct 1909 Copyright Act. On the issue of the standard of infringement for "these silly pictures," Judge Hand stated that "a plagiarist can never excuse his wrong by showing how much he did not plagiarize." He concluded that as to the infringement of Superman, a final judgment required "scarcely more than a glance at corresponding strips of 'Superman' and 'Captain Marvel' to assure the observer that the plagiarism was deliberate and unabashed."
|Action Comics 10
|Whiz Comics 7
|Action Comics 13
|Whiz Comics 18
|"In the beginning everyone was jumping onto the comic book bandwagon. There was no question that Captain Marvel derived from Superman . . . We had our Superman-type character just like everyone else had theirs. So why did Superman's publisher pick on us? Simply because we were beating them in sales! The lawsuits dragged on for years; there were three of them: We won the first, lost the second, won the third . . . but then there was a problem. One artist, I don't know who, took either a page or a panel from Superman comics and traced it exactly . . . and simply inserted Marvel where Superman was. That killed us. We settled out of court. We paid them $400,000. The settlement said that we do not admit to copying Superman but promised never to publish Captain Marvel ever again." P.C. Hamerlinck, "The Fawcetts Could Do It As Well, Or Better, Than Anybody": The Roscoe K. Fawcett Interview, in Fawcett Companion: The Best of FC 13 (Paul Hamerlinck, ed., TwoMorrows Publishing 2001) (quoting Fawcett circulation director Roscoe Kent Fawcett).|
|Action Comics 21
|Whiz Comics 10
|Action Comics 26
|Whiz Comics 11
|Action Comics 27
|Whiz Comics 6
|Whiz Comics 16
the similar signatures in the bottom right corner.
Superman: Very truly yours, Clark Kent (Superman)
Whiz Comics: Yours Truly Captain Marvel
|Action Comics 35
|Captain Marvel Adventures 8
subsequent years, the character would be entirely abandoned, see , and "Marvel" was adopted by Timely Comics
as its new name. When DC Comics leased
the rights to publish Fawcett's Captain Marvel character from
then-owner Charlton, Marvel Comics immediately produced its own Captain
Marvel comic book starring a new space-based superhero of the same
name, to protect its trademark. By subsequent agreement with Marvel, DC Comics
can publish the adventures of Captain Marvel, but cannot use the term
"Captain Marvel" on its covers or promotional materials.
Thus the DC Comics version is typically identified as
Brian Cronin Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #6!, Comics Should be Good, Jul. 7, 2005, http://goodcomics.blogspot.com/2005/07/comic-book-urban-legends-revealed-6.html
Brian Cronin, Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #12!, Comics Should be Good, Aug. 18, 2005, http://goodcomics.blogspot.com/2005/08/comic-book-urban-legends-revealed-12.html
|Stan Lee & Gene Colan, Out of the
Holocaust: A Hero!
Captain Marvel 1 (Marvel Comics, May 1968)
O'Neil & C. C. Beck, In the
Shazam! 1 (DC Comics, Feb. 1973)
The "Captain Marvel" subtitle ended with Shazam 15,
replaced with "The World's Mightiest Mortal"