For a business that usually puts a lot of focus on simple battles between right and wrong, comics spend a lot of time in the murky world of the courtroom, where justice doesn’t always prevail but might doesn’t always make right, either. Here, a mere technicality, or even the threat of a lawsuit, can do what the most diabolical villains can’t: end a popular superhero’s existence, locking him away even from memory. Or they can just remove a hero from her home universe and put her in one where her entire existence stops making sense. They can control our language, justify intellectual property theft… make foolish causes noble and noble causes foolish, even change the very definition of right and wrong. So sometimes it’s important to step back a bit from a case that a lot of serious lawyers have spent serious time being serious about, and reflect for a minute before saying, “You know what? This whole legal case is CRAZYTOWN KOOKOO BANANAPANTS.” Here are the ten craziest legal matters we found– some of them full-fledged court cases with judgments rendered, some unresolved courtroom wrestling and some the mere threat of a lawsuit or a cease and desist order. It was a close race.
10. Superman Sues Other Heroes For Copyright Infringement
It seems hard to believe now, but seventy years ago, the character then known as Captain Marvel and later as Shazam was a serious sales rival to Superman. Fawcett Publications was also better at spinning off the Captain Marvel property than DC Comics was: there was a Captain Marvel Jr. and Mary Marvel well before there was a Superboy or Supergirl. Unable to beat the Captain in a fair fight, DC cheated, taking Fawcett to court on charges of being a mere copy of Superman. They had used the law well against other characters, like 1939’s Wonder Man, commissioned by Victor Fox and written and drawn by Will Eisner, and Fawcett’s own 1940 Master Man. Were Wonder Man, Master Man or Captain Marvel aliens? No. Were any of them newspapermen? No. Did any of them have a “Lois Lane” type foil? Of course not. Did they imitate Superman’s earliest super-powers of strength, speed and sometimes super-jumping or flight? Yes… and so did dozens of other characters, many of them published by DC Comics. Only the Wonder Man case was actually resolved. Master Man never went to trial and the Captain Marvel case was settled out of court in 1953, but legal fees and threats had still gotten DC what it wanted. Today, other companies use far more blatant Superman ripoffs like Supreme, Hyperion and the Plutonian and nobody blinks.