Tuesday, January 26, 2010

To Public Domain or Not to Public Domain.

In my preparation for this campaign, I have managed to score permission to publish roster books or heros and villains using the BASH! system (I also intend to make versions for Superlink M&M and possibly 4C). This has allowed me the freedom to pour over the volumes of old campaign documents I have collected this past 25 years, as well as scour the internet (what did I do without it for all those years?) for inspirations as well.

Imagine my surprise to find this;

Public Domain Superheroes!

Yes a public domain heroes (and villains) wiki.

This site is fantastic and it focuses on the concept of heroes & villains who have not had their original copyrights renewed and as such have lapsed into the public domain.

Many are surprising, such as the original Blue Beetle (no not the Charlton one that DC now owns) as well as interesting characters like the original Wonder Man (and Wonder Boy) and such luminaries as Captain Atom (again a very specific early version).

For those who have read Project Superpowers or Terra Obscura, you have seen how these characters can be used, updated and even modernized a wee bit.

The tricky part is the trademark stuff. You have to be careful not to seem like you are trying to confuse people into thinking yours is the same one being published by DC or Marvel or whomever. That said, it seems to me that despite the fact that a lot of the modern copyright laws were modified to protect Mickey Mouse, the end result is not that DC or Marvel would think I am trying to pass off my Blue Beetle as their Blue Beetle, but instead that they simply have large law firms and I don't.

Still with some cleverness it can be done. For example on the original Blue Beetle;

"After his father was killed by a gangster's bullet, young Dan Garret joined the New York Police Department, but he soon tired of the slow pace and red tape of police work. He donned a blue three-piece suit and a white mask and established a costumed identity, fighting crime as the Blue Beetle. He had no powers, but he used a gun and a wrist-mounted mini-radio to get an edge on the criminals he was fighting. His calling card was a small beetle-shaped marker that he left in conspicuous places to alert criminals to his presence, using their fear of his crime-fighting reputation as a weapon against them."

See the a comic page here!

Now to me that is a much more interesting Blue Beetle than yet another spandex clown with super powers. I like the Dick Tracy aspects of this guy. Your mileage may vary, of course.

So I continue to ponder this topic and see where it takes me, but I must say that I am intrigued. Please feel free to share your thoughts on the matter.


  1. Diving into public domain material can help create a very authentic experience for a given time period. Photos, radio broadcasts and newspaper articles - hell, old catalogues even.

  2. Thanks for the link - I fear I could be mining it deep into the night :D

  3. there was a M&M product that publsied stats of some of the heroes on the public domain site..I forget the name of it though