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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #345

Welcome to the three hundredth and forty-fifth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, learn about the complicated legal history of Red Sonja plus the surprising history of her metal bikini! Plus, the strange and amusing story of how Holly Robinson was brought back to life!

Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and forty-four.

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Red Sonja was too close to Robert E. Howard’s Red Sonya character for Marvel to have gained an independent copyright on the character.

STATUS: I’m Going With False

A couple of weeks ago, I discussed how it was that Marvel Comics owned the copyright on a character, Shuma Gorath, who was clearly named after an old Robert E. Howard character. In that instance, the case was that the characters only shared a name, and you can’t copyright just a name. However, the comment section was quickly filled with readers wanting to know then what was the deal with Red Sonja? Why doesn’t Marvel own Red Sonja? Was she really too close to the Robert E. Howard character that inspired her?

The answer seems to be that Marvel COULD have gotten the copyright to Red Sonja – they just chose not to.

Red Sonja was the result of Roy Thomas hoping to add a compelling female character to the Conan series, and when Thomas heard of an interesting sounding female character from a non-Conan story by Robert E. Howard called “The Shadow of the Vulture,”

The character in that story was called Red Sonya of Rogatino. She was a 16th century character set firmly in that century.

Thomas and Barry Windsor Smith adapted “The Shadow of the Vulture” for Conan the Barbarian #23.

From Conan the Barbarian #24 on, though, Red Sonja was developed as if she was a blank slate. The famous “Song of Red Sonja” created her backstory from nothingness and Thomas developed her dramatically over the years.

So could Thomas/Marvel have pushed for ownership of the character? I think that yes, they definitely could.

Heck, when Conan Properties (owners of Howard’s copyrights) spun Red Sonja off into her own company, Red Sonja LLC (which is why Red Sonja comics are at Dynamite and not at Dark Horse), they later ran into some legal problems when Paradox Entertainment (who bought Conan Properties) took issue with Red Sonja’s stories taking place in the copyrighted world of Hyboria.

But after a quick legal battle (a major point against Paradox was that apparently “Shadow of the Vulture” had some copyright problems, like whether it was even copyrighted in the first place!), they reached a settlement where Paradox was licensed the use of “Shadow of the Vulture” and Red Sonja was licensed the use of Hyboria (but only the world itself, no other characters from Hyboria).

Paradox then sent out the following fascinating press release…

To All Conan and Robert E. Howard Fans and Licensees:

It has come to our attention that there may be some Conan and Robert E. Howard fans or licensees who could be confused about the origins and ownership of Red Sonya (with a “y”) and Red Sonja (with a “j”) and their relationship to Hyboria. We don’t believe that there should be any such confusion and would like to do all that we can to clear up any that might exist.

The Red Sonya (with a “y”) character was created in 1934 by Robert E. Howard. Howard’s Red Sonya of Rogatino first appeared in the Howard story The Shadow of the Vulture. She was a 16th century Russian woman fighter who participated in the battle against the Turks in Vienna. She had absolutely nothing to do with Conan, or the Conan world of Hyboria.

The Red Sonja (with a “j”) character was created by Roy Thomas in 1974 and was set in Conan’s Hyborian Age. This Red Sonja was the heroine of the 1985 Film entitled Red Sonja and is featured in the current Dynamite Comic books.

Ownership of all Robert E. Howard characters, including Conan®, Kull®, Bran Mak Morn™, and Red Sonya™ (with a “y”) was acquired by either Paradox Entertainment, Inc. or by its affiliated company, Conan Properties International LLC, from the various entities which held the rights to the Howard characters and the derivative characters created over the years by such licensees as Marvel.

Red Sonja® (with a “j”) is owned by Red Sonja LLC which is not affiliated with either Paradox Entertainment, Inc., or Conan Properties International LLC.

Conan Properties International and Paradox Entertainment, Inc. own the copyrights and trademarks to the Robert E. Howard world of Hyboria™. Red Sonja LLC is a licensee of Paradox Entertainment, Inc. and Conan Properties International LLC and has been granted the non-exclusive right to use the Hyboria world and setting as the home for its Red Sonja character, but only in that context, as long as there is no use of the Conan character in connection with any use by Red Sonja LLC of its Red Sonja character.

At the moment neither Paradox Entertainment, Inc., nor Conan Properties International, LLC has any intention of using the Red Sonya (with a “y”) character in any stories set in Hyboria, or otherwise, nor has it granted any of its licensees permission to use the Red Sonya character. Anyone desiring to use the character Red Sonja® should observe the trademark of Red Sonja LLC in this respect and contact them.

While obviously Conan Properties International’s position would have been different had Marvel tried to get Red Sonja back in 1974, it is likely true that their main position here, that Red Sonja is a distinct character, is correct.

However, Marvel ceded copyright a long time ago.

Note Red Sonja’s first solo story from Savage Sword of Conan #1….

Marvel essentially admits that Red Sonja is just a riff on Red Sonya and not her own distinct character, and thus owned by Conan Properties International.

Likely, Marvel was selling enough Conan comics that they did not want to piss off Conan Properties International (on a legal fight that they would not even definitely have won), and Thomas and Windsor-Smith likely would not have gained any notable rights themselves (under the “work for hire” concept), so they did not have major financial incentives of their own to try to get Red Sonja for Marvel (plus, Thomas might very well not have ever even really considered the idea). So the issue was moot from the start.

But HAD Marvel tried, I believe they would have had a very good case. But that, in a nutshell, is the answer for all you commenters who wondered why Marvel does not own Red Sonja.

COMIC LEGEND: Red Sonja’s famous bikini was designed in a non-commissioned sketch (which also got said artist the gig drawing Red Sonja’s first solo comic book story).

STATUS: True

Note that this sort of thing almost never works, so don’t think that this will work for you, artists out there!

However, after Red Sonja made her appearance in Conan, the artist Esteban Maroto sent Roy Thomas (who was also the editor of the Conan series of comics) a drawing of Red Sonja.

At this point, this is what Red Sonja looked like…

Maroto’s drawings, however, had a different costume idea for Sonja …

And sure enough, in Savage Sword of Conan #1, in a story drawn by John Buscema, that costume made its debut…

and it has been Red Sonja’s costume ever since!

Maroto’s boldness also got him the gig drawing Red Sonja’s first solo story later in that same issue (the first page was printed above).

Pretty neat stuff.

Thanks to Roy Thomas for the information behind this story!

COMIC LEGEND: Ed Brubaker used a “dead” character as a major supporting character in his Catwoman series because he did not know the character had been killed off.

STATUS: True

This month at Comics Should Be Good, we are featuring “The Abandoned An’ Forsaked,” stories or ideas that were introduced and abandoned by later writers, who would then essentially “override” the earlier stories. Here is an archive of the stories featured so far.

A particularly amusing example of this happened during Ed Brubaker’s great run on Catwoman.

You see, one of the main supporting cast members in Brubaker’s Catwoman was a character, Holly Robinson (not the one from 21 Jump Street), that he had used from the Mindy Newell mini-series that had picked up on Frank Miller’s new origin for Catwoman from Batman: Year One (Holly appeared in Year One, as well, but Newell developed her further). Holly was basically left open for grabs after the Newell-penned mini-series.

So Brubaker picked her up and did great things developing her character.

What Brubaker did not know, though, was that Newell had later picked up on Holly’s story herself and killed her off in a Catwoman feature in Action Comics Weekly (#613, to be precise)!

So Brubaker then wrote the following hilarious two-pager in Catwoman: Secret Files and Origins #1 that explained Holly’s return…sort of….

Hilarious!

For another area where Catwoman’s Year One origins were abandoned for a time, check out this installment of Abandoned An’ Forsaked.

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for this week’s covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!

Follow Comics Should Be Good on Twitter and on Facebook (also, feel free to share Comic Book Legends Revealed on our Facebook page!). If we hit 3,000 likes on Facebook you’ll get a bonus edition of Comic Book Legends the week after we hit 3,000 likes! So go like us on Facebook to get that extra Comic Book Legends Revealed! Not only will you get updates when new blog posts show up on both Twitter and Facebook, but you’ll get original content from me, as well!

Also, be sure to check out my website, Legends Revealed, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can find here, at legendsrevealed.com.

Here’s my book of Comic Book Legends (130 legends – half of them are re-worked classic legends I’ve featured on the blog and half of them are legends never published on the blog!).

The cover is by artist Mickey Duzyj. He did a great job on it…(click to enlarge)…

If you’d like to order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed

See you all next week!

66 Comments

Hey Brian, a follow-up question on the Red Sonja thing. I see from your explanation why Marvel doesn’t own the rights to Red Sonja, but I don’t think I understand why those rights are owned by Red Sonja LLC. If Marvel didn’t protect the rights when they created and first published the character, how does another company come in and get the rights? I don’t know anything about law, but I would have assumed it was public domain or something.

Red Sonja LLC got the rights directly from Conan Properties International. They were once part of CPI, but they were split off as their own entity (I believe right around the time of the Red Sonja movie).

I never realized the actual story behind that “Why Holly Isn’t Dead” featurette.

Hilarious!

Brubaker must like Archie, is all I’m saying.

Ha! I was thinking that same thing as I posted the pages, Greg.

I’m not sure if this is a *comic* legend or not, but how does CPI clutch so tightly to the Conan rights when a judge found the character is public domain?

Man, Ed Brubaker’s DC/Wildstorm stuff is just so much more fun than his Marvel output.

Really enjoyed the Holly character, and Brubaker’s whole run on Catwoman.
So bumbed Holly and Slam have wound up back in obscurity–but … maybe it’s for the best?

I’m not sure I follow what you’re saying about copyright in the first Red Sonja question. As I understand it, copyright resides in the author of a work at the point of creation, and no special action is needed to enforce it, so it’s not like the Robert E Howard short story could ever have “not been copyrighted”. The same would apply to the Marvel stories, so if done under a work for hire contract, they would have belonged to Marvel in the same way Shuma Gorath did. Copyright also can’t be “lost”. Trademarking creations is different however: it can be lost and does require both registration and action to enforce, but I can’t see how a trademark would apply in this case. I can only assume that something else within the licencing agreement between Marvel and Conan Properties (or whoever owned the rights to Howard’s creations at the time) is in effect. Your explanation of Shuma Gorath did seem to make sense, but I really don’t see how Marvel could have “chosen not to get the copyright” or how the original story could have not been copyrighted in this case. Sorry!

Thomas might’ve sidestepped the issue of ownership with a simple name change. Of course, visions of Red Sophia entail passages such as, “Cerebus thinks they’d probably heal if you stopped wearing that chainmail bikini.”

I love the Catwoman and Holly story featured here. Its Shanower channeling Jaime Hernandez with gorgeous results, and its funny to boot!

I still don’t understand Red Sonja if Marvel failed to secure then and let them slip through their fingers, how and why would Conan Properties let them slip through their own fingers as well. Why are they their own entity and why wouldn’t they do everything to keep hold of them. The character certainly has value. Who reprints classic Conan? and Who can reprint classic Red Sonja stories? and are the Conan comics with Red Sonja in reprint limbo?

Has Red Sonya ever been in a comic? She sounds interesting. I’d buy a series of that.

That Catwoman thing is totally unrealistic. Who reads comics while taking bubble baths?

I’m not sure I follow what you’re saying about copyright in the first Red Sonja question. As I understand it, copyright resides in the author of a work at the point of creation, and no special action is needed to enforce it, so it’s not like the Robert E Howard short story could ever have “not been copyrighted”. The same would apply to the Marvel stories, so if done under a work for hire contract, they would have belonged to Marvel in the same way Shuma Gorath did. Copyright also can’t be “lost”. Trademarking creations is different however: it can be lost and does require both registration and action to enforce, but I can’t see how a trademark would apply in this case. I can only assume that something else within the licencing agreement between Marvel and Conan Properties (or whoever owned the rights to Howard’s creations at the time) is in effect. Your explanation of Shuma Gorath did seem to make sense, but I really don’t see how Marvel could have “chosen not to get the copyright” or how the original story could have not been copyrighted in this case. Sorry!

Marvel said that the character was adapted from a copyright-protected character, Red Sonya. Rather than contesting it and saying that it was an original character (which they likely COULD have done), they conceded that it was not.

I still don’t understand Red Sonja if Marvel failed to secure then and let them slip through their fingers, how and why would Conan Properties let them slip through their own fingers as well. Why are they their own entity and why wouldn’t they do everything to keep hold of them. The character certainly has value. Who reprints classic Conan? and Who can reprint classic Red Sonja stories? and are the Conan comics with Red Sonja in reprint limbo?

They did not let them slip through their fingers. They owned the rights until they spun Red Sonja off into its own company. In return, they received an interest in the new company, but it was an independent entity. And when Conan Properties International was purchased by another company, CPI and Red Sonja LLC were no longer connected.

I’ve never seen Shanower art that clean before. Wow! That’s in Cliff Chiang or Jaime Hernandez territory. In which other books can I see Shanower art like this?

Regarding the Red Sonja image, Brian, it is usually the second one that’s presented as the original work done by Maroto on the character. (The lady on the first image is not Red Sonja). However, it is interesting to note that *another* picture of Sonja drawn by Mr. Maroto was published in one of the early issues of Savage Tales; I always wondered if THAT wasn’t the actual first one. As for the legal issues surrounding the character… what a mess! Here we have a legal entity that had no input on the creative work, no family tie to the creator, and that didn’t pay a penny for the privilege owning Red Sonja lock, stock and barrel. Sheesh!

Ah, now I understand. Thanks, Brian.

@Brian – now I get what you were saying, thanks for clarifying!

Interesting analysis but flawed for want of facts.

Copyright occurs whenever a work of authorship is fixed in a tangible medium of expression so Marvel had various copyrights automatically – they simply assigned those rights to the Howard estate (which assigned them to Red Sonja LLC), in exchange for being allowed to adapt “Shadow of a Vulture” – Marvel’s rights were in a Derivative work, made pursuant to the adaptation rights in “Shadow”

It is not that “Shadow” was never copyrighted – copyright is automatic – “Shadow” was an effective copyright in the 70′s, so Marvel had to have permission (They also had to have permission from the estate in general to put anything in a Conan book – and everything Marvel published from the Howard cannon was assigned back to the estate) –

The problem Paradox had was that the renewal of the “Shadow” copyright was dodgy – so by 2008 its status was highly questionable – whereas the adapted character (owned by Red Sonja LLC) was unquestionably a valid copyright.

Because the first appearance of Red Sonja (Conan #23/24) was in an adaptation of “Shadow of a Vulture” – the connection between Sonya and Sonja could not be disavowed – (as much as Marvel might have wanted it to be then, or Paradox wanted it to be later) there was obvious substantial similarity.

With respect to the 08 litigation – ultimately, Paradox could not claim better rights then the people they bought from had at the time of the sale – The estate had already transferred all its valid rights to Red Sonja LLC by the time Paradox acquired them – no matter how much Paradox wished it to be otherwise.

It is like buying a building where one of the floors had already previously been sold off – you can’t then try to reclaim the floor as yours.

There is another basic issue that the analysis above ignores which is that the Paradox/Red Sonja LLC fight was chiefly a trademark battle – not a copyright battle – and Red Sonja LLC has the registered trademark.

Wow, what a perfect way to deal with a mistake! Just the right amount of humor and self-deprecation, while also making it clear that Holly wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

On a Brubaker-related topic: I wanted to thank Brian and all the voters of “Top 100 Comic Book Runs” for recommending “Sleeper”. I didn’t know anything about it before reading that entry, but now it’s one of my favorite comic series I’ve ever read. I would love to see Holden Carver show up in the new, Wildstorm-inflected DCU. I could totally see him popping up in “Grifter” at some point (though if whoever wrote it messed up that character, I would go apeshit).

I just assumed Marvel not owning Red Sonja was due to her being created within the pages of Conan. Kind of like how Marvel introduced Death’s Head in that short before his Transformers debut so they’d maintain ownership.

It says something about comics in the ’70s that “compelling female character” apparently meant “rape victim who hates all men but will submit to one that can beat her up. Oh, and she wears a chain-mail bikini.”

I just assumed Marvel not owning Red Sonja was due to her being created within the pages of Conan. Kind of like how Marvel introduced Death’s Head in that short before his Transformers debut so they’d maintain ownership.

Those things only happen based on the agreement that the licensor has with the licensee. In the case of Marvel and Hasbro, the deal specifically was “anything you create in the comic is owned by Hasbro.”

I think calling RS’s bikini a ‘costume’ might be stretching the term. Straight boy’s fantasy, yes. Costume, not do much.

Excellent stuff, ominpotent. Thanks for commenting.

It is an important point about the copyright date via “Shadow of the Vulture” for the Paradox/Red Sonja dispute. Thanks, I changed that. And while yes, the Paradox/Red Sonja dispute was primarily about trademark (as that is a more important issue for both companies), they definitely did get into copyright issues in their dispute, specifically the usage of the Hyboria material and obviously it is the copyright stuff that I’m mostly interested in here.

As to whether Marvel could have ever argued that Red Sonja was distinct enough to be classified as a new work, I certainly allow that it would not be a slam dunk, and CPI might very well could have won a court case on the subject on the premise of substantial similarity, but the fact that her original appearance was an adaptation of “Shadow of the Vulture” does not mean that Marvel was automatically out of luck in arguing that Red Sonja was a distinct new work.

Anyone else notice that the crowd was chanting “Sonya” in one of those “Sonja” pages?

Anyone else notice that the crowd was chanting “Sonya” in one of those “Sonja” pages?

Yeah, that was really weird. I think the concept was just showing the chants phonetically, but it definitely was odd.

Also while we’re on the subject of Conan and rights Joe Quesada said at Wizard World Philly 04 he was organizing a Conan relaunch not realizing Marvel no longer had the license. He didn’t specify if they lost it due to inactivity or if just no one at top was watching the expiration date, but when they wanted to renew it was too late.

I’ll go ahead and say I’m glad Quesada never got to do that, Miken, i would have prevented the awesome Dark Horse Conan we’ve got now.

Also, Quesada probably would have had Thoth-Amon erase Conan and Xenobia’s marriage somehow…

I gotta say that a chainmail shirt is a lot more practical for fighting than the metal bikini that Red Sonja usually wears.

It looks like chainmail in the first picture, but in the second picture where she’s dancing it looks more like cloth. Also her pink belt in the second pic looks oddly anachronistic.

That Catwoman two-pager is hilarious. I should try and track down that back issue.

What’s the ownership status of Kulan Gath? I always assumed he was a Marvel character but he his currently appearing in Dynamite’s books. He last appeared in a Marvel book around 2001 I think. Did Marvel grant Dynamite a license for the character or did they lose him around the time they lost Conan?

Brian from Canada

December 16, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Two things…

One: I remember reading somewhere that Dynamite’s Red Sonja was somehow connected to the Marvel one, but still a distinct character so that neither’s continuity would negate the other — anybody else read that? It may have been in one of the new series issues (which I adore).

Two: Regarding the Hasbro deal, Marvel must still retain the rights to Circuit Breaker from Transformers, because of her being used in an Iron Man story. My suspicion is that the writer may not have known about Hasbro’s ownership, but Hasbro’s not using her anyway — nor are they using any human character Marvel made for the comics or the TV series.

Marvel gave away too much of their rights in the 80s. Hasbro owns GI Joe and Transformers comics by Marvel and can reprint them ad nauseum (as can Lucasfilm with Star Wars) and there’s rarely any mention that they were made by Marvel in the 80s.

It was a pity Marvel couldn’t reprint Marvel Team-Up #73 in the recient Claremont/Byrne Team-Up collection. Mary Jane turning into Red Sonja was a fun story. I would think some arrangement could be made to allow the fans to enjoy a classic story.

Clearly the real answer is that Marvel doesn’t own Red Sonja because it never defeated her in battle.

Two: Regarding the Hasbro deal, Marvel must still retain the rights to Circuit Breaker from Transformers, because of her being used in an Iron Man story. My suspicion is that the writer may not have known about Hasbro’s ownership, but Hasbro’s not using her anyway — nor are they using any human character Marvel made for the comics or the TV series.

Right. Marvel avoided it by having Circuit Breaker appear in Secret Wars II before she appeared in Transformers. I think I did a Comic Book Legends Revealed on it a few years ago.

WackyWally: The Claremont/Byrne Spider-Man/Red Sonja story was recently reprinted in the trade paperback of the godawful recent Spider-Man/Red Sonja crossover, so it’s readily available, just not packaged with other things that are actually good.

Russell, Omnipotent:

“As I understand it, copyright resides in the author of a work at the point of creation, and no special action is needed to enforce it, so it’s not like the Robert E Howard short story could ever have “not been copyrighted”.

Using this specfic example, no, that is ABSOLUTELY incorrect.

Omnipotent,

“It is not that “Shadow” was never copyrighted – copyright is automatic – ”

No. Well. yes. NOW.

When Howard was alive and writing, copyright was not automatic. Registering your copyright was mandatory until, what, the late 1970′s.

Failing to register, or registering incorrectly, even a typo, often put things into the public domain. And then there were renewals. Failing to renew often meant no more copyright.

http://www.robert-e-howard.org/AnotherThought4rerevised.html

For those of you commenting on how impractical Red Sonja’s bikini is: have you seen what Conan wears? I’m not saying it makes Sonja’s outfit any more practical, but it does fit within the context of the comic.

Dark Horse should just be smartasses and introduce Red Sonia in the pages of Conan.

“Marvel essentially admits that Red Sonja is just a riff on Red Sonja and not her own distinct character, and thus owned by Conan Properties International. ”

I think you mean Red Sonja is just a riff on Red Sonya…

Ha! Yep. Thanks, I’ll fix that.

@Eric: I’m not really sure what you mean when you wrote “I’ve never seen Shanower art that clean before.” What Shanower art have you seen before? Shanower, in my opinion, is one of the cleanest artists of all time. Check out his Oz graphic novels (not the series he’s writing for Marvel now–that’s Skottie Young’s art; I mean the books that Shanower did for First Comics back in the 1980s and reprinted as a single HC by IDW a couple of years ago). There’s also his creator-owned “Age of Bronze” published through Image (though it’s released VERY sporadically–the first issue was released in 1998 and only 31 issues have been published, along with 3 collections, in both SC and HC formats). Also, if you can find it, look for “The Elsewhere Prince” (based on concepts originated by Moebius). He also illustrated the 1980s “Secret Origins” issue that dealt with the Justice League’s post-Crisis origin.

@Darren: Not sure what you’re talking about. Sure, the “traditional” Conan outfit is just a loincloth but, at the same time, Conan has been drawn wearing much MUCH more. Unlike Sonja, when Conan is in a cold climate, he’s usually drawn wearing climate-appropriate clothing (with Sonja, when she’s in a cold climate, she’s normally wearing the chain-mail bikini and some sort of cloak that–conveniently–drapes off her shoulders leaving the bikini quite visible; and she never seems to be cold).

Oh man, buttler’s comment on why Marvel doesn’t own Red Sonja is hilarious.

Mark J. Hayman brought up the Cerebus/Red Sophia stuff I was thinking of, and Donna mentioned the bit about Shanower channeling Xaime in the Catwoman bit.

To tie that together, I read about Bru not knowing Holly was dead in his TCJ interview, issue 263, which also features a long section on Cerebus. Oh, I’ll have to look and see if there’s any mention of Red Sonja in that issue!

And I do remember that you did a CBLR about Circuit Breaker, Brian. When did she get used in Iron Man? One of the first comics I ever got were the Transformers issues where she first shows up. Ah, memories!

JMurphy – registration is not required to create copyright – even in the 1930′s. Under the 28′ copyright act, which would govern “Shadow” you were required to publish with notice. If the notice was faulty your work could fall into the public domain.

You are confusing the notice requirements in the 1928 act with registration – they are different things.

NOTICE simply means that at the bottom of the publication you advised the public who owned the copyright

In the 76′ act we did away with renewal, and most of the notice requirements.

When we joined the Berne Convention (1989) and had to marry our laws to Europe’s copyright laws we did away with the notice requirements altogether.

But it is simply a fact that registration was not required under the 1928 copyright. (you only have to register then as now prior to entering a litigation) If you do register now it means that recouping your attorney’s fees is statutory (automatic/by law) in a successful suit.

here is a basic chart which lays out what was required for copyright in different eras – http://www2.winthrop.edu/copyright/copyrightimages/table.jpg

RE: the crowd chanting Sonya,

I think that Roy Thomas would do that periodically as a way to tell readers how to pronounce the name.

While I like the comic explaining how Holy is alive (it’s both good, funny AND sexy to look at) it still annoys me that the writer felt he just had to imply that fans are idiots for complaining over this. As if continuity problems in movies or TV shows were anything better to argue about. Why is is that comics is one of the few businesses where they feel they can insult their consumers? Can you imagine a Sears salesman saying “our products are much better the way we make them now, we owe you no explanations and if you don’t like them, you’re a, loser!” (Even if the customer deserved it, the salesman would get reprimanded for a lack of diplomacy.) Maybe it’s because we keep buying stuff we complain about (well I haven’t bought a DC comic since 2006, but many other fans do) and that gives them the impression they can get away with it.

Omnipotent:
“here is a basic chart which lays out what was required for copyright in different eras – http://www2.winthrop.edu/copyright/copyrightimages/table.jpg

Hell, no. That chart gives the current status, now, of works created under various copyright eras. (“current” and “now” as of the date of the graphic.)

Otherwise, the graphic clearly shows works created before 1923 were never protected by copyright. Is that really correct? (Context for the graphic might be useful.)

jmurphy

In her first appearance in CTB #23, when Sonja says her name there is a footnote clarifying how it is spoken. Or at least, there was in Editora Abril’s version of the story.

I suppose Thomas and his editors felt that it would be a good idea to write her name phonetically at the opening scene of #24. Or it might have been a simple mistake, who knows.

As for why Roy Thomas claimed that Red Sonja wasn’t his creation, I assume he felt that it was simply too much trouble to show that it was, and maybe it would rub Conan Properties the wrong way. At that time “creator-owned characters” were a very unusual idea. Besides, Roy Thomas is nothing if not friendly to liberal use of characters owned by others. :)

Sure Conan’s loincloth isn’t any better protection than Sonja’s chainmail bikini, but the point is, his loincloth isn’t Supposed to actually provide protection. The fact is, many warriors did wear as little protection as a loin cloth. They mostly planned on avoiding getting hit. Whereas to actually go to the trouble of wearing chainmail, you are actually trying to wear armor. Having it fashioned into a bikini, defeats the purpose. If she wore an outfit like Conan’s, just hides fashioned like a bikini, it would make more sense. It’s like if Conan wore 2 metal plates over his nipples. Why bother wearing the armor, if that is all it’s going to cover?

Copyrights only have a limited term – if it is pre-1923 it has fallen into the public domain because it is too old.

before the 28′ act was written copyrights were governed by an 18th century piece of legislation which is irrelevent at this point.

look up the 28′ act if you want to understand the law which governs “shadow” – I am trying to spoon-feed it to you but you want to persist in ignorance.

correcting myself – the pre 76′ act was passed in 1909, not 28 so look to the 1909 act.

The fun-loving, mail shirt wearing Sonja of the first set of stories was great. The chainmail bikini was just absurd. And shifting her “I’ll only sleep with a man who can beat me” from personal taste to a religious vow (and the whole rape backstory) ditto. Badly reduced the character.

It should be mentioned the Holly death story was largely ignored because it involved Selina killing someone in cold blood.

@catsmeow12

Yes, my thoughts exactly. In that Action Comics Weekly serial, Catwoman cannot prove that Holly was murdered by her husband. So what does Selina do? She kills two men and frames the husband for that! WTF!?! I never understood that. I re-read that storymore than once to see if therewas something, anything to imply that the two security guards Catwoman murders were criminals, or in league with the husband or something. But, from what I recall (I don’t have the issues in front of me) they were just a couple of guys two were in the wrong place at the wrong time. That one always left a very bad taste in my mouth, so I was happy to see the whole thing retconned out of existance.

Hey, I learned a lot about copyright law today. Or would have, I knew which of y’all were right or if my brain didn’t automatically shut off about one sentence into the whole thing. : )

But that Morota drawing is pretty good. I would have hired him too. And really, it does look like the bikini served some purpose in the area of support at least (back injuries can be deadly in some lines of work), as opposed to the purely decorative Buscema one. No, I’m not serious.

Sijo: I understand where you’re coming from, but I feel like Brubaker was intending to be very tongue-in-cheek. I don’t think there was any actual malice against comic fans, just a general tease of the “way-too-into-it” fact-checking comic reader.

Also, you haven’t bought any DC since ’06? I’m sorry, you’ve missed some awesome comics.

Hey, if neither Roy Thomas or Brian can tell the difference between Sonya and Sonja either, I can see where a copyright lawyer would get confused.

@Omnipotent

I tihnk you misunderstand what he was saying… the fact that the chart shows pre-1923 book to be in public domain implies that the chart is about the current copyright law and how it applies to older books…

So it says nothing about how copyright worked at the time the book was published.

And you can’t accuse someone asking for proof of having to be spoon fed info when you obviously haven’t provided the proper proof.

Of course there could be a problem with Red Sonya’s copyright for a number of other reasons, on account of all the copyright law changesbetween then and now, so witohut more info about the work itself your discussion isn’t that relevant…

It’s hard to care about the legal ins and outs when that Maroto drawing is soooo beautiful.

Snappy “Has Red Sonya ever been in a comic? She sounds interesting. I’d buy a series of that.”

I can think of one Red Sonya comic appearance …though it’s a candidate for “I love ya but you’re strange”
It’s called “The Wizard and Red Sonja Show” and was in Savage Sword of Conan based on Frank Thorne appearing at conventions with women dressed as Red Sonja.
In this story a wizard (Thorne) meets 5 Red Sonjas…or rather 4 Red Sonjas and 1 Red Sonya

In an old Comics Journal (early 80′s or earlier, I think; my TCJs are in storage) Roy Thomas mentioned that he received certain benefits from the Howard estate regarding Red Sonja. He was vague on details and as I recall, he was talking about creators’ rights in general, not his own situation with the Conan and Red Sonja properties and the development he put into them. My interpretation was that he had developed Sonja enough that the Howard estate thought it best to give him a creator’s share, which could certainly line up with the Comic Book Legend you describe above. As a Marvel Comics editor, Roy Thomas would have an idea about how creator’s rights worked, even then, and the Howard estate probably had similar notions. Thomas’ effort to develop the character and preventing a copyright battle in the first place might have been worth a few points for royalties/reprints/other uses.

By the way, as a Cerebus fan, I found it very difficult to keep from automatically typing “Red Sophia”. I know almost nothing about any Howard creation.

I finally read Shadow of the Vulture (in the Sword Woman collection that came out a while back) and Sonya-with-a-Y is a blast. She has the advantage that since she’s not paired with Conan, she doesn’t have to take backseat to the male lead, who’s formidable in his own right, but very much a Big Lug type.

[...] Originally Posted by TampaDave One thing I've been wondering about, I wonder if anyone could answer this. Why doesn't Marvel own this character? Red Sonja is loosely based on Red Sonya, but there enough differences between the two, that Red Sonja can be considered a unique character. Was this a special arrangement, like DC had with Star Trek? Or did someone at Marvel not realize this? Paradox Entertainment owns the rights to CONAN (they purchased it from Stan Lee Media in 2002). Red Sonja LLC (which itself was spun off from Conan Properties) owns the rights for RED SONJA. Marvel could have retained the rights to RED SONJA, but CHOSE not to. Source: Comic Legends Revealed #345. [...]

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