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Comic Book Legends Revealed #407

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COMIC LEGEND: A British firm was denied a trademark of the word “Batsman” in relation with cricket gear because of DC Comics’ Batman trademark.

STATUS: True

If you are familiar at all with the game of cricket, you know that the players who bat are called batsmen (or batsman, in the singular).

batsman

Recently, a British company decided to try to trademark the term for a line of cricket-related merchandise.

Can you guess who took issue with that?

batmanlogo

Yep, DC Comics, who has a European trademark for the term “Batman,” argued that Batman is SUCH a distinctive mark that even in an entirely different context, even one that lends itself so much to cricket as the term “Batsman” does, that consumers would still believe that the product was referring (and thus, was endorsed by) to Batman. So they wanted to cancel the other company’s Batsman trademark.

And guess what?

DC Comics WON.

Reader Jess H. wrote in with an article that he worked on for the decision that a British judge ruled that the Batman trademark was do distinctive that there would be confusion with DC’s Batman, even with cricket fans, so DC Comics won and the cricket company was out of luck.

Amazing.

Thanks so much to Jess for the head’s up! Talk about topical! It JUST happened the other day!

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Check out some Entertainment and Sports Urban Legends Revealed!

Did an Actress Actually Adopt the Name of the Character She Played in a Hit Film?

Was the Super Bowl REALLY Named After the Super Ball?

Did TV’s Greg Brady Seriously Date His TV Mom in Real Life?

Did the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles Really Share a Team for a Year?

Did Ryan Fitzpatrick Actually Score a Perfect 50 On His Wonderlic Test?
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71 Comments

Come on, Brian. Next you’ll be telling us that Sherlock Holmes never said “elementary, my dear Watson.” Or even that Bogart never said “play it again, Sam” in Casablanca.

;-)

Y’know, Brian, I’m amazed DC let you keep Batman in the title of your book and not sue for confusing trademarks…

Something similar happened in Mexico, but in this case, DC couldn’t obtain the registration of its former logo, because of the existence of a trademark of the “DC United” team. Sometimes you win…

How do you pronounce “Btfsplk,” anyway?

The funny thing is, I remember Charlie Brown himself sometimes having a rain cloud that rained only on him. But now I’m wondering if I’m remembering someone else entirely, and it only seemed like something that would happen to Charlie Brown. It definitely wasn’t this Li’l Abner guy, though.

Y’know, Brian, I’m amazed DC let you keep Batman in the title of your book and not sue for confusing trademarks…

[Homer Simpson voice] Shut uuuuup!

Now I want to see Melissa McCarthy play Etta Candy in a Wonder Woman movie.

Now I’m imagining the Internet crapstorm that would ensue if a modern publisher mailed anyone a list of “methods which can be used to keep women confined or enclosed”…

Specifically methods that would not interfere with the excitement of the stories (or the sales of the book, of course). I wonder which methods would hurt the excitement of the stories?

I’d like to know a bit more about the batsman case. While there was clearly objection from DC had the cricket governing body nothing to say on the matter? If I tried to trademark the term ‘Quarterback’ I’d expect objections from the sporty types before anyone who thought it might sound like a character in a book. Even if I could think of a character in a book who sounded a bit like quarterback.

Please tell me that Btfsplk is a 5th-dimensional imp. The spelling and his jinxing power are too silly not to be a coincidence.

In the old “Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm” cartoon series, there was a character, Bad Luck Schleprock, who walked around with a cloud over his head. http://www.topthat.net/webrock/spinoffs/pebbles1.htm (Scroll down, you’ll see him to the right of the page.) Wonder if he was inspired by the “Lil Abner” character and/or a part of the confusion?

I could see both being the case, Benn (that he was inspired by the character AND he played a role in the confusion).

I wish with the new format, I could like comments. There are some gems in here today.

Thanks to Miss Frank’s letter and Roubicek’s imaginative work, Gaines was inspired to start the Penthouse Letters. And now you know the rest of the story.

buttler, you might consider checking your memory against the “Personal Raincloud” list on the TV Tropes website and see if what you are thinking of is listed there: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PersonalRaincloud.

“How do you pronounce “Btfsplk,” anyway?”

Throatwarbler Mangrove

GreyDog: Wow, that’s quite a list! The funny thing is, listed on that page is “If I remember rightly, unlucky Charlie Brown has rain fall just for him in one strip.” So apparently I’m not alone, and maybe not even wrong.

Mind you, both the Pink Panther and Eeyore examples also ring a bell, which could have fed into my remembering it as more of a thing than it was.

I can’t remember an individual comic strip where Charlie Brown has a cloud over him only. There were many times where, during a ball game, it began to pour, Charlie Brown was the only one who wanted to stay and finish the game, and so there were individual panels with him standing alone in the rain.

My sister used to have Pink Panther comic books and that has confused my memory as to whether the Pink Panther ever had a personal raincloud episode.

What about Keith Urban? and Comic Book Urban Legends? Wasn’t there something there? ;-)

“Enclosed and confined” doesn’t necessarily mean they’re OK with bondage. It could include prisons, force-fields ,paralysis rays …

“Enclosed and confined” doesn’t necessarily mean they’re OK with bondage. It could include prisons, force-fields ,paralysis rays …

Sexy force fields, perhaps.

The judge wasn’t pleased at all when offered eight lever arch files of Batman evidence by DC’s lawyers. :)

The judge wasn’t pleased at all when offered eight lever arch files of Batman evidence by DC’s lawyers.

Yeah, that part was hilarious. It was a blast seeing a judge deny lawyer’s fees because he felt that the winning party spent too much money on lawyers. :)

The plot thickens! “The ‘Charlie Brown Rain Cloud Effect’ in International Law”: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1663902

I also saw a play recently, Dog Sees God, that was about the Peanuts kids as screwed-up teenagers, and the Charlie Brown character in it has a personal raincloud that rains only on him. I guess the playwright must have had the same memory.

And yet, I certainly can’t find the strip online or anything like that. I don’t know what to think.

I dunno, doesn’t it sound just like the thing we’re discussing here? That everyone thinks that it appeared in Peanuts but it didn’t? For instance, the Peanuts IRS strip was similarly referenced in a LOT of legit articles and papers, but it wasn’t real, either.

Oh yeah, it could be. I’m just lacking confirmation either way. To the archives!

@cool arrow: According to Al Capp, the correct pronunciation of “Btfsplk” is a Bronx cheer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omI7FYttJUk

@Brian: The third story reminds me of when I ran a Comics Q&A website and got several questions about the character in the comic strip “Smokey Stover” who always said “Nov Shmoz Kapop.” It took a lot to convince them that the Little Hitchhiker wasn’t from “Smokey Stover,” but a lesser-known strip called “The Squirrel Cage.” “Smokey Stover” was known for many recurring nonsense phrases like “Notary Sojac” and “1506 Nix Nix,” but that wasn’t one of them.

I also once received a note from a woman who was looking for an old strip about a notary public called “Notary Sojac,” by a cartoonist named Smokey Stover. I had to explain that something got scrambled in the translation.

“Bfltspk” is pronounced “Janovsky” — all the letters are silent.

Credit to the late George Carlin for that one, from Occupation: Foole

@nickpheas: It’s not so odd. The words “Champion” and “GAME” have been trademarked for lines of sportswear (http://www.championusa.com and http://www.gamesportswear.com), so “Quarterback” or “Batsmen” wouldn’t be unreasonable.

Bfltspk supposedly is-according to Capp-the sound of a person making a raspberry noise. And if you’re not reading the Li’l Abner collections (new and old) you should be….

Never thought I would see a photo of Sachin Tendulkar on a comics website.

How do you pronounce “Btfsplk,” anyway?

sin-KEV-itch

I see a whole new merchandising arena opening up!

DC Superhero cricket gear!

The Bat-symbol on the bat! Balls made to look like Lex Luthor’s head! Plastic Man wickets! It’s a gold mine just waiting to be harvested!

I don’t understand how DC was able to claim that the name batsman was infringing on their trademark. Isn’t there a city and a river in Turkey called Batman? Does Turkey have to pay DC royalties every time they use the name?

I’ve always said, Wonder Woman needs more chains and elephants and circus parades.

Get back to basics, guys!

Btfsplk is pronounced Btfsplk

I’m not a fan of the three stories not being on the same page as they used to be – is there a good reason for the new format?

I like to imagine that when they say they wanted Marston to cut down on chaining up Wonder Woman by 50 to 75 percent, they meant “cut it by no less thatn 50 percent but by no more than 75 percent.” I mean, you’ve got to have SOME chaining up Wonder Woman.

(I know the memo actually said “at least” 50-75 percent, presumably meaning cutting it by more than 75 percent would be okay, but following “at least” with a range is meaningless; “at least” means “no less than.” No less than 50-75 means no less than 50.)

I’m inclined to agree with Drancron. I would prefer if all three stories were still on the same page. They were all very interesting and I wouldn’t want to accidentally miss one by not realizing I’m on page 2 instead of 3.

is there a good reason for the new format?

Yes.

I don’t understand how DC was able to claim that the name batsman was infringing on their trademark. Isn’t there a city and a river in Turkey called Batman? Does Turkey have to pay DC royalties every time they use the name?

It is not about the use of a name, it is about the use of a name in commerce. Your name could be, say, Batman Jones, and that would be totally fine. But if you open up a chain of supermarkets and you want to name it after yourself – “Batman’s,” you wouldn’t be allowed to, since you are now using the name (or “mark”) in commerce and a consumer would easily be confused at seeing a store that was called “Batman’s” and think that it had something to do with DC Comics’ Batman.

In addition, the idea of consumer confusion over particularly famous and distinctive marks is a relatively modern innovation of the law. For instance, there is a line of peanut butter called Peter Pan and a line of buses in the northeast of the U.S. called Peter Pan Bus Company. They each have trademarks for their respective businesses, and they were allowed them under the theory that no one would confuse a peanut butter company or a bus company with a play/book/movie. However, had either of these businesses debuted TODAY and tried to get said trademarks, I think they actually would be turned down due to the confusion issue.

I also thought of Schleprock when I read this, but he was probably a ripoff of the Lil’ Abner character, which I’d never seen before.

You’ve split this up into three pages—please consider making it all one page again.

I respectfully say that I am not a fan of the new format of each Legend on a separate page. I like scrolling back up to look at each one as I comment. Not that we’re voting here or anything, but I prefer it the old way. This certainly won’t stop me from reading, but I know that you do consider the opinions of we the readers of the blog, so I wanted to mention my viewpoint.

Anyway.

As to the L’il Abner character and Superman’s pal Myxy, I assume the Abner character came first. I vaguely remember reading that somewhere.

It’s fascinating how a term that’s not the same as the comic book character can legally be considered as being too close to the comic. Oy. All I know is that no country that plays cricket has ever gone commie, dammit!

Wasn’t Marston originally hired to provide a veneer of scholarly approval to comics, by way of saying that they were ok for kids to consume, and wholesome and all that jazz? That makes the bondage stuff even funnier.

Is there a copy of that original letter from a reader about the bondage? That’s gotta be a hoot to read.

I also prefer the old format. I hadn’t even realized that it was 3 pages, I thought it was odd that there was only the one story, until I started reading the comments (I never read the title/synopsis and skip right to the legends). Like Travis, I also tend to scroll back up to reference the stories, usually because someone will comment on one of the pictures about something I missed and need to recheck. But anyway.

So far as the trademark. Manhattan KS. is the home of KSU and the Kstate Wildcats, with Willie the Wildcat as their mascot. There is (or was) a bar called Willies. The school tried to sue, or shut them down/change the name claiming it infringed on their trademark. The owners name was Willie. Now he did have a lot of K-State memorabilia, but so does pretty much every bar in the city. Unfortunately I don’t actually know what became of the case. It wasn’t a bar I went to, so I don’t know if it changed or what.

There was a case in England where McDonalds sued a Scottish-foods cafe, McMunchies, on the grounds anything with “mc” was automatically infringing on their trademark (they have not, to date, tried this on Clan McDonald’s restaurant in Scotland). I don’t believe they got anywhere.
Of course, there’s a long history of big companies screaming “trademark infringement” to intimidate smaller companies that can’t possibly afford a long court battle with a multinational powerhouse.

As to the L’il Abner character and Superman’s pal Myxy, I assume the Abner character came first. I vaguely remember reading that somewhere.

Joe Btfsplk’s first appearance was in the Li’l Abner daily strip dated June 11, 1942, two years before Mxyztplk made his debut in Superman #30 (September-October 1944).

Three pages? More clicking, more time waiting for more ads to load, more rectal pain.

What would a British judge know anyway? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzyuUf77FxM

I think the idea of a raincloud raining on just one person is very common idea among cartoonists (at least those who want to be a bit surreal)…I do remember one of Johnny Hart’s BC cartoons featuring someone trying to run away from a small rain cloud that was permanently raining on him (I don’t remember if the character or cloud were recurring or one-off).
Of course there were no cavemen in Peanuts…

Ah, thanks for the info, Ajit.

Please bring back the one page Legends!

Of the many great things of that letter from the founder of EC asking for things to be toned down, my favorite is that “Picture Stories From The Bible” is part of the letterhead.

Just chiming in and agreeing that the old format was way more user-friendly and convenient.

Yeah – I prefer the one page format as well.

“Btfsplk” is not really pronounced. It’s the sound of blowing a raspberry – sticking out your tongue and blowing sloppily. I heard this from my mother, who watched the old Merv Griffith Show, a talk show, where Al Capp was a frequent guest.

I also prefer the one-page format, I’m guessing you’re doing this for the same reason so many webpages do it: to increase page count and, in consequence, ad revenue. It’s understandable, but also annoying.

In any case, the fact that DC won the case against “Batsman” makes even more hilarious when the Turkish province named “Batman” tried to win a case against the producer of The Dark Knight for the “unauthorized use of their name”. If DC could win against a slightly different name there’s no way they couldn’t win against an exactly identical one.

Hmmm…am I the only one wondering if Joe Btfsplk is any relation to Mister Mxyzptlk? Probably….but man…little guy appears, and weird stuff starts to happen? Sounds awfully familiar.

[...] 8. The guy who created Wonder Woman loved putting the character into situations where the bad guys (emphasis on the guy) bound her hands together with rope and chains, thus robbing her of her power.  Nothing kinky there.  Well, back in the day his bosses actually had to get him to pull back on how often she was tied up by at least 50%.  Wonder Woman…has a troubling history. (goodcomics.comicbookresources.com). [...]

I wonder how much the Beano’s Calamity James was based on Joe Btfsplk. Apart from the raincloud, they’re both incredibly unlucky (to the point where others avoid them) and they even have a similar walk.

[...] 2000: 25). Wertham deplored the stories’ “bondage” and “sadism.” And there is plenty of Wonder Woman being tied up in Marston’s comics. But there was more. As Wertham writes in The Seduction of the [...]

Wonder Woman bondage is almost a standard… As an example, here is a site with more than 200-page of Wonder Woman bondage in her comics: http://www.cozendey.com/comicsart

[...] 25). Wertham deplored the stories’ “bondage” and “sadism.” And there is plenty of Wonder Woman being tied up in Marston’s comics. But there was more. As Wertham writes in The Seduction of the [...]

[...] raises the question: If she was designed to be a strong female icon, why was there so much bondage imagery in the early Wonder Woman comic books? Did she need to be chained to symbolically break free of her [...]

[...] raises the question: If she was designed to be a strong female icon, why was there so much bondage imagery in the early Wonder Woman comic books? Did she need to be chained to symbolically break free of her [...]

[...] raises the question: If she was designed to be a strong female icon, why was there so much bondage imagery in the early Wonder Woman comic books? Did she need to be chained to symbolically break free of her [...]

[...] raises the question: If she was designed to be a strong female icon, why was there so much bondage imagery in the early Wonder Woman comic books? Did she need to be chained to symbolically break free of her [...]

There’s at least one Daffy Duck cartoon where he tries to make it rain on his enemy, via an Acme invention, but it goes wrong & he ends ups being increasingly grumpy & miserable under his own person black cloud raining on him.

[...] to her Greek roots.  And by get back to her Greek roots, I mean she will not WILL NOT wear that stupid bondage outfit with stars and stripes.  When she fights, she fights in Greek Amazonian garb.  Hell even [...]

“How do you pronounce “Btfsplk,” anyway?”

It’s pronounced, ‘Shuh-SHEV-ski’

(Go Blue Devils!)

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