Sunday, April 18, 2010

Step into my (public) domain.

So, one of the cooler websites I've found in recent weeks is this one right here. Basically, it's an online resource for characters that have fallen into the public domain- meaning there are a good number of published superheroes that everyday shlubs like you and me are allowed to make money off of. Heck even guys like Alan Moore or Alex Ross have done it with Terra Obscura and Project Superpowers, respectively (the latter being pretty goddamned cool!Project Superpowers Volume 1 TPB (v. 1)). Granted, before you start anything, you should brush up on your copyright laws (as many entries don't distinguish between copyright and trademark), but aside from that, it's cool for a number of reasons.

While there are some Silver Age and open-source characters, the majority of entries focus on characters from the Golden Age and, as such, provide a better insight into the mentality of the era. For example, though I've read about it before, I was really unprepared at just how many heroes back then were just everyday guys in costumes. While there are superpowered types (and some showcasing the kind of powers that really wouldn't come into vogue until the Silver Age or later), there are just as many, if not more, unpowered mystery men. What's really amusing to me is how many of these characters are cops. "You know, it's fun fighting crime, but I should do it during my time off, too, when I won't get paid! In fact, I'll do it in a bright costume with no weapon and no chance for back-up!".

Another thing is that it does present a bit more multiculturalism than you'd assume if you were only familiar with DC or Marvel characters. Oh, granted, there are precious few African-American characters that aren't stereotypes, but there are quite a few more women, Asian, and Native American characters that seem progressive, considering the time period.

Also, looking through the entries there makes you think "Wow, Stan Lee was REALLY unoriginal!" You'll find a Daredevil, two Wasps, a Professor X, a Doctor (usually referred to as "Doc") Strange, a Dr. Doom, and others. Heck, there was even a superhero Thor back then! And then you have the Spider-Queen, who would swing through the city, fighting crime, by means of a web fluid that she would fire from specially made bracelets. This is in 1941, mind you; that's almost a full twenty years before Spider-Man! Now, I'm not calling Stan Lee a plagiarist (Doom Patrol co-creator Arnold Drake already did that plenty, God rest his soul), but it certainly makes you think that Stan wasn't quite the creative genius he's purported to be.

Finally, this site is a reminder that these are superheroes that WE own. When you think about it, there's quite a lot that we consider our culture that doesn't actually belong to us. Even the Happy Birthday song is copyrighted. But these characters are ours, the American people (suck it, Denmark! I keed...) You can write or reproduce these characters without fear of someone suing you, whereas I can't even rip a DVD that I purchased on my own computer, and forget about listening to stuff on my iPod- thanks RIAA and MPAA, for assuming all customers are shiftless criminals and penalizing us as such (that's sarcasm, by the way). Where was I...? Oh, yeah, these characters are ours, to do with as we see fit. And that's amazing to me, that there's a rich plethora of ideas to further develop. Cool stuff.

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