Lawsuits and Legal Controversies in the Comics


Thomas Nast
Thomas Nast




Thomas Nast and Tammany Hall




Thomas Nast - at Wikipedia
Thomas Nast Cartoonist - at Weebly
Thomas Nast - at Ohio State University
Thomas Nast and the 19th-Century Influence - at The University of South Florida
Thomas Nast at Harper's Weekly on Aug. 19, 1871 - from The New York Times
Thomas Nast takes down Tammany: A cartoonist’s crusade - from Museum of the City of New York




Harper's Magazine illustration
Tweed & associates
by Nast

In Brief:
Corrupt New York City political ring at Tammany Hall is investigated by The New York Times, eventually joined by cartoonist Thomas Nast at Harper's Weekly, whose illustrations create wide knowledge of the issue. Nast's first cartoon against "Boss" Tweed and his cronies appeared in 1867 and persisted until he lost re-election in 1871.

Legal Controversy: - 1867 - 1871

Eventually jailed, William Tweed escaped to Spain only to be caught again in 1876, discovered with the aid of his likeness in a Thomas Nast cartoon.


Rudolph Dirks
Rudolph Dirks



The Katzenjammer Kids and The Captain and the Kids




The Katzenjammer Kids - from The Popular Culture Excavation Site
The Katzenjammer Kids - History - Dirks and Knerr - at Liquisearch
"Mit Dose Kids, Society Is Nix!" - by Steve Stiles
The Katzenjammer Kids - at Comics Kingdom
The Katzenjammer Kids - at Toonopedia
The Katzenjammer Kids - at Wikipedia

Katzenjammer Kids comic book
The Katzenjammer Kids

In Brief:
Creator Rudolph Dirks wanted a sabbatical, but publisher Hearst did not want the established strip to temporarily cease, so Harold Knerr was hired to continue. The courts, using precedent, ruled Dirks could create a similar strip with his characters. He did so, selling to rival publisher Pulitzer, eventually entitled The Captain and the Kids.

Legal Controversy: 1913 - 1914

Dirks kept usage of his characters, but not exclusive control


Percy Crosby
Percy Crosby




Skippy Comic Character and Skippy Brand Peanut Butter

Skippy homepage
Skippy on GoComics
Skippy on Wikipedia
Skippy on Comic Vine
Percy Crosby on Facebook
Percy Crosby on Wikipedia
Authorized Skippy Sculpture by R. John Wright
The Original Skippy by Percy Crosby on Facebook
One Last Masterpiece at Abandoned America - mural painting by the institutionalized Crosby
Skippy and Percy Crosby by Jerry Robinson (Holt Rinehart Winston, 1978)

Skippy v. Skippy: The Great Peanut Butter Trademark Wars - from Trademark & Copyrightlaw Blog, 2014
Percy Crosby, FDR & Skippy Peanut Butter - from Inmates of Willard Asylum, Oct. 22, 2012
Know Thy History: Skippy at WebComic Overlook - Feb. 29, 2012
Crime, Corruption, Copyright, and a Kids’ Comic: Skippy - from Print Mag, September 22, 2011
CPC Int'l. Inc. vs. American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia - from Case Law at Find Law, 2010
The Name 'Skippy' at Stake: Peanut Butter or Comic Strip - from The Washington Post, March 19, 1980

drawing by Percy Crosby

In Brief:
The popular Skippy character was appropriated without permission for a peanut butter brand, leading to unsuccessful attempts on the part of the creator, Crosby, and his daughter, Joan Crosby Tibbetts, to control his property.

Legal Controversy: 1922 - 2014

in favor of Skippy Peanut Butter


Superman magazine




Captain Marvel and Superman - National Comics vs Fawcett Comics


Fawcett Publications at Wikipedia
Fawcett Comics at Comic Book Plus
Fawcett Comics at

National Comics Publications at Wikipedia


National Comics Publications, Inc. v. Fawcett Publications, Inc. - at Wikipedia
National Comics Publications, Inc. v. Fawcett Publications, Inc. - at Justia U.S. Law
National Comics Publications v. Fawcett Publications - at CaseText
Superman v. Captain Marvel - by Britton Payne


Whiz Comics
Captain Marvel

In Brief:
The popular Superman creation spawned many imitations, but none so popular as Captain Marvel, whose sales eventually outpaced the Man of Steel.

Legal Controversy: 1941 - 1952

This went to court three times, with Fawcett winning at the outset, but eventually losing rights to D.C. Comics.


Plain Dealer newspaper clipping
Shuster and Siegel




Siegel & Shuster & heirs and DC Comics & Warner Bros




The Siegel and Shuster Society

Superman ownership disputes - at Wikipedia
Warner Bros. Wins Final Piece of ‘Superman’ Lawsuit - at Screenrant, Nov. 21, 2013
Who Owns the Man of Steel? - at The Comics Journal, July 17, 2013
Heirs of Superman Creators Wage Epic Battle With Warner Bros. - at Forbes, Oct. 29, 2012


Superman comic magazine
Superman #1

In Brief:
Siegel & Shuster sue for ownership of Superboy and other rights. Fellow comic creators take up the cause in the 1970s.

Legal Controversy: 1947 - 2013

The creators received stipend allowances, health insurance and other compensation in settlements; the most significant awards of partial ownership were ruled after their demise.


Dr. Wertham
Dr. Fredric Wertham

The Comics Code




The U.S. Senate and The Comics Code Authority




at The Comic Books:
  1954 Senate Subcommittee Transcripts;
  1954 Comics Code Authority Guidelines, with analysis
  1955 Senate Interim Report on Juvenile Delinquency


The Comics Code Authority Changed the Face of Comics - at Comics Alliance
United States Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency - at Wikipedia

The Comics Code Authority - at Wikipedia

Muder, Morphine and Me
from True Crime Comics #2, May 1947
(art by Jack Cole)

In Brief:
Magazines and books, particularly "Seduction of the Innocent" by Dr. Wertham, lead a public outcry over comic books which include violence, sex and drugs as elements.

Legal Controversy: 1953 - 1954

Ruling: The comic book industry adopts The Comics Code as a form of self censorship in order to avoid governmental oversight of their content.


William  Gaines
Wm. Gaines




Mad Magazine and Music Publishers



Berlin v. E.C. Publications, Inc. at Wikipedia
Berlin v. E.C. Publications, Inc. at Copyright Laws

MAD’s attorney Jack Albert at Mad Magazine Blog, July 29, 2015
Jack Albert New York Times obituary at Legacy, July 27, 2015
Has Mad Ever Been Sued? at Mad Magazine Blog, Dec. 7. 2012
Irving Berlin sued Mad Magazine for Copyright Infringement at Comic Book Resources, Nov. 5, 2009


Mad Magazine insert
Alfred E. Neuman
(as Mitch Miller)

In Brief:
The Music Publishers Protective Association believed writers and publishers such as Irving Berlin and Chappell Music had rights violated by parody songs written by Frank Jacobs, Larry Siegel and others.

Legal Controversy: 1961 - 1964

in favor of E.C. Pubs


Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby




The Jack Kirby Estate and Marvel Comics



The Kirby Museum

The Mystery of Jack Kirby’s 1960s Marvel Artwork - from Pipeline Comics, Sept. 13, 2016
Marvel, Jack Kirby, and the Comic-Book Artist’s Plight - from The Atlantic, Sept. 1, 2016
Should the Kirby Family Have Settled? - from The Comics Journal, Nov. 21, 2014
Marvel Comics and Jack Kirby Heirs Settle Character Copyright Dispute - Trademark and Copyright Law, Oct. 27, 2014
Marvel, Jack Kirby Estate Settlement Brings End to Battle - from Hollywood Reporter, Sept. 26, 2014
The Jack Kirby Artwork Return Controversy - from Jim Shooter, April 1, 2011
Jack Kirby, the abandoned hero of Marvel’s grand Hollywood adventure - from The L.A. Times, Sept. 25, 2009
Kirby and Goliath: The Fight for Jack Kirby’s Marvel Artwork - from The Comics Journal, Dec. 29, 2002
The Stolen Art - from The Jack Kirby Collector #19, April, 1998 (TwoMorrows)
KPFK 90.7 FM radio talk show transcript - at TwoMorrows (from 1986)


Toys for Tots poster by Kirby
Kirby Poster

In Brief:
Jack Kirby seeks return of his original art from Marvel Comics, a portion of which he received in 1987. Eventually, his family and estate sue Marvel/Disney for creator credit and compensation to match Kirby's influence and earning power in the age of popular superhero movies.

Legal Controversy: 1978 - 2014

in favor of the Kirby Estate


Alfred Harvey
Alfred Harvey




Harvey Cartoons' Fatso and the Ghostbusters Movie


Fatso at Comic Book Database
Harvey Comics Database
Ghostly Trio at Wikipedia


Harvey Cartoons vs. Columbia Pictures Industries at
Lawyers Ain’t Afraid Of No Ghosts at Above the Law, June 9, 2014
I’ll Get You (for Copyright), My Pretty! at New York Law School, Mar. 7, 2011
Harvey Loses $50 Million Ghostbusters Suit to Columbia Pictures, The Comics Journal #117, Sept. 1987

Fatso cartoon character

In Brief:
The supporting character Fatso from Casper comic books had its likeness used by Columbia Pictures. The case hinged on lack of copyright renewal for the character as opposed to copyrighted stories in which the character appeared.

Legal Controversy: 1984 - 1986

in favor of Ghostbusters Movie


Gary Friedrich
Gary Friedrich




Gary Friedrich vs. Marvel



Gary Friedrich at Wikipedia
Gary Friedrich at Wizard World
Gary Friedrich at Comic Book Database


Marvel Settles With Gary Friedrich Over Ghost Rider Rights - at Comics Alliance, Sept. 11, 2013
Marvel, Gary Friedrich Agree to Ghost Rider Settlement - at Comic Book Resources, Sept. 9, 2013
Marvel Settles Lawsuit With 'Ghost Rider' Creator - at The Hollywood Reporter, Sept. 9, 2013
Ghost Rider Decision Overturned - Gary Friedrich Vs Marvel Comics - at Bleeding Cool, June 11, 2013
Marvel forces Ghost Rider creator to stop saying he's Ghost Rider creator - at A.V. Club, Feb. 10, 2012

The "Supernatural" Ghost Rider, not to be confused with the Western Character
Ghost Rider

In Brief:
Comics writer Gary Friedrich sues for creator's rights and is infamously counter-sued and forced to pay damages to a wealthy international corporation.

Legal Controversy: 2007 - 2013

Eventually settled out-of-court

Related Information:

In fear of cartoons at Media Defense
The Top 10 Legal Struggles in Comic Books by David Hildenbrand
Untangling Secondary Liability, Comic Book Heroes and the DMCA by Britton Payne
15 Abandoned Comic Book Characters That Became Marvel & DC Icons by Paul Young
Comics, Courts & Controversy: A Case Study of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund at Loyola Marymount University

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