Comic Art, Creativity and the Law

Comic Art, Creativity and the Law

Elgar Law and Entrepreneurship series

Marc H. Greenberg

The creation of works of comic art, including graphic novels, comic books, cartoons and comic strips, and political cartoons, is affected, and at times limited, by a diverse array of laws, ranging from copyright law to free speech laws. This book examines how this intersection affects the creative process, and proposes approaches that encourage, rather than limit, that process in the comic art genre. Attention to the role comic art occupies in popular culture, and how the law responds to that role, is also analyzed.

Chapter 7: A short comment on derivative works, fan art and fiction

Marc H. Greenberg

Subjects: law - academic, information and media law, intellectual property law


A discussion of the impact copyright law has on the creative process of comic art creators is not complete without a short discussion of fan art and fan fiction. These are secondary works, all based on pre-existing works of comic art and fiction. The focus of fan works is broad – in some instances the fan contributes art or a story that fills in a gap, or serves as a prequel or sequel to the professionally created story (for example, a story about the teenage life of Hal Jordan (the alter ego of DC superhero Green Lantern), or the life of Norrin Radd (the alien inhabitant of the planet Zenn-La, who became Marvel Comics superhero the Silver Surfer). Other fan fiction offers mash-up stories (for example, Green Lantern meets the Silver Surfer), or places superheroes in alternative lifestyles (for example, Superman and Batman as a gay couple) or in different times (for example, Marvel’s Doctor Strange as a wizard in the Court of King Arthur). The general attitude of most publishers and artists about fan art and fiction is that it is a harmless homage and expression of appreciation for the original creation, and that it poses no threat, economic or otherwise, to the creator and/or publisher’s interest. On occasion a creator or publisher objects to a work of fan art or fiction, and attempts to deter or halt publication and distribution of the work by threat or actual filing of a copyright infringement action.

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