Public Domain and Comic Books  


Copyright is key in creating a successful franchise, yet there are many comics that lack copyrights. However, just because a comic series did not have long lasting marketability does not mean that they are not incredibly enthralling or interesting to study. Comic books that are a part of the public domain are particularly interesting because of their availability to readers in the modern day. Many copyrights for comics were never filed by publishers or were overlooked at the time making the comics now under the public domain. Occasionally it also happened that small publishers would go out of business before they even had the chance to copyright their comics. However, thanks to websites like Comic Book Plus, which host hundreds of comics online, usually much lesser known ones, that have fallen into the public domain. Comics that are in the public domain actually offer a good introduction for people studying comic books. These websites host comics of varying genres and from various time periods. It also helps readers to get a better idea of the variety that existed and continues to exist in comics. To get a better picture of this just take a look at perhaps the most consistently popular genre of comics, superheroes.


In the super hero category take the exciting tales of Fatman the Human Flying Saucer as an atypical protagonist. Fatman the Human Flying Saucer was produced by Lightening comics, in April 1967. As the first issues front cover boasts it is the only superhero with three identities. Fatman the Human Flying Saucer follows Van Crawford and his adventurers as his alter egos Fatman and then as the Human Flying Saucer. Another such example of a superhero is Invisible Scarlet O’Neil the story of a woman who has the powers to turn invisible. Instead of actual crime fighting however her superpower usually is used to get her out of trouble or bad situations.


In the cases of both these superheroes and many of the other superhero comics that are public domain, the hero character has odd superpowers or behaves in an unorthodox manner. Unlike then the usual stereotypical hero character, Supermanesque character, that readers are accustomed to these characters at time can break the traditional formula. For example while Van Crawford does fall into the trope of a rich young man masquerading as a superhero he breaks the mold by the fact that not only does he have two secret identities but he also turns into an object. In this particular case there are both similarities but also large differences between Fatman the Flying Human Saucer and the traditional superhero narrative.


Outside of the category of superhero comics there are other genres and types of comics that exist as oddities or uniqueness. One such example is Little Miss Muffet published in December 1948. Little Miss Muffet focuses on the tales of a young girl who travels around with her guardian as he looks for work. Along the way having little adventures, and trying to comfort adults she meets that are living in tough situations. This comic was neither a comedy nor tragedy but surrounded more on the adventures of a good-natured child. This makes the comic odd because it did not fit into a clearly defined label or category.


Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland is yet another comic that is a part of the public domain, and that falls into a unique category. It is available both in the original printings under the Little Nemo in Slumberland titles but also in the later editions when McCay changed both the title and publishers. Little Nemo is different because it of the intricateness of the artwork and the length of publication.


Overall atypical comics were often the ones who did not get copyrighted and therefore are a part of the public domain today. Since these comics are available to the wider public they assist in giving a broader image of the spectrum of comics that existed during the golden age of comics. Comics such as Fatman the Flying Human Saucer and Little Miss Muffet stand out as atypical comics that broadened the variety of comics available. These comics also attest to the great popularity that so surrounded, and still surrounds comics today. The fact that so many different publishers and many more comics were put into syndication attests to the popularity of different genres and to comics in general.

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