Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

March 10, 2014

Go, Read: Reminder About The 1990s Winter Brothers Lawsuit

imageThere's a very short on-line article here that's little more than a reminder that the Winter Brothers once sued the makers of a Jonah Hex comic (Joe Lansdale, Tim Truman, Sam Glanzman) over two parody characters called the Autumn Brothers that looked like the striking blues-rockers but in no way acted like them being a) living the Old West, b) running around shooting people and being creepy and monster-like. As the article notes, it was earlier work using the same Jonah Hex character that instigated the comments by Harlan Ellison in his TCJ interview about writer Michael Fleisher which in turn led to the lawsuit Fleisher brought against Ellison and the magazine. That's fun trivia, although the circumstances are very different. The article also notes that DC eventually covered the legal defense of the creators through their insurance, after -- to my memory -- not doing so at first and having the CBLDF pledge to assist with the case in the vaccuum of that initial lack of support. The case eventually went in the direction of the parody, and thank God, because that case was shit-stupid. MAD Magzine would be public enemy #1 if this were reasonable law. (And of course, whether this is tasteful or not is a completely different issue.)

Where I'm a little bit confused is I don't know if DC Comics was ever sued along with the comics-makers and then just extended their defense to cover them, or if it was always and solely the creators at risk and DC extended their protection to them because that was the right thing to do. Does anyone out there remember? Because if it was DC being sued, I don't know why there was an insurance question or a question of the creators needing CBLDF support. If it wasn't DC being sued, we probably shouldn't call this case Edgar Winters Vs. DC Comics except in the broadest, most casual way. For one thing, the idea that you would sue creators and they might not be supported, that seems to me way more chilling than just lawsuits against companies, the same way that in other countries sitting officials suing editorial cartoonists is that much more horrible than papers getting sued, at least in terms of convincing people not to do things.

. I have to go to the vet and Charles Brownstein isn't at the office this morning. Was this a case of DC Comics being the named party in the lawsuit? Were they one of the named parties? Help me, Internet. I'm old and I can't remember the '90s.

Update: Michael Dooley, who wrote the article, sent me here. So DC was named as an actual defendant. Greg Stump, who covered for the Journal also contacted me to his memory aligns with mine that there was some discussion as to whether or not the contract might allow the company to attempt to put this on the creators, but that they did step up as remembered. I still think it's important to note that the creators were named as well, as that's far more terrifying for me, at least, to consider as a consequence than a company being sued in a way that might lead to restrictive policy. Not every company will step up.
posted 2:05 am PST | Permalink

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