Sunday, August 29, 2010

Public Domain Super Heroes

I had long suspected a resource like this existed, but I only recently stumbled across Public Domain Super Heroes. It is a wiki devoted to those super characters that have fallen into the public domain and are free for anyone to use.

Since there is nothing new under the sun, this can be very beneficial. While I've personally tried to create original heroes and villains for my universe, that isn't always an easy task. So it is nice to know that there are characters available to use as a jumping-off point to get the creativity flowing. The downside is that you can only claim the rights to YOUR version, and if the trademark isn't available, you have to do handstands to try to find one that is.

I question some of the conclusions of this site regarding certain characters, and there are many of them (Captain Marvel? Plastic Man?) I would seriously suggest aspiring public domain hero writers avoid. There's also the fact that some characters, like the Nedor heroes and the Golden Age Daredevil, have been used ad nauseaum by seemingly every party wanting some old school costumed crusaders. But even with that, there are still potentially interesting and obscure heroes like Green Turtle and Sky Wizard out there.

As for me, the PD heroes are useful in that they allow me to explore pop culture heroes in my fictional setting. I obviously can't use Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man in a comic story, and would shy away from referring to them in prose, too. But a public domain character like Cat-Man lets me to explore a comic book, movie, or TV superhero without having to create yet another new one. That is really cool. I haven't quite settled on my distinctive versions of Cat-Man and his sidekick Kitten, or whether I'll namecheck more of these antique characters, but it is fun to read about them and learn about the history of comics besides the "Big Two".


  1. This site is fascinating! I had no idea there were *so many* characters in the public domain. I'd kind of always assumed that the characters you see all the time - Daredevil, Black Terror, etc. - were it, and that's why you saw them all the time and never, say, the Gorilla With a Human Brain or Blue Bolt.

  2. I love this site too--I see a lot of potential for inspiration in there!

    I'm glad you posted this. :)

  3. @Travis - I knew there were a lot, but there were surprises in there for me, too. I think the usual suspects like Daredevil & Black Terror turn up so frequently because they are just really interesting. Fun fact : the first instance of Black Terror appearing as a PD hero of which I'm aware is Comic Crusader Storybook from 1977!

    @Kabuki - I'm glad it has fired your imagination! When I found it, I knew it was too good to not share.