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When Should Creations Stop Belonging to their Creators?

News broke a while back about The Tick reboot and no one was happy when they heard that said reboot was planning on making The Tick darker and grittier than the original. People tend not to like change when it comes to beloved characters, especially those belonging to the comic book fandom, Star Trek fandom, Star Wars fandom and… you get the picture. In addition to the latest version of The Tick, it was announced recently that DC Comics’ is launching their, “Rebirth,” reboot this summer and autumn.

With all of these new reboots coming from a variety of mediums, the question is: when should creations stop belonging to their creators?

It is a highly controversial and difficult topic for a number of reasons, largely because of this key problem: when creations become larger than life, bigger than even their creators, everyone starts to have their own interpretation of the characters. Another issue is that, most of the time, it is the publisher who owns the rights to the characters within a series/film/literature and not the creator. Lastly, reboots, relaunches, and revivals are usually produced, written, drawn, etc. by people who have different interpretations than what made the original special.

The easiest way to discuss the question is to go to the story that every comic book fan knows—the story of Siegel and Shuster, the creators of Superman. Two nineteen year-old Jewish Mid-Western American boys created the world’s first, “superhero.” After numerous drafts and rejections of the character, National Periodicals Publications (DC Comics) bought Superman off of the two teenagers. The major success of Superman following his debut in Action Comics in 1938 spawned serials, movies, cartoons, radio programs, and the birth of the age of the superhero. Superman has drastically changed over the years, from the War Years, to the very strange 1960s and 1970s, all the way to the more recent reboots. Siegel and Shuster may have created Superman but they did not own it. The legal battles that ensued eventually lead to the families receiving royalties from DC Comics.

Canon is subjective, especially in comics. Therefore, multiple interpretations of famous characters and works can add to the richness and complicated history. It is the interpretations of characters that bring the question of when creations should stop belonging to their creators. Years can pass from when a creator created a character and produced an iconic story to when a revival or a reboot is launched. The Tick, for instance, was originally published as a light-hearted and funny tale. However, the current landscape of much of pop-culture is dark, grim, gritty, sometimes pretentious, and sarcastic in tone. The new breed of writers, artists, producers, and directions that exist do not have the same views or influences as the original, meaning change is inevitable. Some argue that new interpretations are dishonoring the original content, while others look forward to it.

Is there a right answer to the question of when creations should stop belonging to their creators?

It is a tough issue, especially in the depths of fandom.

What do you think? Should creations always belong to their creators? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

About the author

Dara Berkey

Superhero nerd. History nerd. Favorite personal hero--Shazam/The Original Captain Marvel. Favorite female hero--Any of the Batgirls. Favorite male hero, other than Shazam--Any of the Robins.