Did Marvel Steal Gambit?

Here’s an intriguing story found online: Tom DeFalco, Marvel editor-in-chief, was given a published comic titled Gambit two years before the character appeared in the X-Men. The creator alleges that there were visual similarities, but without pictures, it’s hard to judge his claim. Still, at the least, it’s another example of a corporate comic company running roughshod over other people’s trademarks when it suits their purposes.


12 Responses to “Did Marvel Steal Gambit?”

  1. Joshua Macy Says:

    As I understand it, after three years without publication or actively defending the mark, the guy’s trademark would be considered abandoned. From his narrative it’s not clear whether his lawyer ever even sent Marvel a letter. He might still have some copyright claim based on the visual similarities, and if they really altered Storm to match his female protagonist (I’m dubious).

  2. Johanna Says:

    Oh, sure, the guy agrees with you that too much time has gone by, and if he would have been able to do anything, it would have had to be done back then. But as comics have taught us, there’s a difference between law and justice.

  3. Paul O'Brien Says:

    This really sounds decidedly shaky. Scott Bieser may well have had first claim on GAMBIT as the title of a comic, but Marvel didn’t actually launch a comic with that title until 1993, some six years after Bieser’s book ended. Bieser’s title is a space opera, and Gambit’s initial storyline is nothing of the sort – it’s Gambit and a de-aged Storm wandering around New Orleans fighting the Shadow King. Bieser only actually identifies three similarites: the fact that Storm looked a bit like one of his supporting characters (but to my eyes, she looks exactly the way you’d expect Kid Storm to look); the fact that Gambit is wearing a calf-length coat (hero circa 1990 wears trenchcoat, stop the presses); and the name “Gambit” (which was also the name of a character from NEW AVENGERS).

    Really, this is a pathetically tenuous basis for an allegation of plagiarism. Bieser doesn’t identify a single substantive aspect of his character or story that was lifted, merely a common English word as a codename, and a commonplace item of clothing.

  4. Jason Rodriguez Says:

    This has about as much basis as Liefeld’s complaint against Boom! for stealing his character, Tag.

    Except, in Liefeld’s case, there were actually some story similarities.

    And then you consider that the trademark lapsed and Scott’s character isn’t even named Gambit, combined with the fact that most editors smile at you and then throw away you comic at conventions, I’m going to have to side with corporate America on this one…

  5. Nat Gertler Says:

    Yeah, I don’t see any definite running roughshod over other people’s trademarks here. As others have noted, with years since its last use and no visible intention to use, there’s no trademark to violate. And I have strong doubts that DeFalco said “you know what we need to rip This obscure and unsuccessful comic book. And we should let the guy know that we’re ripping him off by setting it in the city where I met him!”
    Name coincidences happen. I had to rename The Factor several times during its planning because the name I’d picked for it would suddenly appear on someone else’s comic. (I think I ended up with a more-appropriate title for it.)
    And this guy says he came up with Gambit in 1985. Well, in January 1985 Fantastic Fanzine published a 6-page story by Alan Oldham of “Johnny Gambit”. And if this cover from the Hot Comics-published Johnny Gambit is any indication, it looks like this character has a calf-length jacket on.

  6. Lyle Says:

    If the claims of a tenuous basis for the lawsuit (and that ‘if’ isn’t sarcastic, it’s just that I haven’t had a chance to review the claim myself) I have to admit to getting a bit of a giggle considering how Marvel claimed that City of Heroes was “clearly” trying to fool people into thinking that it was a Marvel product because it’s leading character had an American-patriot theme like Captain America and wore a helmet the way Magneto did.

    If this represented any kind of legal headache, there’d be a bit of shadenfreude to seeing them have shaky claims of IP infringement thrown at them.

  7. Nat Gertler Says:

    For those who are interested, the Scott Bieser trademark registration is 73628844 , serial number 1450713 – you can look it up at http://www.uspto.gov
    I’m not an expert on these things, but it looks to me like he may have registered the logo design rather than the title.
    The Marvel registration is serial 74425292 , registration 1885991

  8. Alan Oldham Says:

    I am surprised and flattered anyone remembers JG. In the ’80s, I was friends with a girl who used to work at Marvel as Jim Shooter’s assistant. This was back when I was doing Johnny Gambit. Anyway, on a trip to NYC, she invited me up to Marvel. I actually met DeFalco and left him a copy of my book. This was in ’87. Three years later, the Marvel Gambit was introduced. My friend said the wild hair and trenchcoat were reminiscent of my character, but, eh, what can you do. It’s not like my character threw energy-charged playing cards or anything. =) Some things you have to let go.

  9. Scott Bieser Says:

    I just stumbled onto this discussion, several months after the fact, while testing a new Google custom search engine called ComicSpelunker designed by Caleb Wright.

    I stand by my claims. When I get time in the next few days, I’ll scan some covers and panels from the comics in question and post them to my blog. This should add support to what I’ve said.

    Regarding Johnny Gambit, while I was developing my GAMBIT I did find a copy of an issue in my LCS. I was a bit concerned about confusion on this point but the publisher I was working with at the time said he did a search (he was probably lying to me, in retrospect, but what the hell) and found no trademark registration, and my character wasn’t named “Gambit” (it was the name of a spaceship), so we were probably okay.

    I’ve been talking to some other creators lately who have been working with Marvel in recent times, and as a result my attitude towards Marvel has softened. There seems to be a different, more honorable group of people in place there today. Maybe so, maybe so.

  10. Scott Bieser Says:

    Having re-read my last point I want to clarify, wrt to Johnny Gambit, that I’d already had my book’s title and logo chosen, and registration applied for, when I saw JG on the store shelf. I was 2/3 of the way through drawing the first issue.

    And I never saw the Fantastic Fanzine story. In fact I’ve never seen Fantastic Fanzine.

    And to Nat, the registration is/was to both name and graphic. Or at least that’s what it says on my paperwork.

  11. Eric Iverson Says:

    Hey, Alan! You damn well know I remember Johnny Gambit! :) And I also recall way back when you were involved in some JG-related litigation that you wouldn’t talk about. A few years ago when I got back into comics and saw this Gambit character, I figured that must have been it. I mean anyone with eyes can see they took the name, hair, jacket, and, hell; they’re both white guys! :P Take care, man.

  12. TOM Says:

    I think there is no question of allegation here because Gambit is just the characters codename is real name is RemyLeBeau.

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