- Posted by Johanna on July 11, 2010 at 11:56 am
- Category: Archie Comics
Ken Penders wrote a number of Sonic the Hedgehog stories for Archie Comics, beginning with #11 and ending with #159, when the lead writer role was taken over by Ian Flynn. He spent over a decade on this licensed comic, one that is popular among certain audiences while being overlooked by many comic fans.
I am now officially recognized by the U.S. Government as the owner of every single SONIC and KNUCKLES story I ever created (well, almost every one right now, but it will be “all” shortly, as soon as the Copyright Office finishes with the last few claims. But I digress…).
What does this mean?
That means anyone seeking to use my characters, concepts and stories that were published in the pages of SONIC THE HEDGEHOG, various SONIC 48-page specials, various issues of SONIC SUPER SPECIALS, the PRINCESS SALLY mini-series, the SONIC’S FRIENDLY NEMESIS KNUCKLES mini-series, KNUCKLES THE DARK LEGION and the KNUCKLES THE ECHIDNA series, must first contact me for permission and to make arrangements for the use of this material.
He has not granted this permission to Archie.
As for how it affects the SONIC THE HEDGEHOG titles published by Archie Comics, while it does not prevent them from publishing the SONIC series, they are not allowed to use any of my characters, concepts or stories without further discussion with my representatives. For now, they cannot reprint any of my stories in any media whatsoever, nor can they use any of my characters. Julie-Su, Geoffrey St. John, Hershey, Rob O’ the Hedge, Lien-Da, the Dark Legion along with the rest of the characters and concepts I created — including the alternative universes and future timeline — cannot appear in the series. Every story since issue #160 that features my characters and concepts is essentially unauthorized, as I did not grant Archie Comics the right to use my creations for their benefit without compensation to me.
Penders claims that the reprints of his work are thus illegal to sell.
At this time, anyone distributing and selling copies of SONIC ARCHIVES Nos. 3 through 13, SONIC SELECT Nos. 1 and 2, as well as any of the latest issues of SONIC THE HEDGEHOG and SONIC UNIVERSE that feature my characters in any way, shape or form will be asked to cease and desist or else risk facing the consequences. This includes any version of said material, which also includes my original works, which sees release in any format beyond the original published comic books, including but not limited to digital downloads. (Yes, the iTunes and iPhones stores distributing my stories are currently infringing my copyrights, and are in the process of being made aware of this infringement.)
I wonder if he’s contacted Diamond yet to stop distribution? Penders is working on new stories featuring “his” characters, saying that while he can’t use Sonic or Knuckles, “there are plenty of stories to be told with the cast I already have created, and there is a sizable audience for those stories.”
It will be interesting to see what Archie’s lawyers make of this. Current writer Flynn has posted a response that says, “The Archie legal department is handling things. I’ve been told to keep writing as usual and to continue with our plans for the end of 2010/start of 2011.” The area of character copyright, in particular, is still confusing legally, since copyright normally protects stories, not ideas.
Earlier this year, Penders had criticized the work of both his successor Flynn and editor, claiming that they were using his outlines and ideas. Flynn says they didn’t. At his bulletin board (link no longer available), Penders asserted that, “Unless a company explicitly acquires the rights from a creator, all spelled out in detail and agreed by both parties, all a company acquires is first usage rights and nothing beyond that.” That’s far from standard practice in the comic field, and given Archie’s history in this field, I can’t imagine that their contracts don’t resolve character creation and story ownership in their favor.
Fan reaction is predictably livid, calling Penders “childish” and “bitter”, because they don’t like the idea of anything that ruins their stories or affects the comic they like. (This one’s more exaggerated.) I think I’m most surprised by just how many Sonic fan forums there are out there.