Straczynksi's new superhero battles copyright infringement claim

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Jul 3, 2013, 4:30 PM EDT (Updated)

JMS's latest hero, the Red Cowl, is facing off against the deadliest of all villains -- a copyright infringement claim! 

What makes a superhero a true original? It's pretty easy for capes-and-tights characters to bleed into one another, especially to the casual observer. Still, sometimes it's clear when someone is ripping off another creator's character. So, is this one of those occasions? Let's look at the tale of the tape.

J. Michael Straczynski's latest hero offering, Sidekick, co-stars a character who goes by the name Red Cowl. As names go, that's pretty generic. But one man, Richard A. Hamilton of Dial “C” for Comics, claims that the Red Cowl is a total knock-off of his character the Cowl. Hamilton is so sure that he and his attorney sent a cease-and-desist to Straczynski and Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson.

Apparently JMS had originally called his character the Cowl, too. So, in light of the C&D, the decision was made to simply alter the name of the character. That did not pass muster with Hamilton or his counsel, Ira Cohen. They fired back saying the change was "patently unsatisfactory" and going so far as to say, "Do you honestly and seriously contend that, for example, ‘Red Batman,’ or ‘Red Hornet,’ or ‘Red Lantern,’ as comic book characters, would be countenanced or suffered for a minute? We think not.” And that's before things got really ugly.

Hamilton decided to take his quarrel to the public, speaking out in interviews, taking jabs at JMS, and continuing the narrative that Red Cowl was a direct knock-off. Hamilton said he'd make JMS and Image the "poster children” for enhanced damages. So not only was he looking to sue for copyright infringement, he was looking for up to three times the compensatory damages.

Them's fightin' words.

And fight Straczynksi has, by filing a suit of his own. JMS was quick to point out that Hamilton's comic has never actually come out. The only claim there is to the Cowl is a mockup of a number-one issue. So in addition to claiming that Red Cowl does not infringe on Hamilton's Cowl, JMS is also saying that the Cowl doesn't even meet the minimum requirements for trademark registration in the first place. Yikes!

At this point, Sidekicks is still due out on Aug. 14, and we'd be very surprised if that changed.

(via Comic Book Resources)