DC Comics Says It Will Fight ‘Fables’ Creator’s Claim the Series Is Now Public Domain

On Thursday, in response to an ongoing dispute with DC Comics, the creator of the acclaimed “Fables,” declared the comic to be part of the public domain. But in a terse statement Friday, the publisher said it would fight to retain ownership of the series.

“The ‘Fables’ comic books and graphic novels published by DC, and the storylines, characters, and elements therein, are owned by DC and protected under the copyright laws of the United States and throughout the world in accordance with applicable law and are not in the public domain. DC reserves all rights and will take such action as DC deems necessary or appropriate to protect its intellectual property rights,” the company said.

Willingham didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap.

On Thursday, in a statement posted to his Substack page, Willingham declared that “Fables” would become part of the public domain effective Friday in response to what he described as years of bad faith dealings by DC.

Willingham said he was able to do this because the deal he struck with DC Comics to create “Fables” gave him full ownership. “The one thing in our contract the DC lawyers can’t contest, or reinterpret to their own benefit, is that I am the sole owner of the intellectual property. I can sell it or give it away to whomever I want,” he said in part.

“I still can’t publish ‘Fables’ comics through anyone but them. I still can’t authorize a ‘Fables’ movie through anyone but them. Nor can I license ‘Fables’ toys nor lunchboxes, nor anything else. And they still have to pay me for the books they publish. And I’m not giving up on the other money they owe,” he wrote.

“For better or worse, DC and I are still locked together in this unhappy marriage, perhaps for all time,” he added.

Willingham’s contract with DC Comics hasn’t been made public, so the precise terms granting him ownership are unknown. It is also not clear what elements DC would own regardless of Willingham’s claim. Calling the move “asymmetric warfare, Willingham said in his statement that he declared “Fables” to be public domain in part because “I can’t afford to sue DC, to force them to live up to the letter and the spirit of our long-time agreements; since even winning such a suit would take ridiculous amounts of money out of my pocket and years out of my life.”

But it appears a lawsuit may happen regardless.

“Fables,” which ran as part of DC’s Vertigo imprint from 2002-205, was a major financial and critical hit throughout its original run. The sprawling epic follows dozens of characters from myth, legend, fable and folklore, such as Snow White, the Big Bad Wolf, Pinocchio and many others, who were driven out of their magical universe and forced to live in hiding in the real world. The complete series is available in collected trade paperbacks.

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