By RazzaTazz 3 Comments
It probably passed by most people’s attention yesterday, but a district court judge yesterday stated that Louboutin will likely fail in its attempt to stop other shoe makers (specifically Laurent) from painting their soles red. The red soles originated as Louboutin thought his shoes lacked flair and so painted the soles red with nail polish to give them an extra something. The opinion of the judge is that no one has strict access to specific colours especially in reference to something as generic as the sole of a shoe.
Other than being just fluffy news there are some parallels to this in comics though. The same issue was brought up in “The Dark Knight” for instance of who exactly has access to a symbol of hope such as what Batman and his symbol (the bat) portrays. The issue here lies in that most heroes are either doing their heroics for the public good, and inspiration is part of their message. What though if this inspiration takes the form of direct emulation instead of an application of the message in other areas. Does just any person have the right to put on a costume that looks like Batman and start fighting crime? Especially if they haven’t dedicated their lives to this pursuit? From a legal standpoint the answer would be yes of course, unless the hero somehow copywrited their appearance (though doing so might make a secret identity unlikely.) From a moral standpoint it would be somewhat of an affront to the character themselves. Dick Grayson for instance has struggled through his publication history to come out of the shadow of Batman, at times struggling with the role of his mentor. It is therefore not something which any random individual can adopt for themselves and expect to give any real value to. The best real life manifestation of this principle are the real world superheroes that patrol Manhattan. They are of course not superpowered nor do they necessarily even fight crime, but they do so in their own names, not those of other characters.
In terms of being legally responsible though, the field of superheroics is one which is pretty much wide open. Some writers have chosen to look at this aspect of their characters. Specifically in volume three of Wonder Woman this was an issue which Gail Simone covered occasionally. One time when meeting up with Black Canary, Diana discussed with her (while they were in a toy store) about how she is depicted in toy format (with her “assets” being the second biggest of female heroes.) This might have been a mild critique of the portrayal of certain female characters (with Power Girl being implied here as the first) but it also highlights that in a legal sense that heroes really have no control over their own image, other than hoping that people don’t try to make a quick dollar on it.
Unlike in real life there are not really any legal recourses which comic characters can pursue, but if a person truly is motivated by their message they will know it is not intended to be through emulation or exploitation.