Superman v. Wonderman

Judge Hand's Side-By-Side Comparison
for Superhero Infringement

2d Cir. 1940

Judge Hand compared Action Comics #1-11 (the first published adventures of Superman) with Wonder Comics #1 (the only published adventure of Wonderman) and found infringement.

 

111 F.2d 432, *; 1940 U.S. App. LEXIS 3661, **; 45 U.S.P.Q. (BNA) 291

DETECTIVE COMICS, Inc.,

v.

BRUNS PUBLICATIONS, Inc., et al.

April 29, 1940

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT

Before L. HAND, AUGUSTUS N. HAND, and CHASE, Circuit Judges.

OPINIONBY: AUGUSTUS N. HAND, Circuit Judge.

We have compared the alleged infringing magazine of Bruns [**2]  with the issues of "Action Comics" and are satisfied that the finding that Bruns copied the pictures in the complainant's periodical is amply substantiated. Each publication portrays a man of miraculous strength and speed called "Superman" in "Action Comics" and "Wonderman" in the magazine of Bruns. The attributes and antics of "Superman" and "Wonderman" are closely similar. Each at times conceals his strength beneath ordinary clothing but after removing his cloak stands revealed in full panoply in a skintight acrobatic costume. The only real difference between them is that "Superman" wears a blue uniform and "Wonderman" a red one. Each is termed the champion of the oppressed. Each is shown running toward a full moon "off into the night", and each is shown crushing a gun in his powerful hands. "Superman" is pictured as stopping a bullet with his person and "Wonderman" as arresting and throwing back shells. Each is depicted as shot at by three men, yet as wholly impervious to the missiles that strike him. "Superman" is shown as leaping over a twenty story building, and "Wonderman" as leaping from building to building. "Superman" and "Wonderman" are each endowed with sufficient [**3]  strength to rip open a steel door. Each is described as being the strongest man in the world and each as battling against "evil and injustice."

Defendants attempt to avoid the copyright by the old argument that various attributes of "Superman" find prototypes or analogues among the heroes of literature and mythology. But if the author of "Superman" has portrayed a comic Hercules, yet if his production involves more than the presentation of a general type he may copyright it and say of it: "A poor thing but mine own". Perhaps the periodicals of the complainant are foolish rather than comic, but they embody an original arrangement of incidents and a pictorial and literary form which preclude the contention that Bruns was not copying the antics of "Superman" portrayed in "Action Comics". We think it plain that the defendants have used more than general types and ideas and have appropriated the pictorial and literary details embodied in the complainant's copyrights.

 

 



Each is termed the champion of the oppressed.

 




NEXT INSTANT, THE MAN OF STEEL IS DASHING

OFF INTO THE NIGHT, A FLEETING SHADOW

UNDER THE MOON'S HAZY RAYS. . .

Each is shown running toward a full moon "off into the night",

AND IS OFF INTO THE NIGHT



each is shown crushing a gun in his powerful hands.

 

"Superman" is pictured as stopping a bullet with his person and "Wonderman" as arresting and throwing back shells.



Each is depicted as shot at by three men, yet as wholly impervious to the missiles that strike him.



"Superman" is shown as leaping over a twenty story building, and "Wonderman" as leaping from building to building.



"Superman" and "Wonderman" are each endowed with sufficient strength to rip open a steel door.



Each is described as being the strongest man in the world and each as battling against "evil and injustice."








 

 

 

Back to Main Page

 

Superman, Action Comics TM and (c) DC Comics. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.

This site is a supplement to an article in a scholarly legal journal for educational use only.
No affiliation or endorsement is actual or implied by the use of these images.

Special thanks to the person who provided me with a photocopy of Wonderman #1

Terms and Conditions of Use