Fables Creator Clashes With DC Over Public Domain Announcement, Complains About Wolf Among Us Sequel

Fables Creator Clashes With DC Over Public Domain Announcement, Complains About Wolf Among Us Sequel

Fables creator Bill Willingham says the franchise’s intellectual property has entered the public domain. Willingham announced the move in a Substack post where he alleged ongoing issues with publisher, DC Comics. Fables is an ongoing comic series dating back to 2002, with Telltale GamesThe Wolf Among Us based on the story – with a sequel set to release in 2024.

Willingham’s post to Substack outlined the alleged reasons for the change to Fables’ IP rights, in which he says, “When I first signed my creator-owned publishing contract with DC Comics, the company was run by honest men and women of integrity, who (for the most part) interpreted the details of that agreement fairly and above-board.”

“Since then, over the span of twenty years or so, those people have left or been fired, to be replaced by a revolving door of strangers, of no measurable integrity, who now choose to interpret every facet of our contract in ways that only benefit DC Comics and its owner companies,” Willingham alleges. “At one time the Fables properties were in good hands, and now, by virtue of attrition and employee replacement, the Fables properties have fallen into bad hands.”

The Fables creator added that he chose to make the comics public domain because “if I couldn’t prevent Fables from falling into bad hands, at least this is a way I can arrange that it also falls into many good hands.” Should the comic series, in fact, become part of the public domain, anyone can use or reference the works for their own without requiring permission or running into copyright issues.

The Wolf among us 2
Image: Telltale Games

Willingham alleges that DC Comics “has always been in violation of their agreements with me,” claiming that these issues ranged from not seeking his opinion on artists for new Fables stories, to interpreting their contract to allow them to change stories and characters entirely. Interestingly, he also claimed that The Wolf Among Us developer, Telltale Games, wanted to “radically alter the characters, settings, history and premises of the story” and alleged that he had “seen the script they tried to hide from me for a couple of years” – potentially a reference to that game’s upcoming sequel.

DC responded to Willingham’s claims via a public statement shared with a number of media outlets, claiming that Fables was owned by DC and, in fact, not in the public domain:

“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.”

It seems like there’s a nasty legal battle on the horizon should the public domain discussion surrounding Fables continue, and it’s unclear whether DC or Bill Willingham have the authority to claim legal ownership (or lack thereof, in Willingham’s case) of the franchise to enforce or drop copyrights as of yet. 

For those already picking up their artistic tools of choice to make the most of the public domain claims, it might be best to hold off until this issue clears up – although it’s very possible this could be a protracted disagreement, given Willingham already noted he didn’t have the money or energy to take DC to court.

Lead Image Credit: Telltale Games

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