Winter Bros. v. DC Comics
Comic creators Lansdale, Truman, and Glanzman fought a civil complaint brought by musicians with the help of the CBLDF and DC Comics–and won.
On May 1, 1996, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Board of Directors voted unanimously to support the First Amendment rights of Joe Lansdale, Timothy Truman and Sam Glanzman, by assisting in their defense against a civil complaint brought by musicians Johnny Winter and Edgar Winter in connection with the DC Comics series Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such.
According to court papers filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on March 6, 1996, the Winters’ suit alleged defamation, invasion of privacy and related claims on two characters, the Autumn brothers, created for the comic book series by Lansdale and Truman. Attorneys Gail Migdal Title and Jeffrey Abrams of the Los Angeles office of Katten Muchin Zavis & Weitzman took on the defense of Lansdale, Truman and Glanzman. Title said, “This suit seeks to invade the right of artists and writers to free creative expression, a right that is protected by the First Amendment, parody and other laws. I am happy to assist the CBLDF in its fine work in the support of comic book professionals throughout the country.”
Lansdale and Truman were hired by DC Comics in 1993 to write and create the artwork for the comic book series. According to artist and former defendant Tim Truman, “From the creative standpoint, Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such was intended from the beginning as a work of fiction and parody.”
Joe Lansdale proclaimed, “It was our intent to use the Jonah Hex comic book series as a vehicle for satire and parody of musical genres, Texas music in particular, as well as old radio shows, movie serials and the like. We feel within our rights to parody music, stage personas, album personas, lyrics, and public figures.”
The following is the complete list of the plaintiffs’ claims:
- Defamation of Private Figure
- Defamation of Public Figure
- Negligent Invasion of Privacy (False Light)
- Invasion of Privacy (False Light)
- Invasion of Privacy (Appropriation of Name or Likeness under Civil Code £ 3344)
- Invasion of Privacy (Appropriation of Name of Likeness under Common Law)
- Violation of New York Civil Law £ 51
- Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
DC ultimately defended Lansdale, Truman and Glanzman through its insurance company, relieving the CBLDF of that responsibility.
In early 1998, all nine points of the case were thrown out of court in Los Angeles. Truman, in an e-mail to the CBLDF, called it “a victory not only for us, but for any cartoonist who comments upon, or pays tribute to, the legacy of any public figure.”