[The cover shows a superhero barely visible under a welter of
copyright and trademark stamps. "Victim of RED TAPE!"]
.|, COHERENT An ASHistory Series
'|` SUPER STORIES #41 - PSA
Featuring DSHA copyright 2022 by Dave Van Domelen
[Chicago, Illinois - April 17, 1993]
"Can I go yet?" the fledgling superhero asked. "I told you guys
everything about the fight. He was on some sort of rampage, I did as little
property damage as I could in stopping him." He wore a mostly white bodysuit
and full head mask with blue gloves, trunks, and boots. A red belt completed
the ensemble, but it clearly had been altered to remove the decorative
"Oh, the police are done with you," the man entering the interview room
said, pulling a laptop from his briefcase and opening it up. "I'm with the
Department of Super-Human Affairs. Agent Maxwell."
"Um, okay, I suppose I should've gotten around to registering, I wasn't
really sure I wanted to do the superhero thing at all until I saw whatever
his name is on the rampage. I'm..."
Maxwell held up a forestalling hand. "No, you're not. That name is
already registered. Not to an active hero, but it's a trademark owned by a
major entertainment company. It could be worse, you could have picked an
active villain's chosen name, they tend to skip lawsuits and go straight for
bloody example-setting. Now, if you wish to contact the owners of that
trademark and come to an arrangement to act as the official bearer of that
name, I can help you with that. I do warn you, though, they prefer to keep
their superheroes purely fictional for reasons of liability."
"Um, okay? Am I in trouble for using the name already?" the hero seemed
worried behind the full face mask.
Maxwell shook his head. "There are exemptions for first-timers, as long
as you can make a case that it was spur of the moment and not something you
were planning all along. And given how your costume has nothing to do with
that name, that would be an easy case to make."
"Whew. Um, why does it feel like I'm not out of trouble yet? The
costume's a problem too?"
"Perceptive," Maxwell nodded. "You probably didn't read the End User
License Agreement that came with that Classic Brightsword costume you bought.
It explicitly forbids the use of the costume, even with modifications, in
active superheroic...or supervillainous, not that villains follow the
rules...activities. You removed the sword emblem from the belt buckle and
changed to a white full head mask, but it's still quite obviously a misused
'cosplay' costume. The fact you tried to modify it somewhat does make it
harder to plead a case of it being spur of the moment, but we can work with
you on any penalties...since we're ultimately also the agency that protects
the trademarks and other intellectual property of registered superhumans."
"Crap. No good deed goes unpunished, I guess," the superhero slumped.
"Well, I can say you probably should've come to the local Department of
Super-Human Affairs office as soon as you started to consider superheroics.
Not only could you have avoided these issues with intellectual property, we
have counselors who can help you determine if superheroing is even the best
use of your powers. Consider yourself lucky, you only got into minor
trouble, nothing that can't be smoothed over. Some people end up making big
mistakes their first time out, hurting or even killing innocents, interfering
with police business, or even in one case thinking that the filming of a
movie was a supervillain attack."
Agent Maxwell turned to face the camera. "Every year, more people
discover that they have powers and abilities beyond those of normal
humanity. The Department of Super-Human Affairs is here to help you if you
are one of those people. Do you want to be a superhero? Would you rather
just live a normal life without having to worry about your abilities making
that difficult? Are you just in dire financial straits and think you can
make a quick buck as a supervillain? Call or email the DSHA at the contact
information below, and we can find you a path that works for you and keeps
you on the right side of the law."
The blue and white clad hero stood and faced the camera as well. "Don't
make a super-mistake. Call the DSHA."
This is basically an in-universe Public Service Announcement that was
taken about as seriously as all those "don't pirate this movie" notices, but
people who ignored it were a lot more likely to get in trouble. Disney may
ignore someone who copies a few movies, but not someone who runs around
calling themselves The Rocketeer. (Okay, Disney didn't own a lot of
superhero names in the 90s, but they would still have defended the ones they
The inspiration for this was the realization that somehow no one in
major studio or publisher universes ever seems to break real world
trademarks. The closest I can recall seeing is a THUNDER Agents story where
Dynamo wears a not-quite-Superman costume to a party and has to go into
action against criminals, who assume he's actually Superman. Otherwise, it's
limited to obvious parody stories, not anyone seriously ripping off
If people in the real world started getting powers, there'd be a dozen
people going by Superman or Wolverine or Son Goku. And even if you posit
that in the fictional universe superheroes were never a thing in media
(e.g. Watchmen having pirate comics instead), some of the names are too
obvious to not get used. What magically keeps someone in the Watchmen
universe from calling himself Batman (for the five minutes before someone
shoots him)? Obviously, it's a genre convention, People Just Don't. Even
when one universe acknowledges the other to exist in media (characters in the
DCCW Flash are fans of Marvel comics, the Eternals made reference to
Superman), no one seems to try ripping off the trademarks.
Of course, since one of the missions I'd set for the DSHA from the start
(like, before I started writing ASH) was registering trademarks and the like,
it was a natural to have them try to convince aspiring supers to come to them
before picking a name or costume that would get them sued. ;)
For all the back issues, plus additional background information, art,
and more, go to http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/ASH
is the official ASH Wiki, focusing on the Fourth
Heroic Age, but containing some information about other Ages.