Why would you want to use pre-existing characters when
you could simply make up your own original characters, which
you would have exclusive control over?
Good point. Well, there are a number of advantages to using
elements of a pre-existing universe.
using pre-existing characters and stories that have been
developed and promoted by others, your work may acquire a
built in fan base. People
are more likely to be interested in characters and stories
that they are already familiar with, than characters and
stories which are completely untested.
The more these characters and stories are used, the
wider the public's recognition of them will be, and the more
profitable they will be.
Having some control over a popular character can also
be creatively satisfying.
Consider the case of Dracula and King Aurthur.
These are old, public domain characters, and most
everyone knows their stories.
Yet, the public still buys books, watches TV shows, and
flocks to movies about these old characters.
They know that each artist that handles them may have
an interesting new take on how to interpret them and their
story. They know
that a new artist may add new depths to the character, or
illustrate the story with vivid new imagery, or find ways to
make the story funnier, more chilling, more dramatic, or more
stories have been done to death.
What really interests people is how they are told.
Try telling the story of a character from the
"Free universe" and you may find unique ways to
express your own vision, that will excite existing fans of
in the gaps. You
may choose to incorporate elements of the "Free
Universe" into your own fictional universe, simply to
fill in the gaps. The
Free Universe can be used as a somewhat generic backdrop for
Superhero and Science Fiction tales.
The wide array of superheroes can be used as minor
characters (and even expendable characters) in a new comic
that focuses on your own original characters.
Or use an alien or two from the Free Universe, as a
background character in your spaceport scene.
You can take or leave any element of the Free Universe,
to enrich the variety of elements in your own fictional
good starting point. The
established elements of characters in the Free Universe may
immediately inspire new story ideas and twists, whether they
are used as a main character or as a supporting character.
There is something very useful about really knowing who
a character is, before the story even begins.
Besides, it's a lot of fun, putting your own spin on an
By incorporating characters from the Free Universe into
your own universe, you are indirectly suggesting there may be
a relationship between your universe, and the universe of
other creators who also incorporate elements of the Free
may give your own characters a sense of kinship, not only with
the characters of the Free Universe, but with many other great
characters from other great creators.
If you ask me, that's pretty cool.
If these characters are free for anyone to use, why
don’t the big comic companies use them?
Almost every major
company, including Disney, Marvel, DC and the various movie
studios, actually does mine the vaults of public domain
characters on a pretty regular basis.
However, many companies, especially comic book
companies, shy away from using many of the more recently
created characters listed on the Free Universe, for a number
Many of the comic characters on the free universe are
only in the public domain due to technicalities in copyright
laws frequently change. Recently,
the family of one of the men who created Superman, managed to
convince a court, that they deserved a share of the rights
over the popular character. If the rights to Superman can be wrested from a media mogul
like DC Comics and Warner Brothers Entertainment, then it is
possible that rights to other characters might be wrested from
the public domain. To
date, no cases have been brought forward over the rights to
the characters on the Free Universe site, but that is most
likely because none of them have generated a significant
amount of revenue, like Superman did.
Additionally, it is highly unlikely that a major comic
company would use a character that is under copyright, but
licensed to the general public, as it would be time consuming
for them to verify the license in writing, when they could
just as easily create their own ripoff character.
Most comic companies are not interested in public
domain characters, for the simple fact that they have
exclusive rights over characters that are far more popular
than characters that have fallen into public domain.
Furhtermore, comic companies generate a significant
amount of revenue by licensing their exclusive characters for
products such as movies, video-games, t-shirts and toys.
Why would a comic company spend time developing a Green
Lama or Black Terror comic, when anyone can make movies or
action figures of those characters, without paying the comic
company a cent.
Are you really certain that I can legally use the
characters and settings listed on the Free Universe site?
Absolutely not. It
should be understood that the Free Universe does not take any
responsibility for the actions of creators who use the
resources on this site. Nobody
involved with this site is qualified to provide legal council,
and even if they were, the law may change, and is subject to
interpretation by a judge.
We do not and can not certify or guarantee that you may
legally use the characters or settings on this site.
That said, we do believe, to the best of
our knowledge, that the characters on this site are either in
the public domain, or that free public license has been
granted for their use. Before
using any character on this site, you may wish to carefully
research the character’s publication history and the
trademark and copyright laws in your region.
Please feel free to ask questions on our boards to
assist in your research efforts, but keep in mind, we take no
responsibility and make no guarantee that any information you
receive on this site, or on our boards is accurate or
anyone discovers inaccurate information on this site, or
believes that a particular character should not be on this
site, please contact us immediately, and give us a summary of
your evidence. We will not be bullied by corporations
with fraudulent claims, or discouraged by pessimists, but we
will consider a reasonable argument with supporting
This site is intended as a collection
point for information on characters which seem to have passed
into the public domain or have been granted release to the
public by the copyright holder.
It is possible, though rare, for the rights of works in
the public domain to be reacquired by an old copyright holder,
if new evidence surfaces demonstrating a loophole in the law.
It is also impossible for this site to absolutely prove
that works released under a free license, were actually
released by their copyright holder.
If you wish to release a character that you own onto
this site, please try to give us as much evidence as possible
that you do, in fact, own the copyright.
For characters that have entered the
public domain, it is important to understand that public
domain only means that nobody owns the exclusive rights to the
original source material (or rather, everyone owns the
original source material).
Modern works derived from public domain source
materials are protected by new copyrights, even though the
source material is not. In
other words, you can make works derived from the book Dracula,
but you may not use elements that are specifically derived
from the movie Dracula 2000.
Characters that are not protected by copyright may also
be protected by trademark.
If they are, you may not use the character’s name in
the title of a work, or in advertising related to your work.
Many of the characters on this site have names that
have been trademarked by major comic book companies, so be
careful about how you use them.
Q: Can I create a sequel to a
story that someone else wrote, if it featured a public domain
A: No! If I write a
story about Captain Battle, where he is revealed to have a
cousin named Amanda, and he travels back in time and marries
Cleopatra, you can not use the Amanda character at all, and
you can not write a story about the Captain's adventures in
ancient Egypt with Cleopatra, because none of that has
anything to do with the public domain version of Captain
Battle. If you really want to continue the story from
where I left off, then you will need my permission, preferably
expressed with written consent, or you will be guilty of
creating a work derivative of my own, which is copyright
Q: But, you can't copyright a story
about a public domain character, right?
A: WRONG! Nobody has the ability to claim exclusive
rights over the original source material that constitutes the
original character, but new stories about the character and
unique new ideas about the character can be
copyrighted.. Think of a public domain character like an apple. You can depict the
same apple in at least a million different ways. You can paint it realistically or draw it as a purple square, with crayon. Any unique ideas you use to depict the apple, belong to you. Nobody else can use those ideas unless you give them permission to do so. If you manage to come up with a unique story about the apple, that is a unique idea that you own.
Q: Why do you keep talking about apples?
A: The concept and appearance of an apple is in the public domain in a very secure way.
Q: Is it safe to assume that
people who share their work on The Free Universe and in the
forums would grant me permission to create derivative works?
A: No, do not assume
anything. Assumptions are not legally binding.
Hopefully, the forums will cultivate a community of artists
who are willing to share ideas, and build off of each other to
create cohesive continuities. However, nobody on the
boards is obligated to participate in such efforts, and an
artist's willingness to show their work should not ever be
assumed as a willingness to share it. Always ask
permission. If someone asks you for permission to create
work derivative of your own, you should consider it an honor,
even if you choose not to grant permission.
Q: What's up with the crazy new
character designs in your profile images? Why don't you use
public domain images, or draw the characters exactly the way
they looked in the public domain source material?
A: Well, let's be real. Some of the old Golden Age character designs are a little silly and dated. While I have attempted to stay fairly true to the original costume designs, there was room for improvement with some characters. For example, Silver Streak never wore a silver costume in the Golden Age. Daredevil's belt, as it was drawn (a stiff metal ring) looked uncomfortable and difficult to take off, since it had no buckle. Captain Battle sometimes (inexplicably) wore a cape OVER his jetpack. Not only is it odd looking, but can you say "unnecessary fire hazard?" You also have to remember that the Golden Age came before the civil rights movement, so almost all of the superheroes of that age are blond, patriotic white guys in red, white and blue costumes. With some characters, such as Amazing Man, who was raised in China by
Tibetan monks, there is an opportunity to add a little diversity to the ranks. Making Amazing Man an ethnically
Chinese hero doesn't substantially change anything about the character, and actually seems pretty logical and consistent with his story. While I was at it, I tried to make his costume look a little more like battle armor, and a little less like something a male stripper might wear. For the most part, I think my little tweaks, help to make the characters look a little cooler.
I also wanted to give viewers bright new images to work off
of, which clearly demonstrate all the details of a character's
appearance, with a very standard pose.
Q: What if I prefer the Golden Age character design? Why should I use your design?
A: If you prefer the more ridiculous looking costume variations of the Golden Age, you are free to use any of them, and there are plenty of references on the net for those Golden Age costumes. My intention in
redesigning the characters is to give you more options. If a big comic book company came in and redesigned these characters, you would NOT be allowed to use their redesigns, even if the redesign involved an intuitive idea like giving Silver Streak a silver costume. If THEY created that design first, they would own the copyright to the ideas of the redesign. I have attempted to "buy" some IP "real estate" to secure it for the public domain. By coming up with ideas first, I own them and can dedicate them to the public domain as I see fit.
Q: Where are you getting all this character data, that I can't find on other sites?
A: The majority of the data comes from reading the comics, and compiling information from those stories. But, you caught me. In some cases, I am just filling in the gaps with stuff I made up. I'm a good writer, and any information that shows up in the profiles is to be considered public domain. The information I've made up is respectful and considerate of the source, and never trumps the source. However, some of the characters needed to be fleshed out because they have big gaping holes in their background. Some of them have no origin at all, or the stories from the comics are completely convoluted. I had to do some work to make sense of Silver Streak's story. In the case of "Daredevil," he had two origins, so I did my best to combine the two, so that they were both true. In the case of "The Claw" who also had two origins, I just had to pick one (combing them would just be ridiculous). As with the rest of the profile, you are free to take my ideas as freely licensed cannon, or use just the tidbits from the comics, or make up all new stuff yourself.
Q: If this site is all about sharing IPs, then WHY is there a disclaimer at the bottom of the page saying I can't redistribute images without permission?
A: All IDEAS on this site are either in the public domain or are freely licensed, but that doesn't mean all IMAGES on this site are public domain. Artists still own the art they create, even if the subject matter is in the public domain. If I draw a picture of an apple, anyone else can draw a picture of the same apple, but each picture belongs to the artist who drew it. The disclaimer at the bottom of the site, is necessary for the survival of this website. My artwork constitutes a unique draw to this website. If anyone could use my art on their site, people could scatter my work across other websites, and nobody would
visit my site. If nobody visited this website, I would have no reason to continue my work on it. Meaning, you would not get any more of my art or any more of the information I collect. As long as this site draws visitors, I have reason to maintain it for you, and to
occasionally give you some new material to work with.
Q: Can I contribute MY character or idea to this site?
A: If you are willing to permanently dedicate
your character to the public domain, then yes, we would love
to add it to this site! I would very much like to see people dedicate their characters and ideas to the public domain, so that they can be used to expand this site. Hopefully, the "Free
Universe" will continue to expand with creative new ideas. However, it is important to note that if you do plan to contribute a character or idea, they will no longer belong to just you. They will belong to everyone.
Q: How do I contribute my character to this site?
A: There is a little bit of a process here, because we need
to have some evidence that you understand what you are doing,
and that you are not going to try to sue somebody later,
because they used "your" character in a story that
you don't approve of. It is not recommended that you
dedicate "beloved" characters to the public domain, because there is a
good chance you won't like what some people will do with that character.
Some creators may even choose to make the character the subject of humiliating
"comedy" or put them in adult situations. Some creators may
twist the original idea completely. They are not required to contact you or credit you (though, it is considered a courtesy). Keeping that in mind, if you wish to proceed,
then here is the process:
1. If you want your character to have a profile on this site, then I will need a profile image. I would prefer that you give me a quality full-body image of your character, in a standing pose (preferably the same basic pose as the other characters on this site). The image of the character should be at least as big (preferably bigger) than the profile images you see on this site. It is also important that the character be on a simple background (preferably white). I will then take your character and scale him on the standard profile grid background.
I can NOT accept images that are created on a copyrighted template of any kind. Do not send me images from any kind of "hero maker" program. You must be the sole copyright owner of both the character AND
all details of the image you submit.
I do not have time to redraw every character submitted to this site. I will only consider doing so, if it is an established character in print or online comics (or if it's just unbelievably awesome and inspiring). Even then, I'm not promising I would do that. Besides time constraints, I'm really not the best artist in the world anyway.
2. You will need to post the image of your character, and an
accompanying character description in our forums. Try to
flesh out your character, and be specific in your description, because I don't want to make up data for a half-baked
idea. Above the character description, you must paste the following paragraph into
your post, and fill out the information as necessary
I, [your full name] hereby declare that I am the sole creator and exclusive copyright owner of the fictional character, [character name]. I hereby relinquish exclusive rights to the [character name] character, so that it may be freely used by other creators, in any capacity, without my consent or approval. The character of [character name] is to be considered a permanent resident of the public domain. This applies to the character's visual design, as posted on the Free Universe forums and the following description:
[place description here]
3. You must also send me an email, with no attachments, notifying me of your desire to dedicate your character to the public domain. I will not even look at your character, unless you paste the same pledge and character description from the forum into the body of your email.
This will be kept for my records.
Q: Are there rules about using these characters and ideas? Is there some kind of code of conduct?
A: Technically, there are no hard rules for using the characters and ideas presented on the Free Universe site. Most of these ideas are legally in the public domain, and that means you own these characters as much as anyone else does. Furthermore, we really can't set rules and regulations on how you use characters which are freely licensed. If there were any enforced stipulations at all, then that would suggest that you still need the permission of the original creators, and thus, our universe would not be free.
However, if you use the resources on this site, we do ask that you use them respectfully. If you were to contribute to ruining the public image of these characters, you would be doing everyone a great disservice. We will not endorse works that we feel are inappropriate or disrespectful. Our "Code of Conduct" asks that you consider the following VOLUNTARY stipulations:
1. Humor, parodies and satires are wonderful and fully encouraged, but please do not depict these character in crude or degrading ways. If it happens often enough, it can sully a character's image, and that is against our mission here.
2. You are not required to credit the creator of any given character, but it is a nice gesture. However, if your work is in any way controversial, you may want to contact the creator before putting their name in the credits of your work, to make sure they are okay with it.
Also, please make sure that your works do not violate the content rules of any site you post them on. If anyone sees works posted that violate such rules, I encourage you to contact administrators and get those displays shut down (for everyone's good).
The last thing I would ask, is that you have fun with these characters and use them in fantastic new creative ways. Please enjoy your stay in the Free Universe!
Copyright © 2011 Jason J.
Stevenson. Character bios and character designs are to be considered in the public domain.
However, original artwork is under copyright. Please do not redistribute without consent. Thank you.