Copyright Troubles with Cult Comic Series that Spawned The Wolf Among Us
Bill Willingham, the creator of the popular Fables comics that inspired the 2013 Telltale Games prequel The Wolf Among Us, recently declared that the Fables property is now in the public domain. This announcement has caused a stir in the comic book and intellectual property communities, as Fables is one of the most well-known non-Big Two comics and has a significant following even though it officially ended in 2015.
Willingham’s claim stems from a long-standing conflict between him and DC Comics, which owns Vertigo, the imprint under which Fables was published. He alleges that DC has violated specific agreements made between the two parties, including their handling of The Wolf Among Us, whose sequel set to release in 2024. Willingham asserts that DC reinterpreted the terms of their agreement to avoid paying him for the game, of which he claims to be entitled to half.
In a Substack post, Willingham stated, “The one thing in our contract the DC lawyers can’t contest…is that I am the sole owner of the intellectual property. I can sell it or give it away to whomever I want.” According to the aforementioned post and another one that followed it, he sees releasing Fables into the public domain as a way to ensure that it falls into many good hands, even if he couldn’t prevent it from falling into bad ones. However, DC has responded to Willingham’s declaration, asserting that Fables and its associated characters, storylines, and other elements are owned by the company and protected under copyright laws in the United States and throughout the world. DC has stated that it will take appropriate action to protect its intellectual property rights.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that the entire Fables universe is based on public domain fairy tales, which means that people can already do essentially anything they want with those stories and characters. This aspect of the Fables property adds a layer of complexity to the legal dispute between Willingham and DC. In the end, it remains to be seen how this conflict will be resolved. Willingham has stated that he cannot afford to sue DC, and DC has issued a legal challenge to his claim. Both parties are firmly standing their ground, and the future of the Fables property , beyond the release of The Wolf Among Us 2, is uncertain.