Sunday, July 4, 2010

DC VS VICTOR FOX: The Testimony of Iger & Fox

This is the second installment of testimony from the transcript of the legendary lawsuit pitting plaintiff Detective Comics, Inc. against upstart publisher Victor Fox (Bruns Publications) and his distributors for copyright infringement of DC's franchise character, Superman.

I'm going to step back and let Jerry Iger and Victor Fox speak for themselves, but I quickly want to say "Thank you" to all the folks who have contacted me over the past few days regarding my publication of this historic document. Once again, the thanks should go to the actual finder of the transcript; I only provide the forum for its viewing.

-- Samuel M. Iger & Victor Fox, defense witnesses herein referred to as The Witness
-- Asher Blum & Raphael Koenig, attorneys for defendant Brun Publications (Fox)
-- Samuel Fried, attorney for co-defendants Kable News Co. and Interborough News Co.
-- Horace Manges, attorney for the plaintiff Detective Comics, Inc.
-- Judge John Woolsey, herein referred to as The Court

[note: the "Mr. Stolz" referred to in the first portion of this testimony was the vice-president of Interborough News. The court was trying to subpoena Stolz to testify to his sending of a letter to various people connected with distribution for his company.]



Iger, pg. 1

Iger, pg. 2

Iger, pg. 3

Iger, pg. 4

Iger, pg. 5

Iger, pg. 6

Fox, pg. 1

Fox, pg. 2

Fox, pg. 3

Fox, pg. 4

Fox, pg. 5

Fox, pg. 6

Fox, pg. 7



After wading through some preliminary side-talk, it doesn’t take long to realize that Jerry Iger’s testimony was crafted to bolster what Eisner had said earlier. As Wonder Man’s creator (à la Victor Fox), Eisner was tapped to carry the weight of the defense’s case.

The direct questioning of Iger hoped to establish the defense’s contention that Eisner had created “The Wonderman” in January 1938 and had presented his rough sketch to Fox at that time. This was crucial to their case. The implication that The Phantom was a common source for both Superman and Wonder Man was offered and just as quickly dismissed by Judge Woolsey, who seemed to be losing his patience.

The plaintiff’s attorney, trying to find an exploitable fracture between Eisner and Iger’s testimonies, elicited this humorously coy response:

Manges: When did you first read the script “Superman” in Action Comics?

Iger: After the question of whether we had copied the character in Action Comics called--what do you call him? I don’t recall. As a matter of fact, I very seldom read--I don't read all the comic books. We do read the comic books that we supply.

Iger got off relatively easy as opposed to the grilling that Eisner received. Things got a bit more interesting, though, when Victor Fox took the stand.

Almost overlooked in light of the shock of Eisner’s earlier testimony, were references to a proposed comic titled, KID COMICS. Under questioning, Fox goes into detail:

Blum: Did you take up this matter of this Kid Comics magazine with Mr. Donenfeld?

Fox: I suggested to him that I would manufacture a so-called tabloid sized comic magazine which would be twice the size of those ordinarily sold by other publishers of 28 or 32 pages, I don’t recall which, and I submitted this dummy to him and I said, “I want you to put this out for five cents, as a five-cent seller. There is no other one in the market for five cents. I would like you to distribute it for us.” He said, “Let me have the dummy. I will talk it over with my associate and we will let you know.”

This proposed publication (which was new to me) sounds quite a bit like Eisner/Iger’s JUMBO COMICS, which was itself a reworking of the material they had produced for J.B. Power’s overseas tabloid, WAGS. What makes this different is Fox’s suggestion to Donenfeld (if he is be believed) that it be priced at five cents.

Questions abound: was this proposal actually made to Donenfeld by Fox? If so, when? Was KID COMICS an earlier version of JUMBO with the same contents, or was it a later creation, containing new material?

In any case, KID COMICS was key to the defense’s position that DC was the real plagiarist:

Mr. Blum: Just a minute please, I am replying to the Court. He (Fox) verifies this affidavit in March, 1939, and he says, “I find that a number of ideas that were embodied in the dummy of Kid Comics which I left with Donenfeld are being used in a number of Donenfeld’s comic magazines; to wit, Action Comics,” and then he referred to two other magazines.

The Court: In other words, your position is switching around and claiming that in effect Mr. Donenfeld’s organization was plagiarizing something that they saw--I don’t know the names of the people that were on the stand yesterday--that were drawn and submitted to you; that is what you are claiming?

Mr. Blum: That is correct.

This startling accusation was apparently just a ploy to put the DC on the defensive. Nothing other than Fox’s words support the claim and to this point, no dummy copy of KID COMICS has yet been found.

Next installment, the plaintiffs speak.

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