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  1. #1
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    Default Reprinting "Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu?"

    Can anyone explain to me if there are any plans or on-going negotiations to reprint the "Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu" series from the 1970s and '80s? I know that the reason it has not been reproduced in Essential or hardback form is due to the fact Marvel do not own the copyright on Fu Manchu. But it isn't making anyone any money in limbo and I'm sure it would sell well. Anyone know anything?

  2. #2
    Elder Member Shellhead's Avatar
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    A year or so ago, I sent an email to the Sax Rohmer estate, suggesting that they talk to Marvel about Shang-Chi reprints. I got no response.
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    Veteran Member rogerio's Avatar
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    What a shame.
    I have some brazilian issues of Doug Moench/Paul Gulacy run...Great stuff!
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    2x Postmania Champion Gryphon's Avatar
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    David Gabriel from marvel was asked about this on another forum where he was answering questions about upcoming collections (where he revealed the byrne FF omnibus was coming). His response was "wait and see".
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    Veteran Member rogerio's Avatar
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    Fingers crossed!
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  6. #6
    Say WHAT?!?!?!? FanboyStranger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gryhpon View Post
    David Gabriel from marvel was asked about this on another forum where he was answering questions about upcoming collections (where he revealed the byrne FF omnibus was coming). His response was "wait and see".
    God, I hope so. The Moench/Gulacy/Day work really needs to be reprinted.

  7. #7
    Marvel Zombie strathcona's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gryhpon View Post
    David Gabriel from marvel was asked about this on another forum where he was answering questions about upcoming collections (where he revealed the byrne FF omnibus was coming). His response was "wait and see".
    I doubt that means anything... but I would love to see this. Otherwise I will have to eventually shell out big bucks to get the individual issues.

  8. #8

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    Shouldn't Fu Manchu enter the public domain some time soon in any case?
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  9. #9
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    Default "Wait and see"

    Thanks for answering, guys.

    Shellhead, hats off for showing some initiative on this. A little surprised that no one responded. As far as I can remember any complaints or queries (say, about gluten in food products) I've made to companies have been answered. I thought it was accepted business practice now to foster good customer relations and respond to all enquiries.

    The "wait and see" seems to me to be open to lots of interpretations. If someone said that to me and they were smiling, I'd definitely think something was in the works. But if they weren't, depending on their facial expression, I'd possibly/ probably think that the person speaking basically had no idea. (And if I was in ultra-polite Japan, a nation that sometimes seems not to use the word "no", I'd read it as "no chance"!)

    It just seems crazy that something that will make money is in some sort of legal limbo. Is Marvel refusing to cut Sax Rohmer's estate a decent deal? Are Sax Rohmer's estate looking for too much? I can't believe that no one from at least one side of this has not at least tried to sort something out.

  10. #10
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    Default Campaign?

    Stealing Shellhead's idea and expanding on it, what do you think to asking members to join a concerted email campaign to the Sax Rohmer estate? I know, it's kid of rude, but they would eventually get fed up and reply just to shut us up!


  11. #11
    Senior Member Lorendiac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boabie View Post
    Can anyone explain to me if there are any plans or on-going negotiations to reprint the "Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu" series from the 1970s and '80s? I know that the reason it has not been reproduced in Essential or hardback form is due to the fact Marvel do not own the copyright on Fu Manchu. But it isn't making anyone any money in limbo and I'm sure it would sell well. Anyone know anything?
    Quote Originally Posted by Iangould View Post
    Shouldn't Fu Manchu enter the public domain some time soon in any case?
    This got me interested, and I did a little poking around to try to answer it.

    I read several of the Fu Manchu novels long ago (they were in a nearby public library), so I remembered that he debuted around the same time as Tarzan of the Apes -- i.e. in the decade of the 1910s. And I knew for a fact that the first several Tarzan books are available on Project Gutenberg, they having passed into the public domain way back when.

    As far as I can tell, the people who run Project Gutenberg are scrupulous about making sure anything they offer for download is, in fact, in the public domain. So just now I went over there and ran a search for anything written by Sax Rohmer. I figured that would be a quick way to check on Fu Manchu's status, in or out of the public domain.

    http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/sear...oads&query=110 lists a bunch of e-texts of Rohmer's work, and several of them have "Fu Manchu" in the title. As I understand it, the rule of thumb is: "If a work of literature is now in the public domain, then so are any fictional characters who made their debuts in that story."

    My first theory was: "Maybe Rohmer's heirs, just like Burroughs's heirs, no longer own copyrights on the earliest stories about a famous character, but still maintain a valid trademark which severely limits anyone else's attempts to successfully advertise a new product involving that old character. For instance, unauthorized outsiders couldn't use that character's name in big letters on the front cover of a book without permission?"

    Then, even as I was typing out this description of my results, it finally occurred to me that there might be an important difference between the two situations. Burroughs was an American, so anything of his was "originally copyrighted" in the USA. Which is also where Project Gutenberg is based, so U.S. copyright laws are the ones the Gutenberg people really care about.

    But Rohmer was English, so British copyright law would be involved. I vaguely remembered reading that for much of the 20th Century, having something copyrighted in th United Kingdom did not automatically mean it was copyrighted in the USA, too (and vice versa, I suppose). I think that in the old days you had to fill out some extra paperwork if you wanted to publish a copyright-protected American edition of an existing British novel. (And probably the other way around.) The point is that different sets of rules applied in different nations, and that could include the answers to such questions as "when does it go into the public domain?"

    So my second theory was: "Maybe it's legal to host copies of the early Fu Manchu material in the USA, but not elsewhere. Maybe the same reasoning applies to publishing any new material using the character 'Fu Manchu' and mentioning him by name. Maybe Marvel doesn't want to take the trouble of publishing a Shang-Chi collection if they know they can't legally market it on the far side of the Atlantic -- not unless they get permission from the Rohmer heirs first."

    I did some Googling and found online assertions that my second theory was closer to the truth. Here's what one resource says about the tangled situation of Fu Manchu's copyright status:

    His actual public domain status is complicated. The first three Fu Manchu books were published prior to 1922 and are public domain in the USA; however, some characters are not public domain since they were introduced later, particularly his daughter Fah Lo Suee, who was only named in a later book. This has caused problems for Marvel Comics, who cannot reprint Master of Kung Fu, which uses not only Fu Manchu but other characters from the series. Also, Fu Manchu is not in public domain in Europe (Rohmer died in 1959), and Alan Moore could not name him in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
    Last edited by Lorendiac; 05-11-2011 at 01:43 PM.

  12. #12
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    Default Copyright

    Impressive digging there, Lorendiac. I appreciate you trying to get to the bottom of this so a huge Hulk-sized thank you.

    Even if the copyright is still in force, as it appears to be, I still can't understand why no one can sort this out. It's not as if we're talking about solving religious conflict in the holy land.

    I remember the old MoKF's from when I was a kid and my pocket money never extended to buying it when I (irregularly) saw it. Time is getting on, I'm not getting any younger, and I'd really like to read these comicbooks before infirmity, senility and bladder problems hit me...
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  13. #13
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    Great discussion on this topic. I have wanted to see a series of Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu color reprint Omnibuses for years, but the issues with the SR copyright have apparently prevented this from occuring. This issue is discussed on a regular basis over on the Marvel Masterworks forums.

    Though the entire run was great, my favorite issues of MOKF were definitely the later ones with Gene Day artwork - truly superb. I would have to say that these issues were my favorite run by any comic book artist/writer, ever. The artwork & story here were simply stunning, especially Day's two-page spreads.

    It's obvious that this series has a lot of fans, and I'm also guessing that even those out there too young to remember the series have been reading the accolades given to it over the years & would be interested in getting collected editions of the title as well...
    Last edited by Caesar; 01-08-2014 at 04:19 PM.

  14. #14
    Administrator Expletive Deleted's Avatar
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    There's a difference between Fu Manchu being in the public domain and Marvel being able to reprint classic MoKF.

    As far as the character's public domain status goes, he's in the public domain in the US (pre-1923) and Canada (life + 50), but not in the public domain for another fifteen years or so in the UK or Australia (life + 70).

    That said, the public domain status of the character is more or less irrelevant when it comes to reprints. Masters of Kung-Fu was published through a license from the Rohmer Estate. They own at least part of the copyright on MoKF itself, which is most definitely not in the public domain. They also claim the trademark. Marvel couldn't reprint those comics without the Rohmer Estate's involvement, even if they were free and clear to use Fu Manchu in new work.
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  15. #15
    Senior Member Lorendiac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Expletive Deleted View Post
    There's a difference between Fu Manchu being in the public domain and Marvel being able to reprint classic MoKF.

    As far as the character's public domain status goes, he's in the public domain in the US (pre-1923) and Canada (life + 50), but not in the public domain for another fifteen years or so in the UK or Australia (life + 70).

    That said, the public domain status of the character is more or less irrelevant when it comes to reprints. Masters of Kung-Fu was published through a license from the Rohmer Estate. They own at least part of the copyright on MoKF itself, which is most definitely not in the public domain. They also claim the trademark. Marvel couldn't reprint those comics without the Rohmer Estate's involvement, even if they were free and clear to use Fu Manchu in new work.
    I'd just about forgotten this thread. (It's been over two and a half years, after all. )

    A question: What's your source of information about what the Rohmer estate owns in terms of copyrights and trademarks relevant to the old "Master of Kung Fu" series? I frankly don't know what the Rohmer Estate owns, or claims to own, where MOKF material is concerned, so I'm not saying you're wrong; I'm just asking what makes you sure that you are right!

    Come to think of it: One thing I know for sure is that long after Marvel had lost the license to use Sax Rohmer's characters from the old adventure novels, they continued to publish the occasional story about some of the characters who had been created by Marvel for the old MOKF title -- Shang-Chi, Leiko Wu, etc. That suggests to me that Marvel figures it owns, free and clear, any characters who were created "in-house" in the 70s to rub shoulders with Fu Manchu in the licensed comic book.

    I grant that it's perfectly possible that Marvel can use Shang-Chi in new stories any time they feel the urge, but can't take it upon themselves to publish reprints (even in the USA) of the old "licensed" stories from his original run . . . but I have no solid information on that, one way or the other, because I don't know how the original licensing agreement was written before Marvel published his debut appearance about 40 years ago.

    Edited in: A few minutes after I posted all of the above, I ran over to comics.org to double-check something I vaguely remembered. According to http://www.comics.org/series/10801/, back in late 2002 and early 2003, Marvel published a six-part mini titled: Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu as part of their MAX imprint. (I bought that mini when it first came out, but, after all these years, I couldn't remember for sure what the title of it was. I just remembered the characters and something of the general plot.)

    I seem to recall hearing that the reason Shang's father, the evil mastermind, was not called "Fu Manchu" in that one was that Marvel had not negotiated a new license to use Sax Rohmer's characters, so they called the evil mastermind by one of his other aliases instead ("St. Germain"). To me, this suggests that Marvel knows darn well that the Rohmer Estate does not own a trademark on the use of the title "Master of Kung Fu," or else Marvel would have had to negotiate a new license with them in order to use that phrase as part of the title exhibited on each front cover of the mini.
    Last edited by Lorendiac; 01-08-2014 at 03:50 PM.

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