Ray Felix is a superhero.
No really, he totally is, and we are not exaggerating in the least. In a world where most aspiring comicbook professionals want to work for one of the big two comicbook companies on one of their iconic superhero franchises, Ray has quietly been building his own Tyler Perry-style funnybook empire. Not only does he publish comics as Bronx Heroes, he runs an annual comicbook show in the Bronx (Bronx Heroes Comic Con), attends other shows (including NYCC & Alex Simmons Kids’ ComicCon — also in the Bronx), he is involved in the Bronx Council of the Arts, he produces T-shirts spotlighting his own characters, bottles his own brand of Bronx Heroes soda, has his own art studio (Cup ‘O’ Java), stages art events in and around NYC (including a Black Comic Day in Harlem, an art show celebrating women in comics, a sequential art show spotlighting Will Eisner, and more). Hey, he even traveled to Africa with Simmons to teach kids about comics. Then in his “spare time” he teaches.
Ray Felix is a superhero.
Then, just to make his life interesting, he is standing tall, David-like against the mega-super-goliath(s) of Marvel and DC comicbook corporations as he attempts to “take back” the word “Superhero.” That’s right, back in the late ‘70s Marvel and DC got together on one of their earliest team-ups not to produce a precedent-setting crossover of some of their well-known superheroes, but to copyright and trademark the word “superhero” itself. Now, according to published reports, the two companies jointly co-own the word in all of its iterations (one word, two words, hyphenated, etc.). Further, they apparently have the word so locked up (and the courts so bumfuzled, that if you tried to open up a retail store, sell a sneaker, bottle a soda, market a surfboard or, in any way, shape, or form, utilize the word “Superhero” without first paying these two corporate entities off for the “right” their team of well-paid lawyers will descend on you like the hoards of Hydra on Captain America and a slice of apple pie.
Needless to say, this type of bizarro corporate branding seems as silly to any intelligent person as Microsoft and Apple co-owning the word “PC,” Anheuser-Busch and Molson Coors co-owning the word “beer,” OR Coco-Cola and Pepsi co-owning the word “soda.” Needless to say, it is actually happening. Back in 2010 Ray, under Cup ‘O‘ Java studio, published a comicbook entitled A World Without Superheroes. It wasn’t long afterward that he received his first Cease and Desist letter from The Big Two (TBT). In April of 2012 Ray (who it turns out has balls as big as Montana) chose to not back down but to enter into the ring with Twin Titans of Comics in order to dispute their unfair, and completely illegal monopoly of the word “Superhero.”
“They’re holding the word ‘superhero’ hostage,” Ray tells us. “It’s an infringement on our First Amendment rights.” Ray then goes on to point out that the word “Superhero was first used in 1917 before either company existed. The word is in the dictionary. It doesn’t belong to anyone.” While Marvel and DC attorneys (naturally enough) disagree, Ron Coleman, a lawyer specializing in intellectual property, indicates that the joint ownership by Marvel and DC over this word violates the basic tenet of trademark law. According to Coleman, “A trademark stands for a single source of origin, not two possible sources of origin. If the public understands that the word ‘superhero’ could come from A or B, then by definition that’s a word and not a trademark.”
According to Marvel and DC when most folks think of Superheroes they think of the long-underwear wearing characters published by them, hence they don’t want somebody’s “inferior” product besmirching the good image of what they publish (an unintentionally ironically funny position to take, considering the entirety (and quality) of material churned out by these two corporations) over the past 75+ years. Still, even though the possibility of him actually winning his counter suit (the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) which has officers from both companies on its Board, refuses to take Ray’s case), Ray is standing firm in his tracks, categorically refusing to be bullied by the corporate giants.
Meanwhile, Ray isn’t about to slow down, he’s publishing four titles (with more on the way). He’s even has teamed up with the legendary comicbook artist Trevor Von Eeden to produce comics for Bronx Heroes. One of Ray’s newest projects is “Occupy Superhero” where Ray takes his fight to the people. He is attempting to garner support amongst those who actually read (and create) superheroes by selling Occupy SuperHero T-Shirts. According to Ray’s website these shirts will be available on sale July 27, 2013 at SuperHeroes Comic Con @ The Andrew Freedman Home. George Bernard Shaw once said, “Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not?” Ray Felix is precisely one of those guys, a whirling dervish of perpetual motion; never willing to sit still and always looking towards his next project. Truly — in the final analysis — if part of the definition of a hero is someone who stands up against bullies, then Ray Felix is not just a Superhero, but he’s a Superhero’s Superhero.
Bronx Heroes Comic Con, A World Without Superheroes, Runaway Slave, and Cup ‘O’ Java Studio are Trademark ™ & Copyright © 2014 Ray Felix. The text to Funnybook City is Copyright © 2014 Robert J. Sodaro, D.B.A. Freelance Ink. All rights reserved by their respective owners.
Robert J. Sodaro is a noted comicbook historian and journalist who began reading comics during the early ‘60s while sitting on the newsstand in his Uncle’s “Mom & Pop” grocery store. He began writing about comics in the early ‘80s, and wrote for virtually every print comicbook publication published during the ‘80s & ‘90s. These days, much of his writing can be found online at Examiner.com.