Why Couldn't DC Comics Call The Teen Titans, The Titans, In 1982

Dwight R Decker interviewed Marv Wolfman for The Comics Journal back in 1983. And the topic of the name of The New Teen Titans, his comic book series, relaunched in 1980, came up. Specifically that the characters were about to no longer be teenagers.

DECKER: Have you considered the fact that "teenagehood'-' doesn't last very long?


DECKER: There's only about four years there and if you stretch it out in comic book time…

WOLFMAN: It is a problem. I don't know what will happen. I assume, since I've just given Cyborg a birthday in which he becomes 19, they are going to have to become 20 and 21. Maybe I don't have to say it, they could just start acting differently. Nor really differently but progressing beyond the initial worries that a teenager may have. They don't really change, they just focus differently. From peer pressure to business pressure. But that has to happen eventually, I just don't know how to get around it. Fortunately we're still young in the book's history.

DECKER: Well you'll always have the title NEW Teen Titans…

WOLFMAN: Well that's because we had an old Teen Titans…

DECKER: What I meant was that…

WOLFMAN: I can't take our Teen, for very totally different reasons. Neal Adams registered or trademarked something called The Titans for his portfolio and we could nor technically take out the word teen. So it will always be the Teen Titans, even if they are 80 years old.

The New Teen Titans #1
The New Teen Titans #1

One of my bosses asked me to look into that. Was that true? Did Neal Adams have some kind of control over the name Titans? And what changed? Well, I looked at a few Neal Adams portfolios and I found the smoking gun, from 1979. The New Heroes, featuring characters created or co-created by Neal Adams.

The New Heroes by Neal Adams
The New Heroes by Neal Adams

And one specific character.

The New Heroes by Neal Adams
The New Heroes by Neal Adams

Zoom in (and underline) the copyright notes.

Why Couldn't DC Comics Call The Teen Titans, Just The Titans In 1982

So Neal Adams claimed the copyright on Titan, but not a trademark. But it was enough, it seems, for a risk-averse DC Comics to name the comic Teen Titans rather than Titans. Possibly until an actual property lawyer looked at the issue and said it was fine. Teen Titans was first trademarked by DC Comics – or National Periodical Publications as they were then – in 1969, and remains a live trademark. In 1982 DC trademarked The New Teen Titans, and also bizarrely, trademarked The Hybrid Titans though that didn't seem to go anywhere. In 1988, DC Comics decided to trademark The New Titans. But in 1993, they just went for it and trademarked Titans, in response to Neal Adams trademarking Titan, that same year.

Teen Titans


Both trademark applications were abandoned, but DC Comics dropped the Teen finally and published Titans as a series in 1999, without claiming a trademark. In 2003, it switched back to Teen Titans again, returning as just Titans from 2008 to 2011, relaunching as Teen Titans in the New 52, then again as both Titans and Teen Titans for DC Rebirth and now Titans Academy for Infinite Frontier…

Teen Titans

In 2015, Titan Comics trademarked Titans for their vinyl figures, stating that they were based on comic book characters as well as from other media, and that is still live… might it get challenged one day? Because in 2018, DC Comics launched the Titans TV series on the DC Universe app, now on HBO Max. Can they really go forward knowing that Titan Comics owns the trademark on Titans – and DC Comics abandoned theirs?

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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