Marvel's Idea Submission agreement for Epic Comics

Marvel is no longer accepting submissions for Epic Comics. See here for more information.

DISCLAIMER: Although I'm excessively proud to have scored better on the LSAT (163, or 90th percentile) than most law school graduates, I am not a lawyer and this is NOT a professional legal analysis. Law is just a dirty little hobby of mine. You should have someone who actually went to law school (and preferably passed the Bar exam) review any contracts and advise you before signing them. Corrections and clarifications from those better qualified or better informed than I are welcome.

OVERVIEW: This document is essentially a "release" form for the writer to sign before submitting his proposal to Marvel for consideration. They need this to protect themselves from frivolous lawsuits over the material you're sending them. They want a copy of this attached to every script you submit.

1. You're not the only person thinking up this kind of stuff. Marvel is in the business of coming up with ideas for comics and it's entirely possible that they've already come up with something similar to what you're proposing, or they might come up with (or get a proposal suggesting) something similar in the future.

2. If so, you're not entitled to any payment for it, because it isn't your proposal they're using.

3. They're not sending your stuff back to you. Always send copies, never originals.

4. Don't expect anything more than a "yes" or a "no". If you haven't heard anything yet, it's possible your rejection letter got lost in the mail, but they probably just haven't gotten to it yet. If they say "no", they don't have to say why. If they say "yes"... well, who cares why? {smile}

5. You can't submit anything that's owned (even just a part) by someone else. It has to be composed entirely of Marvel's property (stuff from the Marvel U), your own property (an original story and/or characters), and/or public property (such as Tom Sawyer or King Arthur).

6. Give your real name. Maybe they'll let you publish under a pen-name, but they still need to know who you really are. (They knew who the "anonymous" writer "X" was.) And if word were to come out that Epic's new gay porn series XXX-Men* was being written by you, Donald Wildmon, and illustrated by your buddy Gary Glenn, that would be the American Fascist Association's problem, not Marvel's. If it were true, that is.
*excerpted dialog: "Hey, Xavier, are you bald all over?", "So that's why they call you Nightcrawler/Colossus/Longshot!", "Oh, Logan, you are the best there is at what you do!"

7. Marvel lives in the U.S. of A. and you're limited to the rights that U.S. trademark and copyright laws give you. (Don't blame Marvel for this; the government of your country agreed to this when they signed the Berne Convention and/or the Universal Copyright Convention. Fortunately those treaties also set some good minimum standards for copyright protection - which forced the U.S. to improve its laws - so it's mostly the details that vary from nation to nation.)

8. Don't even try calling or pitching to Marvel in person at a con.

9. This stuff is way too simple to be worth a trial. If there's a problem, it's going straight to arbitration*, and Marvel's too busy to leave the Big Apple, so it'll be someone in NYC. Confidential arbitration is an option (but only people with something to hide ask for that). In any case, you're not getting more than $5000, and if you wait more than 6 months to complain, forget about it.
* Arbitration is a bit like going to "Judge Judy" but without the theatrics and with (hopefully) more intelligent participants: You tell your side, Marvel tells their side, and the arbitrator decides what to do about it.

10. If your proposal is a superheroic take on "Romeo and Juliet", Marvel can do another superheroic take on "Romeo and Juliet" without owing you anything. They have as much right to do Shakespeare as you do.


While it's conceivable that Marvel is going "steal your idea", that sort of thing is unlikely, and 99% of such lawsuits are jokes that just waste everyone's time. So I can't blame Marvel for requiring you to sign this document, and you're really not giving up anything by doing so, except the right to make a doofus of yourself by joining that 99%. Ideas are cheap and plentiful; they grow like dandelions in June. And even if Marvel did "steal your idea", unless they also stole your plot or your dialog or your characters, they didn't steal anything you really owned, because you can't copyright or own a mere idea. In other words, stealing ideas may be immoral and unethical and Just Plain Wrong, but it's legal.

So if you see a comic from Marvel starring a LesBiGayTrans version of the Fantastic Four (which seemed a pretty obvious idea to me, so they could've come up with themselves), but written by someone other than me, I'll whine a bit, and then I'll brag to everyone who'll listen that "it was my idea" and how much better I did it, but I won't try to sue Marvel over it unless there's a substantial similarity to my creative implementation of that idea, which is where copyright comes into play.

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© copyright 2003, Todd VerBeek
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