Media theorist Douglas Rushkoff has been much in the forefront of the acceptance of comics and graphic novels as part of the new dialog of ideas. He made a splash in comics with his Biblical deconstruction, TESTAMENT. Now he’s back with X, a graphic novel being serialized online by game studio Smoking Gun. The first episode — of four — can be read here, but a few pages were made available for preview, below. The story is illustrated by Smoking Gun’s lead concept artist, Cheoljoo Lee, and Younger Yang. Rushkoff has been working with Smoking Gun, whose founders worked on such games as Company of Heroes, and the GN is set in the universe of an upcoming but still undisclosed franchise — so yes, it’s all about transmedia, according to a press release:

“One of our main goals as a studio is to constantly innovate in how we tell our stories”, said Smoking Gun CEO and Creative Director John Johnson. “Our perspective is, if you can interact with it, then it can be part of the experience we deliver. And if you cannot interact with it, then we will evolve it to the point where it can be part of our universe. There are no boundaries to where we can go or what we can accomplish.”

“It has been insanely challenging and insanely fun to dive head-first into Smoking Gun’s universe,” explained Douglas Rushkoff. “And while I work on threading one narrative through this material, other artists are building it out on many other levels, all at once, for different people to engage with in so many different ways.  So for the audience this multi-faceted, multi-media approach brings new dimension to the epic struggle that we’re talking about here: nothing short of how humanity defines itself.” 

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  1. What? Yeah they can be. I think you mean trademarked, anyway, but yes, a title can most definitely be trademarked, with the rights holder stopping other entities from using the same/similar titles to prevent “market confusion.” It’s why DC can have a character named Captain Marvel but not have a book named Captain Marvel. It’s why Dragon Magazine got Erik Larsen to add “savage” to the title of his series Savage Dragon. And it’s also why the CLAMP manga “X” was sold in America as “X/1999″….even though it existed first in Japan, America already had an “X” comic by the time. It was this one, which is still very much in-print.

  2. What? Yeah they can be. I think you mean trademarked, anyway. . .

    No, titles, whether they’re for songs or books, and names can’t be copyrighted. Anyone can name his fictional character “Cyclops” or “Professor X.” Trademarking song titles and characters has been done, but that requires continual use of the trademarked properties to be meaningful, and use of the titles and names that doesn’t infringe on the trademarks (people can still write about the mythological Thor or name a character “Doctor Strange” ) is still allowable.


  3. I think that’s what I just said, isn’t it? Anyone can have a “Captain Marvel,” which is why both Marvel and DC have characters named Captain Marvel. But Marvel Comics owns the trademark to the TITLE “Captain Marvel,” which is why DC can’t use the TITLE “Captain Marvel” even though they can use the NAME Captain Marvel. It’s the same thing with Daredevil…there was a Golden Age character named Daredevil that pre-dates Marvel’s Daredevil, but because Marvel owns the trademark to that TITLE, the previous character can still appear but the title has to be different. That’s why Dynamite’s book starring the character is called “The Death Defying ‘Devil”…because the word “Daredevil,” as the title for a comic book, is already trademarked.

    And I think that’s exactly the same situation here: two books that share a title, “X,” one of which is already trademarked. You’re absolutely right about character names, but that’s not really the issue here.

  4. I didn’t read past “trademarked, anyway” in the first comment.

    Since titles and names can’t be copyrighted, I would guess that people are free to use trademarked names as they wish, as long as the works that contain them are aimed at different audiences. A military “Captain Marvel” could appear practically anywhere.


  5. Are we lawyers organs of creativity? You guys should just email each other offline. I’m just saying. Anyway.. Nice work Douglas. Love the way you take things on. Props to smoking gun team.