Ken Penders Claims Copyright on Several Archie Characters

Ken Penders Claims Copyright on Several Archie Characters

by July 7, 2010

Future Sonic Storylines, Characters, Sales Could Be Affected

Developing late this afternoon is news that’s sure to get noticed across the community, Sega, and Archie Comics.

Renowned former Archie writer and artist Ken Penders announced his website that, in effect, he owns the copyright to several side characters featured in editions new and old of the long standing Archie series–and will enforce those rights.

“Every story since issue #160 that features my characters and concepts is essentially unauthorized, as I did not grant Archie Comics the right to use my creations for their benefit without compensation to me,” Penders said in a statement, which we have in full below.

“While it does not prevent them from publishing the SONIC series, they are not allowed to use any of my characters, concepts or stories without further discussion with my representatives,” Penders said.  “For now, they cannot reprint any of my stories in any media whatsoever, nor can they use any of my characters. Julie-Su, Geoffrey St. John, Hershey, Rob O’ the Hedge, Lien-Da, the Dark Legion along with the rest of the characters and concepts I created – including the alternative universes and future timeline – cannot appear in the series.”

Penders warns in his statement that he and/or his attorney will send cease and desist notices to anyone using those characters and timelines, and that applies to Archie Comics, who have Sonic Archives #3 through 12 on sale, and plan to publish issue #13 later this Summer.  Current and future Sonic issues penned by Ian Flynn may also be impacted.

“While I initially contributed to the SONIC mythos within the pages of the various SONIC-related comic series, I did not sign any agreement allowing my work to be used in another media,” Penders explained.  “During this time, I consulted with Michael Lovitz, an Intellectual Property attorney based in Beverly Hills, who advised me of my rights and how to proceed to protect those rights.”

Sega themselves may not be out of the woods on this, either.  According to the statement, Penders claims his will to take action stemmed from fans asking if he had any role developing Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood for the Nintendo DS.  He didn’t.

“I was then startled to learn how many characters and concepts from the KNUCKLES series I created were adapted within the framework of the game’s storyline,”  Penders said.  “It was clearly obvious why suddenly so many fans sat up and took notice.”

The full statement is below.  This situation has great potential to become very ugly, very fast.  TSSZ News will reach out to both Sega and Archie Comics for comment on the matter shortly.

As of April 21, 2010, the U.S. Copyright Office finally began certifying my copyright claims (which I initially filed beginning back in January 2009) on every single story I ever wrote, penciled or both for Archie Comics. As a result, I am now officially recognized by the U.S. Government as the owner of every single SONIC and KNUCKLES story I ever created (well, almost every one right now, but it will be “all” shortly, as soon as the Copyright Office finishes with the last few claims. But I digress…).

What does this mean?

That means anyone seeking to use my characters, concepts and stories that were published in the pages of SONIC THE HEDGEHOG, various SONIC 48-page specials, various issues of SONIC SUPER SPECIALS, the PRINCESS SALLY mini-series, the SONIC’S FRIENDLY NEMESIS KNUCKLES mini-series, KNUCKLES THE DARK LEGION and the KNUCKLES THE ECHIDNA series, must first contact me for permission and to make arrangements for the use of this material.

For example, if someone were to display a panel or page from a story I wrote and illustrated on their website, or planned to make a poster from a cover I drew, they must contact me for permission first before doing so. They will be asked to place the proper copyright notice – for example, “© 2010 by Ken Penders” – alongside the graphic image.

As for how it affects the SONIC THE HEDGEHOG titles published by Archie Comics, while it does not prevent them from publishing the SONIC series, they are not allowed to use any of my characters, concepts or stories without further discussion with my representatives. For now, they cannot reprint any of my stories in any media whatsoever, nor can they use any of my characters. Julie-Su, Geoffrey St. John, Hershey, Rob O’ the Hedge, Lien-Da, the Dark Legion along with the rest of the characters and concepts I created – including the alternative universes and future timeline – cannot appear in the series.

Every story since issue #160 that features my characters and concepts is essentially unauthorized, as I did not grant Archie Comics the right to use my creations for their benefit without compensation to me.

I am currently at work creating a new story featuring my characters, the first of which is a tale of Lara-Su learning about her family, in particular the early days of her grandparents Locke and Lara-Le leading up to the time of the birth of their child. Whether or not this new story or others will feature SONIC and KNUCKLES is a decision only SEGA can make. However, there are plenty of stories to be told with the cast I already have created, and there is a sizable audience for those stories.

I initially took the action of reclaiming my work when I was contacted by many SONIC fans asking me if I had contributed in any way to the development of the video game SONIC CHRONICLES: THE DARK BROTHERHOOD. I was then startled to learn how many characters and concepts from the KNUCKLES series I created were adapted within the framework of the game’s storyline. It was clearly obvious why suddenly so many fans sat up and took notice.

While I initially contributed to the SONIC mythos within the pages of the various SONIC-related comic series, I did not sign any agreement allowing my work to be used in another media. During this time, I consulted with Michael Lovitz, an Intellectual Property attorney based in Beverly Hills, who advised me of my rights and how to proceed to protect those rights.

At this time, anyone distributing and selling copies of SONIC ARCHIVES Nos. 3 through 13, SONIC SELECT Nos. 1 and 2, as well as any of the latest issues of SONIC THE HEDGEHOG and SONIC UNIVERSE that feature my characters in any way, shape or form will be asked to cease and desist or else risk facing the consequences. This includes any version of said material, which also includes my original works, which sees release in any format beyond the original published comic books, including but not limited to digital downloads. (Yes, the iTunes and iPhones stores distributing my stories are currently infringing my copyrights, and are in the process of being made aware of this infringement.)

Discussion of this news is welcome on the bulletin board elsewhere on this website, where I will respond to legitimate questions based on my schedule. Thank you.