Robert E. Howard‘s estate has applied to register a trademark for Pigeons From Hell.
Howard is best known for his Conan the Barbarian and related writing and is regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery genre. Howard’s stories were never collected during his lifetime and the main outlet for his stories was the pulp magazine Weird Tales.
But one story forgotten by many is Pigeons From Hell. A short story by Robert E. Howard, written in late 1934 and published posthumously by Weird Tales in 1938.
The story title derives from an image present in many of Howard’s grandmother’s ghost stories, that of an old deserted plantation mansion haunted by ghostly pigeons. Stephen King says that he considered Pigeons from Hell to be “one of the finest horror stories of our century”.
The title derives from the ghost birds that haunt a mansion, supposedly the souls of the Blassenville family, previous residents of the mansion and known for their cruelty, let out of Hell.
Robert E. Howard committed suicide, shooting himself in the head in 1936. This is why in countries that operate on the life of the author plus 75 years, it is in the public domain. However, in the US, there is some debate, with some saying the current 95-year rule will cover it until 2029, others saying the copyright was filed incorrectly, making it public domain now. Dark Horse Comics published an adaptation under license from the estate.
But trademark is different to copyright, and while it may be argued the content of the story is public domain, the trademark for the title and selling under that name, would be different. And it is that, that Robert E. Howard Properties is applying for a trademark for, but only for comic books.
Dark Horse Comics published an adaptation under license from the estate, and now Marvel Comics has the Conan licence. I wonder if there’s a spinoff being planned?
Maybe it could be more along the lines of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?
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