Batman #21 | A Tale Of Two Covers And Loufrani’s Trademark

Batman #21 | A Tale Of Two Covers And Loufrani’s Trademark

As DC Comic’s Rebirth continues, Batman #21 begins to explain the next chapter of how the Watchmen fit into the multiverse. But why does my copy have a different cover?

An interesting tale of copyright came into play with the cover of last week’s ‘Batman #21: The Button Part 1’ from DC Comics. The issue further investigates how the Watchmen fit into Rebirth – DC’s reset of the comics multiverse – and is definitely worthy picking up if you haven’t

If you’re in the U.K. or the rest of Europe though, you may have trouble hunting down the distinctive cover on the shelves of your comic book store.

In the U.S, cover art is provided by Jason Fabok, who also provides the pencils and inks for the issue. There are a couple of variants of the same theme, a lenticular cover of Batman/The Flash holding the iconic blood spattered smiley face button from The Watchmen, and another with split artwork.

Batman 21 U.S. Cover
Batman #21 U.S. cover

In Europe, however, the comic comes with significant and far less interesting cover, provided by Mikel Janin, featuring the two protagonists, but no button. A bit of a shame for a story titled ‘The Button’!

Batman 21 European Cover

Why so?  explains in his article for CBR (Comic Book Resources) that it all comes down to a Frenchman named Franklin Loufrani who trademarked the smiley face in Europe in the 1970s. By 1996 Loufrani’s son had taken over The Smiley Company – created to manage the trademark – and achieved success licensing use of the smiley face image.

An attempt by the company to enforce the trademark in the U.S. wasn’t as succesful and turned into a long winded affair beginning in 1997 and ultimately failing in 2008 when a United States Patents and Trademark Court ruled that the image was too widely and generically used in the public domain to uphold a claim.

So comic book fans in Europe can blame the business acumen of Monsieur Loufrani for having to endure less interesting covers like ‘Batman #21: The Button’. In fact the cover of the collected ‘Watchmen’ comics which prominently featured the smiley face in the U.S. were also printed with a far less iconic image in Europe.

Merci beaucoup monsieur Loufrani! 🙁

Watchmen U.S. Cover
Watchmen European Cover


Will Harrison

About the author | Will Harrison

Founder of The Unheard Nerd. A husband and father of two girls, Will is a fan of Nerdcore Hip-Hop, a comics fiend, a podcast host and champion of independent nerd culture. | Follow will on twitter: @TheUnheardNerd