The Legal System Tries to Understand Comic Books

Most of the cartoons depict the antics of a limited number of characters which plaintiff has, over a period of time, created and developed, and most of them include dialogue contained in “balloons” over each of the character’s heads, with occasional explanatory material in the margin. The series of cartoons, each of which is known as a “panel”, are drawn and arranged to form a narrative.

… Interestingly, none of those characters is represented as a human being, but most are members of an animal, or, in two cases, insect, species endowed with what would be considered human qualities. By virtue of the artistry of plaintiff’s employees, as well as the conceptual framework of the various copyrighted works, the various drawings of each character have a consistency that gives each character a recognizable image quite apart from the setting of the particular panel.

Walt Disney Productions v. Air Pirates, 345 F. Supp. 108, 109 (N.D. Cal. 1972)