The other day the store received several packages of pull-up diapers. What struck me as amusing was that the packages prominently featured Iron Man. Not a baby version, but as he would appear in the comic books. It made me wonder what Tony Stark would think if his super hero identity appeared on a package of diapers! Would this be a common occurrence in the Marvel universe? Could people expect to pick up coffee with Ant Man’s face on the cup? Or paper towels emblazoned with the Fantastic Four logo? Would companies need to pay a licensing fee to the heroes in order to use their likenesses?
But then this made me wonder about if the same thing could happen in the real world. What kinds of products could we expect to find our own real-world “heroes” on? General Patton-brand napkins? Alan Greenspan floor cleaner? Bill Gates’ gum? Condoleeza Rice-brand bottled water?
Yes, there are products that are named after the founding fathers, especially George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. And there are other products – such as perfumes and sausages – with celebrity endorsements (most of which I probably wouldn’t consider a hero in the first place…). But what about others who aren’t exactly seeking the spotlight?
This could apply to the fictional characters in the worlds we create. Suppose you have a police detective who has achieved some fame. Will he have to hire a press agent because companies want to use his likeness for their fedoras or trench coats? Could contract negotiations be a way to expand a story – possibly in a humorous fashion? Maybe the protagonist vampire hunter needs to take a break from hunting nosferati (is that a word? I think that’s a word…) in order to get a lawyer to file a cease-and-desist order against a company using the hunter’s likeness on crackers.
The price of being famous could be a burden – especially when it comes to legal aspects. It could add a dimension to your works to make them more realistic, too. Sure, you may have fireball-throwing wizards or aliens with eyeballs on the ends of their tentacles… but no matter what setting you’ve got, you’ll have a bureaucracy seeking to make things more complicated than they need to be!