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Just a day before NBC announced the cancellation of Heroes, a comic creator sued the network and Tim Kring’s Tailwind Productions, claiming they ripped off the “carnival of lost souls and outcasts” used in the show’s fourth season.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Los Angeles federal court, Jazan Wild (aka Jason Barnes) claims the traveling carnival that menaced the final season of the NBC drama is “virtually identical” to the one depicted in his 2005-2006 comic series Jazan Wild’s Carnival of Souls.
“The settings and the storylines are virtually the same,” the complaint states. “The main character in both stories leads a carnival of lost souls and outcasts. This dark character seeks to make his carnival more powerful by recruiting new members with special abilities. The appearance of some of the characters is also virtually identical to those in the plaintiff’s books. […] Even the dialogue is similar. Indeed, some of the scenes in Heroes appear as if plaintiff’s books were used as storyboards by the defendants.”
The lawsuit cites specific examples of alleged similarities, including the appearance at the carnival of a young boy who receives a life-changing prophecy and later develops special abilities, a house-of-mirrors scene, dreadlocked “Jamaican Voodoo witchdoctors,” and the climactic destruction of the carnival in New York City. However, Barnes asserts the defendants changed the Season 4 finale “in an attempt to minimalize the similarity.”
Barnes wants to prevent NBC from rebroadcasting the season, which concluded in February, and seeks $60 million in compensatory and punitive damages for copyright infringement, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, unfair competition and unjust enrichment.
Since debuting in 2006, Heroes has been criticized on several occasions for relying heavily on story elements similar to those in comics like The Uncanny X-Men and Watchmen.
In 2007, a judge dismissed a lawsuit filed against NBC and Kring by artists Clifton Mallery and Amnau Karam Eele, who claimed the idea for the character of Isaac Mendez — an artist who can paint the future — was stolen from a short story, painting and short film they produced. New York District Judge Denise Cote called the plaintiffs’ claims “absurd,” and ruled that, “Nearly every instance of alleged similarities between Heroes and the plaintiffs’ work relates to unprotectable ideas rather than protectable expression, and viewed more broadly, the ‘total concept and feel’ of these works is profoundly different.” Mallery and Eele were ordered to pay more than $99,000 in attorneys fees for the defendants.