The Weekly Pop: Episode #8: The Liberal Arts Lecture Part 3 (of 3)

We're into Episode #8 and part 3 of the Liberal Arts lecture.  If you haven't, be sure to check out part 1 as well as part 2 since this final piece, draws it all together.      

You can watch here, on YouTube or just read all about it in the post below.  Enjoy and let me know what you think!  Also, don't forget to check out

You can watch this episode on YouTube and all the other episodes as well.  (Also, feel free to subscribe to my channel on YouTube as well).

As always, you can find the full script below, but also, you can get the slide deck itself and the original script, which is covered by a Creative Commons license...of course.

Title slide for The Weekly Pop Episode 8

Here we go:


Welcome back!  In part 2 of this 3-part series adapted from my public lecture, we’ll talked about the role of censorship, its impact on storytelling in the 19th century, and how that has produced the sexy vampire.  

Ok, let’s check in again.

We recognize the importance of copyright, the power of the commons, and the tension of censorship. Altogether, It gives us a lot of directions to think about with Creativity.

And we’ve learned why vampires are a great opportunity to make money.   

Hyde’n Appearances

It’s now time to take that and to look at why The Hulk will get you sued.  Are we ready for that?

Now, in order to talk about The Incredible Hulk, we actually have to talk about a certain person by the name of Edward Hyde.

Who is Edward Hyde?

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Right, so we all know the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde...or do we?  

This novella was published in 1886 by Robert Louis Stevenson.  The novel dealt with the strange relationship between one Dr. Henry JEEKill--and that’s how they pronounced it-- JEEKill and one Mr. Edward Hyde.  

Now, what do we know about the relationship between these two?  (Spoiler alert!):

That’s right, they are one and the same person. 

Dr. Jekyll creates a formula that he takes and it turns him into Mr. Hyde, a man without conscience or restraint.  Hyde sets up life in the shaddier part of town and eventually commits murder. People know there is some kind of relationship between the two--funny enough, the novel, sex-obsessed but not able to talk about it because it was 1886, hints that Hyde could be either Jekyll’s bastard child or his lover--all in the same sentence.    

One character, Mr. Enfield says the following.  “Black mail I suppose; an honest man paying through the nose for some of the capers of his youth.”

While we’ve established who Edward Hyde, I would like to ask the audience here, what does he look like?  After all, if you have never read the novella, there has still been over 30 film adaptations and 14 TV show adaptations, but also his appearance in dozens more TV shows such as Penny Dreadful, Once Upon A Time,  Tom & Jerry, Looney Tunes, Scooby-Doo, Duck Tales, and yes, his very own video game--actually 2 video games--which is always a sign that you've really made it. 

 So, what does Hyde look like?

 In the earlier images, Hyde is small and diminutive but in these later ones, he is big and bulky.  How do we explain these differences? 

First, it’s useful to look at how Stevenson describes Edward Hyde.

Hyde Described

"Mr. Hyde was pale and dwarfish, he gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation, he had a displeasing smile..."

"He was small...with the shocking expression of his face, with his remarkable combination of great muscular activity and great apparent debility of constitution....Rather, as there was something abnormal and misbegotten in the very essence of the creature that now faced me—something seizing, surprising and revolting…”

So those earlier images are all from the first half of the 20th century or late 19th century.  The later images are all within the last 20 years. There are a lot of reasons why we see this difference--the biggest reason though, is this guy here:

The Incredible Hulk

There is a good chance that you know who the Incredible Hulk is, but let me give you just a brief description.  He was created in 1963 by Marvel Comics, in particular, Stan Lee. 

Or, as many of you know him, the old dude that keeps showing in Marvel movies.  

Scientist, Bruce Banner is testing a Gamma Bomb when he discovers there is someone on the test field.  He saves that person and exposes himself to Gamma radiation that turns him into the Hulk.

We can already see some similarities.  Dr. Banner and Dr. Jekyll. Both are gentleman scientists.  Both are exposed to experimental science of their own making.  Both become monsters as a result. 

Now beyond that, the Hulk has other several inspirations.  

Unbeknownst to many, the first was The Thing from the Fantastic Four, published in 1962 by Lee and Jack Kirby.  The Thing is a self-hating hero and Lee wanted to replicate that with The Hulk.

But he was also inspired by Boris Karloff’s version of Frankenstein.

So the Incredible Hulk had a little bit of everything. 

Hulk’s Lineage

He was adapted from The Thing

He was narratively inspired by Jekyll & Hyde

He was visually inspired by Karloff’s Frankenstein

So now, let me ask.  How does Bruce Banner transform into The Hulk?  

That’s right--rage, emotional, excitability!  Which, if we think about the ideas of Victorian emotional repression, we can see how well aligned The Hulk is with Hyde.  BUT, here’s a fun fact and one additional element to Hulk’s lineage. 

He was also inspired by Werewolves.  In that first 1960s series, Banner initially transformed into the Hulk at night.  Just like a werewolf. 

Therefore, while popular and creative in its own way, the Incredible Hulk drew upon no less than 4 different stories: 

The Fantastic Four--which was a Marvel property.  

Jekyll and Hyde, which was a public domain work. 

The Karloff Frankenstein--which inspired but was distinct enough, to not infringe on copyright.  

And finally, werewolves.  

Keeping in mind that Karloff’s Frankenstein was an adaptation of a story in the public domain, and you find that The Incredible Hulk was its own Frankensteinian monster created from the pieces of the commons with just a quarter coming from a copyrighted work (which Marvel owned).  It raises the question: Could the Incredible Hulk have been created or popular without drawing upon the public domain?

Right-Sizing Hyde

Keep that thought in the back of your head because we still have to answer the question (though I think you’re starting to get a hint) of how we go from a diminutive Hyde to a ginormous Hyde.

As I mentioned Jekyll and Hyde has been quite popular.  But The Incredible Hulk has been more popular. Hulk has had 5 of his own TV series including one in 1966 and the live-action series of the 1980s.  He's appeared in many other TV series beyond that. He's had 2 of his own featured films, 3 direct-to-TV films, and of course, is part of the Avengers series.  He also has had dozens of comic series, hundreds of appearances in other comics besides his own, and had at least a dozen or more books featuring him. He’s also had 5 video games named after him. However, the truest sign that Hulk outcompetes Hyde is this. can scour the Interwebs, but I don't think you'll find a Hyde version of ladies' lingerie.  

Yeah, I'm not going to lie--I have all sorts of questions!  


But all of this is to say that our modern visual conception of Hyde is very much informed by the Incredible Hulk--in part, because while Jekyll and Hyde give us a popular and well-known story, it ends with Hyde & Jekyll dead.

Ooops!  Spoiler alert!

That means there’s not much direction to take the story.  People have definitely created alternative takes on the story--and those are some of my favorites such as Valerie Martin’s Mary Reilly and Daniel Levine’s Hyde but in the end, the story has trouble going beyond that.  

Meanwhile, the Hulk, gives us all the flavor of Jekyll & Hyde, but has been an ongoing narrative for over 50 years.   So it’s no surprise, given the overlap that we see Hyde becoming big and more Hulkish. 

But, this is where we come to the dilemma posed by the this lecture’s title.  

The Hulk Will Get You Sued

As we already learned, vampires can make you famous.  Dracula, as a public domain persona has appeared in over 50 movies, most of which, he was in the title.  He's also appeared in hundreds of TV shows, books, comics, video games…

And yes, underwear as well.  Ya know, it really is a shame that this lecture came after Valentine’s Day.   

The Hulk Will Get You Sued

But the contrast I wanna draw out here is that we are free to draw upon the commons and we do so regularly.  From the commons, we get some really amazing, moving, intriguing, and complex new works. 

Of course, we also get a lot of crap.

But we get to take those ideas and play, adapt, and infuse them with new meaning.  It’s a great creative endeavor and it’s something many master creators inevitably do at some point in their career.  However, while we are free to do this with stories of the long-past, we cannot with the recent past. 

The Hulk is a great example.  He is over 55 years old. 

His creator, Stan Lee, is 95 and still chugging along.  This means that for pretty much all of us in this room, the Hulk will never be a public domain entity. 

Think about that.  Even if, Gods forbid, that Stan Lee, died today.  

The Hulk wouldn’t be a public domain entity until 2088--about 125 years from its creation.  

So what?

Why does that matter?  Because, if copyright existed in the past, as it does in the present.  So many of the works that I’ve mentioned, would never have had the legacies that they have experienced.  
  • Robert Louis Stevenson - 1894 (1964)
  • Dracula: Bram Stoker, 1912 (1982)
  • The Wizard of Oz: L. Frank Baum, 1919 (1989)
  • Sherlock Holmes: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1930 (2000)
  • War of the Worlds & Invisible Man: HG Wells, 1946 (2016)
Hell, even Stan Lee would have had to walk a very fine line and risk lawsuit with the Hulk.  But we wouldn't see Dracula until 1982 or Sherlock Holmes adaptations and experiments until 2000. 

War of the Worlds

We would have been denied the classic War of the Worlds radio adaptation in 1938 by Orson Welles that we still talk about today.  It’s one of my personal favorites!

This is the one where people supposedly were fleeing from their houses, thinking the Martians had actually landed.  It was indeed, the original FAKE NEWS!

Point #3

So for me, this is where copyright works as a de facto form of censorship, when it prohibits works from entering the public domain and won’t enter the domain until I’m decades dead.  

Even when those works, such as the Incredible Hulk, were largely created from the public domain from which it refuses to be a part of.  

And no, I’m not making this argument, because I really wanna tell my own stories using The Incredible Hulk, I promise.  I just found the Hulk to be a perfect specimen to explain this phenomenon. But ultimately, if I were to try to tell a story today featuring the Hulk, Disney would likely sue me.  

So there, you have your answer.  

Censorship & Creativity

But again, frustrated as I am with this de facto censorship of copyright works, what I have seen is an amazing splurge of creativity with works in the commons.

Some of my favorite stories utilize the commons quite effectively.  For instance, I’m a fan of The Walking Dead--more the comic book series than the show and there you have the zombie, a modernized-monster of folklore.  

I also loved the series, Fables, a comic book series that took so many characters from Pinocchio to the Oz characters to Snow White and the Big Bad Wolf and put them in modern day New York.  

And I absolutely loved Penny Dreadful for blending all those stories together…

And I’m currently enjoying The Frankenstein Chronicles which just dropped on Netflix.  


In fact, I would say that one of the most creative and fascinating things to emerge out of this de facto censorship, is the genre, known as Steampunk.

For those unfamiliar with steampunk, it is a genre that blends elements of science fiction with the Victorian novel or the Western novel.  Stories typically take place in the 19th or 20th century with the predominating technology being steam or pre-electric technology that can do many of the things we can do today.  Many but certainly not all, often include or feature characters and figures from the era as well--characters, at least, that are in the public domain.


It’s curious blend of past and future; a setting and an atmosphere that can be used to tell other genres and retell previous stories.  If you remember a few years ago, Robert Downey Jr. did 2 Sherlock Holmes films in this fashion but there are others out there too like:
  • Wizard of Oz
  • Dracula
  • Frankenstein
  • William Shakespeare
Each of them seeks to retell those classic stories with a little bit more hindsight, a little bit more use of steam technology, and a whole lot of “what if”--which is the start of so many a story.

My argument would be that part of the reason steampunk exists is because of this desire to engage and use our past to explain our present.  But with so much of our immediate past (nearly 100 years) locked behind copyright, it is easier to draw upon and experiment with stories of old than new.  Vampires are free; but the Hulk will cost you.

Conversing with our past

So here we, at the intersection of copyright, censorship, creativity, and the commons.  

We have explored where copyright comes from.  

We have looked at how valuable the commons are.

We have examined how censorship can work directly and indirectly.

And most important of all, we have seen how creativity is woven throughout all of this.  

If I have any parting conclusions, it would be this:

If you wish to be a creator, think about how much previous work impacts your creativity. None of us create entirely new things, we are constantly building upon that which we have been exposed to and explored.  

And when creating, recognize that impact, and limit the locking away of your work for others to play with.  Copyright is granted upon creation, but you as the creator can adjust your copyright as you see fit and maybe not have it locked away for 125 years.  You could use Creative Commons in order to make your work available initially or after a certain point. 

For those of us that consume creative works--find and support creators who make their work more readily available.  That is, look for creators using licensing like Creative Commons. 

Those creators include:
  • Cory Doctorow (fiction/nonfiction)
  • Charles Stross (fiction)
  • Brandon Sanderson (fiction)
  • Kelly Link  (Fiction)
  • Peter Watts (fiction)
  • Lawrence Lessig (nonfiction)
  • Randall Munroe (comics - xkcd)
  • Cards Against Humanity (card game)
  • deviantART (photo website)
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art (museum website images)
  • Ghosts I-IV & The Slip by Nine Inch Nails (Music)

Places to find Public Domain & Creative Commons Works

Here are some examples of places you can find content that’s free to enjoy or use because it uses Creative Commons licensing or is in the public domain.  

And finally, let me just say--Jonathan Gottschall calls humans “the storytelling animal.”  We, more than any other species, create, tell, curate, and morph stories constantly through our lives, throughout families, through our histories, throughout all the time that humans have spent on earth.  We love stories and I think it is essential that we be mindful and smart about how much we lock away stories. 

Yes, it can yield some fascinating and creative opportunities; but on the whole, I think humankind is served better when we can draw upon our collective tales and build our modern collection of new and twice- or thrice told tales.

Thank you!

All right, that’s the full lecture.  What do you think? How has this changed or influenced your thoughts on copyright, commons, censorship, and creativity?  I would love to hear your thoughts on this so post them in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter-- @leaton01

See you soon!  Keep popping; keep thinking!

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