For $50 million, the U.S. Army has bought a supersoldier right out of the comic books. In March, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) won a Department of Defense grant to build an Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology. Their hefty proposal included a vision of the future: a gun-totin' soldier babe in front of a hypermodern skyline.
Now, comic book writer and artist Ray Lai says that soldier is a rip-off of Valerie Fiores, the heroine of his company's Radix comic. "We first found out when fans in California found the image in a newspaper," Lai says. The company's lawyers sent MIT a "cease-and-desist letter," arguing that the institute is damaging Radix by implying their fantasy world is real.
In a written statement, MIT officials say the institute "was not aware when it received the cartoon of a woman soldier that the illustration had in any way been derived from another source." Although the statement expressed "regret" about the incident, MIT argues copyright laws on material used for education and research would allow use of the image.
In an interview published on 27 March at the Web site news.com, Ned Thomas, the head of the new institute, said the image in question was created by his daughter. "She did it in a couple of days," Thomas was quoted as saying, "and was just trying to illustrate what I had been describing to her."