New York artists sue NBC over "Heroes" concept

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two artists sued NBC Universal and the creators of the network’s superhero drama “Heroes” in U.S. district court this week, claiming their work had been wrongfully copied on the television show.

New York-based artists Clifton Mallery and his wife Amnau Karam Eele charged in a suit filed on Thursday in Manhattan that “Heroes” creators based their plot line -- about an artist who can paint the future -- on a short story, a painting series and a short film the couple exhibited in 2004 and 2005.

A spokesman for NBC, a unit of General Electric Co., said in a statement the network believes the suit is without merit. “We intend to defend it vigorously and expect to prevail.”

The artists said in the lawsuit that two people who identified themselves as writers from NBC’s “Crossing Jordan,” which also developed by “Heroes” creator and executive producer Tim Kring, attended an April 2005 exhibition of their work at Hunter College in New York City. The two were believed to have taken copies of the couple’s work, the lawsuit said.

The artists said their work focused on an artist who paints the future and who specifically paints the destruction of two landmark buildings in New York City. They alleged this was “strikingly similar” to the character of Isaac Mendez on “Heroes,” whose paintings of the future depict an explosion in New York City.

“Heroes,” a serial thriller about a group of ordinary people who discover they have special abilities, has been credited with helping to boost NBC’s ratings this season.