Beard: Warner/DC scores Superman legal victoryWritten by Jim Beard | | firstname.lastname@example.org
DC Comics and its parent company Warner Bros. recently won a victory in court over its ownership of Superman – but not one the Man of Steel himself might be proud of. With an Oct. 17 ruling, a federal judge has blocked the estate of one of the character’s two creators from attempting to terminate a copyright grant over the famous superhero.
After creating Superman in the 1930s, two Cleveland, Ohio boys named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster sold the character lock, stock and barrel to DC Comics in 1938 for a few hundred dollars. By the 1970s, the duo was destitute and they turned to the company for some restitution from the Man of Steel’s worldwide success. Payments began after an outcry from other comic creators and some haggling, and then lawsuits appeared and a controversy was born: did the creators of one of the most famous fictional characters ever deserve a cut of the proceeds even though they’d signed away their rights?
Siegel and Shuster have since passed away, but their estates have carried on with the fight. In 2008 a judge upheld the Siegel estate’s copyright termination notice to DC and awarded it some of Superman’s most defining aspects, as first appeared in 1938’s Action Comics #1, such as the costume, the Clark Kent identity, Lois Lane and the planet Krypton. But, Shuster’s sister, the heir to his estate, signed an agreement in 1992 which waived “any past, present, or future claims against DC,” and that’s what been upheld the federal judge. One half of DC’s long battle for Truth, Justice and the American Way is over – just in time for a big-budget Superman film due next year.
What will it all mean for the Man of Steel? Will more payments be made? Will the character be irreparably changed? Will court decisions be overturned? Is DC just a heartless, soulless corporation or are the estates simply money-grubbing freeloaders? As they say in the comics, “To Be Continued!”