Thursday, April 3, 2008

Issue #14: Comics for the Week of 4/2/08: The Never Ending Battle

Comics for the Week of April 2, 2008:
Action Comics #863 (DC)
Project Superpowers #2 (of 6) (Dynamite Entertainment)

Since this week is between paychecks, I'll have to pick these up next week. Instead, I'll share my comments on the biggest comic book news story this week.

The Never Ending Battle

It came as quite a shock for comic book readers at the end of last week when a judge ruled that the heirs of Jerry Siegel owned half of the copyright to Action Comics #1. I think the majority of comic book fans were thrilled at the ruling, myself included. Of course we all realize this is not the end of the case. More than likely DC will appeal, and even if the company decided to negotiate a settlement with the Siegel family, that would take time as well. And I'm not holding my breath for that one, much as I would like to see it.
This began after Jerry Siegel's death, when Jerry's widow and daughter notified DC that they would go to court to claim his share of the copyright. They waited until his passing at his request. I'm sure after the original settlement before the release of Superman: The Movie, Jerry had had his fill of lawsuits. According to several accounts I have read over the internet, the original $20,000 annual annual pension to Superman's creators only was increased to $30,000 by the time of their deaths. Gerard Jones, in his book Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book, states that some reports were that the amount would eventually be $100,000 at their deaths, but does not cite specific sources. Whichever amount is correct, it's a decent retirement income, but pales in comparison to the billions Superman has generated for DC Comics.
What this decision does seem to signal is the first chink in the armor of DC's claim of ownership of Superman. A nephew of Joe Shuster, who on line reports list as the executor of Joe Shuster's estate, is pursuing his late uncle's claim in separate legal action.
What can we hope to be the final outcome? I would like to see the heirs of Siegel and Shuster receive what the men themselves failed to reclaim in their lifetimes, ownership of Superman, and a greater financial reward as a result.
But then what? I can't picture any other publisher except DC Comics publishing Superman. To take the character to another company and end a seventy year relationship, albeit a very one sided relationship financially, seems unthinkable, regardless of how Siegel and Shuster were treated over the decades.
Eventually, maybe the lawsuits will run their courses, and both sides will see the light and sit down and negotiate a settlement. It would certainly make DC look better than it does now by fighting this in court. It would be nice to see DC reach a settlement that rewards the heirs of Superman's creators the financial windfall Siegel and Shuster deserved, and secured DC's right to continue publishing Superman.
Who would have thought that "the never ending battle for Truth, Justice and the American Way", as the narrator said at the beginning of each episode of The Adventures of Superman TV show, would include the battle over ownership of the Man of Steel himself.

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