Saturday, March 29, 2008

Superman Rights go to Siegel Family

Hey Leaguers

I am going to try to wait this one out and see what happens, but this is of no small significance to DC Comics, Warner Bros., Superman fans and the future of the Man of Steel.

As you might know, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, very young men at the time, sold the rights to National Comics for Superman for about $130. Siegel's widow and daughter have apparently successfully sued for rights to the Superman property, plus money going back to 1999 or so.

I really, really do not understand the legality of the situation. Moreover, I have no idea what control this would give to the Siegels and/ or Shusters going forward in regards to control of the property from a creative standpoint. While Siegel might have gone in a different direction with Superman, its tough to say that National and DC have not been good stewards of the character. How many other pulp/ childrens/ sci-fi properties have survived for 70 years?

Unfortunately, WB's inability to share more in the profits from Superman merchandising and licensing may mean the Siegels have some bad blood. No idea what that could mean.

For more, read Heidi's report at The Beat.

In addition, read the story as covered by the New York Times.

The Siegels have everything to gain by playing well with DC/ Warner Bros, and it would be nice if they would be comfortable with a financial deal rather than a creative deal.

I believed Shuster's heirs may have had a stake in this as well, but it seems he might not have any heirs according to this article. So stay tuned...


Michael Corley said...

Were I they, I would instantly eschew creative rights for several large stacks of cash.

The League said...

I assume that with the last movie making $400 million, the comics and books pulling in a few million a year, and then the licensing. Oh, yes... the licensing (which is the sweetest plum of them all) that the Siegels will just be looking for a cut of the net. I don't think Joanne Siegel will want to take over the comcis anytime soon. Or at least that's not my impression.

My mixed feelings run this way: Siegel and Shuster lost out on , perhaps, hundreds of millions over the past 70 years thanks to their deal. But back then, their deal was a standard deal. And it meant publication of an unknown character by two relatively inexperienced guys. In a relatively new medium. Where the franchising of a character in the manner that Superman would become was almost unknown. Action Comics COULD have run two issues, and Superman could ahve been dropped for Congo Bill. (keep in mind, this was an anthology comic, back in the day).

Should DC have played better over the years? Absolutely. Perhaps it wasn't a legal requirement, but if Sperman steps beyond to do what's right, than perhaps DC should have followed suit.

My concern is that the Siegels, who have never managed the property and who do not have the knowledge, reach and power of Time Warner behind them, will make missteps in handling the property.

For the money to keep rolling in for both parties, it seems they'd do well to get educated on how DC is handling things and to work with them to move forward with supporting the brand through one central point of view.

Over in the comments section of The Beat,indie-darling James Kolchaka (whose work I admire) made a comment stating that Superman should enter public domain. I couldn't disagree more. If parodies of Superman indicate what people would immediately want to do with the character, I see no way that would benefit the integrity of the property to allow any schmore on the street to publish Superman stories. DC has rarely challenged any parody, and its easy enough to dream up an anlog of Superman when you want to get your point across. Its been done more times than anyone could count, including by DC's own publisher in MAD.

So... we'll see where this goes. Congrats to Jerry and the Siegels on legal vindication after all of these years. But now, as SPidey would surely tell them, "With great power comes great responsibility"