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Author Topic: Siegel vs DC Comics.  (Read 8948 times)
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Kuuga
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« on: March 03, 2005, 10:46:31 PM »

More on the legal drama here:
http://www.newsarama.com/DC/Superman/Intro.htm
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« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2005, 11:52:54 PM »

and part two

http://www.newsarama.com/DC/Superman/SuperboyCompl.htm
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« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2005, 04:37:40 AM »

Tom Spurgeon at the Comics Reporter has a long essay about this issue today and what he calls the "original sin" of the comic book industry.

http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/briefings/commentary/1100/
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« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2005, 01:53:39 PM »

I agree with the essay up to a point, but having nearly finished Gerard Jones' "Men of Tomorrow," I have to say I see DC's side of all this, too. When it came to the ownership of Superman, Jerry and Joe made some bad choices, which considering their youth and inexperience can be forgiven, but the bottom line is they did make those choices.  Much of the rest of their lives was about asking for a do-over.  I feel for them, certainly, but how many of us get to go back and fix our mistakes?

It's easy to say DC "ripped them off" with Superman, or that they deserved more, but what's at issue now is ownership outright.  Should the heirs of Seigel and Shuster own Superman?  What exactly did their dad and uncle create, anyway?  The deal they made with DC involved a character called Superman -- a strong, leaping guy in a blue and red suit -- Clark Kent and Lois Lane.  That's about it.  Most of the familiar mythos came later, from them and from others...the Daily Planet, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, Kryptonite, x-ray vision, the ability to fly, and so on (and that's not even getting into all the additions of the Weisinger years).  

It can be argued that much of what the public knows and loves about Superman was not covered in the sale Joe and Jerry made.  Much of it was created by other people down the road.  And all of it was distributed, promoted and marketed by DC/National in ways two kids from Cleveland could never have managed.  Yes it's true that without them there would be no Superman (the concept) but without DC there would be no Superman, the Phenomenon.  Radio, TV, movies, merchandise, etc.  Without all that, Jerry and Joe would have what? Full ownership of a property that could have faded to nothingness within a year or two of 1938.    

My point is, while it's a shame Jerry and Joe didn't get a more equitable slice of profits, Superman is not entirely their creation.  More than most characters, he was created by many hands, including writers on the radio and TV shows, let alone the comics.  It's not like the whole mythos was in place and DC stole it...most of it was put in place by editors and writers later on, sometimes over Seigel's objections.

Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how this all comes out.  Notice that if the Shuster heir succeeds, too, DC will lose all ownership of Superman in 2013.  And while I can't say that would make me too upset (they've screwed him up long enough), it only gives them 8 years to get out more volumes of the Archives!  Get moving, DC!
 Cheesy
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« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2005, 07:21:38 AM »

Quote from: "nightwing"
 What exactly did their dad and uncle create, anyway?  The deal they made with DC involved a character called Superman -- a strong, leaping guy in a blue and red suit -- Clark Kent and Lois Lane.  That's about it.  Most of the familiar mythos came later, from them and from others...the Daily Planet, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, Kryptonite, x-ray vision, the ability to fly, and so on (and that's not even getting into all the additions of the Weisinger years).  
 Cheesy


I'm tempted to say, let the creators' families have the right to a character named Superman in a blue suit and let DC/Warner have the rights to a character named Perry White, etc. and see who is more successful: the owners of new stories about the first superhero or the owners of new stories about some newspaper employees who are obsessed with the doings of a nameless flying figure and his collection of artifacts.

However, my true feelings are more ambivalent.  As a cartooning fan with anarchist/socialist leanings who wants to see a limit put on the power of corporations, I'm all for letting the families have partial or complete ownership.  Superman is ultimately for me a consumer product.  But as someone who somehow got indoctrinated into the world of the work-ethic, honesty, and self-reliance, I'm a bit iffier on the issue.  This is a quintessential US/American problem --when does fair play and legality conflict with fair play and morality?
Corporations have no problem with this question.  Real people will generally feel otherwise.  How would you feel if you were in the position of the Donefields or Liebowitz and you were confronted in your mansion with the ghosts of 2 men who you had given $130 for the goose that laid the golden egg, even if none of you had realized it at the time?  I like to feel that I would be a little guilty and give them a permanent share, at least.  But I probably would roll over and sleep soundly, safe in the assurances of the American dream.

Fans of Men of Tomorrow will also like Tom Spurgeon's Stan Lee book, BTW.
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« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2005, 04:40:48 PM »

I guess what I liked about Jones' book is that it does a pretty good job of showing how human everyone connected with this issue was.  As opposed to the now established industry lore that pitts two poor naive kids against a bunch of soulless monsters in suits.

Jones does a good job of explaining Leibowitz and Donenfeld's position without quite endorsing it.  Of course they were businessmen, not creators.  They dealt with the hard realities of financial success or failure; eat or be eaten.  In their minds they were the ones with their necks on the block should Superman fail.  And in a very real sense, that's true.  Should they have felt bad about Jerry and Joe getting so little out of their creation? That's a matter of personal ethics, in my opinion.  Personally I can say "shame on them," but frankly, they were within their rights.  I mean if a guy sold me a copy of "Action #1" on eBay for 5 bucks, then wrote back later to say "I didn't know what it was worth!" I think my response would be, "Tough luck."  Does that make me evil?

As for Perry White's value compared to Superman,my point is that no law should allow a "creator" to reap the benefits of other peoples' work...that would just replace one injustice with another.  If you want to award the heirs with everything Jerry and Joe had created up until the day they signed away their rights, so be it.  But I think you'll find it's not that much in the big picture.  Would the name and the blue suit be enough without all the other stuff?  I submit a "Superman" like that wouldn't be worth a lot more than a Perry White.  Remember when the sale was made, Superman had no x-ray vision, no power of flight, there was no kryptonite, and so on.  Take all those away and what have you got?  You have to start all over again.  It would be like winning the rights to James Bond but being forbidden to show him in a tuxedo, give him a gun or call him "007."  There are certain things the public expects in a franchise, and in Superman's case an awful lot of it came post-Jerry and Joe.  Do they deserve rights to everything built onto their foundation?  Not in my book.
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« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2005, 04:54:30 PM »

I think Nightwing makes some valid points.

If you're slicing away the goose that laid the golden kryptonite, lets make sure all those other heirs - Weisinger, Finger, Hamilton, Dorfman, Swan, Boring, Robt Maxwell,  etc. etc. get their piece and then what........

General Zod pretty much said it. ..."and one day...your heirs."

People -  just move on.
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« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2005, 01:46:05 AM »

I say if US law allows it, go for it heirs.

But then, I'm not a US citizen.

And I reiterate, the intitial invention is worth all of the added stuff (which I almost love more).  And Siegel added some of that, too: wasn't Superboy created in 1945 by S&S --and didn't National refuse them credit even then (Shuster was in the army when it saw print, I think)?

I know, I know --it's a "work for hire" issue.  A Superman comic company owned by the heirs would today --and even in the 30s-- be/have been successful without the "expertise" of Liebowitz, et al.  But they did poney up the intial bucks/risk and so it's one for the lawyers, really.
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