the take

Does Court Ruling Mean the Death of Superman?

The cover of Action Comics No. 1.Courtesy of DC Comics…
and the heirs of Jerry Siegel!

Late Friday news broke all over the Internet about a major court ruling by Judge Stephen Larson of the Central District of California granting the heirs of Jerry Siegel — one-half of the comics team who sold the rights to Superman way back in 1938 for a whopping $130 — half the copyright to the character of Superman and all the details of his story contained in the first-ever issue of the series, Action Comics No. 1. Immediately the comments threads and message boards of some comic Websites were filled with debate between fans celebrating an original creator finally being rewarded for his work and fans bemoaning the death of Superman. After all, the argument goes, now these schmoes who are leeching off their father’s legacy can force DC to stop printing Superman comics or demand that Warner Bros. stop making Superman movies!

This argument is lame.

As handily explained all over the place, this ruling has far-ranging consequences, but they mostly involve money. Comics blogger Brian Cronin’s handy FAQ explains — correctly — that the most likely result of this ruling is that Time Warner (owner of DC Comics) will simply hand the Siegel family an enormous check and everyone will go on his merry way, until 2013, when this all starts up again because the estate of the other Superman creator, Joe Shuster, could get the other half of Superman’s copyright back. Then the shit might hit the fan. Or, more likely, Time Warner will just cut another enormous check. (It would be best if it were physically enormous, like a lottery check.)

It certainly isn’t in the interest of the Siegel heirs to hold up Superman comics, TV shows, or movies, because they’re now part owners of the character, so they’ll be anxious to maximize the value of their property — either by continuing to exploit it or by selling off the rights. So rest easy, comic-book fans! The real peril facing Superman these days isn’t posed by the Siegel family — it’s the horrifying notion that Hayden Christensen might play the Man of Steel in the Justice League movie.

Ruling Gives Heirs a Share of Superman Copyright [NYT]
Super Superman opinion [Patry Copyright Blog]
Comments on “Siegel heirs awarded Action Comics #1 copyright” [Blog@Newsarama]
Superman Copyright FAQ [Comics Should Be Good]
Hayden Christensen Is Superman - Updated! [Cinema Blend]

Does Court Ruling Mean the Death of Superman?