This Is What Happened to the Man of Tomorrow

Well this....

This is sort of fucked up.

Originally, I was going to write a long and winding thinkpiece on what it means that DC won't own all of Superman's powers and origin, the in-continuity consequences for the Big Blue Boy Scout and the implications of such a decision for property-based comics in general.

When I was researching for that piece (which may or may not still be in the offing), I began to wonder about some of the things mentioned in the above article.

Essentially the decision is that the estates of Siegel and Shuster own

depictions of Superman's origins from the planet Krypton, his parents Jor-El and Lora, Superman as the infant Kal-El, the launching of the infant Superman into space by his parents as Krypton explodes and his landing on Earth in a fiery crash.
While DC owns

Superman's ability to fly, the term kryptonite, the Lex Luthor and Jimmy Olsen characters, Superman's powers and expanded origins.

Variety being primarily entertainment magazine, it focused on the implications of the legal decision for a potential upcoming Superman movie, and closes with the following quote:

...the Siegels and Shusters will own the entire copyright to Action Comics No. 1. That will give them the chance to set up Superman pics, TV shows and other projects at another studio. If they want to get a new "Superman" or even "Justice League" pic featuring the superhero, Warner Bros. and DC will be forced to go into production by 2011.

Does this confuse anyone else?

I mean, first of all, does the character even make any sense split into two like this? What is Superman if the not the last scion of a dying world? Who is he without Lex Luthor? When was the last time he actually had to leap over a building in a single bound? Will anyone actually accept either half of the character as the character?

Furthermore, what do the estates of Siegel and Shuster really expect to gain from this ruling? Do they really expect to be able to package the rights into some sort of media deal?

The Superman from Action Comics #1 is not a superhero that a casual comics fan is going to recognize and I'm not sure that any movie that is made with that version of the hero is going to draw all that many people because, quite honestly, who cares?

Ultimately, I think the Siegel and Shuster estates are going to have to find some way to share the copyright to Action Comics #1 with DC, as I doubt there's any real marketability for what the creator's estates will gain control of in 2013.


  1. Well, I suspect that some kind of really nicely animated (or equally nicely acted and shot) adaptation of "Action Comics" #1 could be a ton of fun for die-hard fans, albeit confusing for non-fans...

    "Superman CAN'T fly? What?"

    Yeah. That's 'Super' weird. It also goes to show how bloody duplicitous the comics industry is. Oh, you want the legal rights to the character you created? Okay, let's give you only what the letter of the law allows: the literal concepts and images on the pages you wrote and drew. NOT the directly inspired, hugely expanded concepts and images that other artists who also had no rights made in the following years.


    Well, at least this finally means the families of Siegel and Shuster are going to get SOME money.

  2. I once heard the sale of Action Comics #1 referred to as "the Louisiana Purchase of comics", which is pretty damn accurate.