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April 6, 2006

Superboy Punches Through Time

imageVarious news outlets (with Variety perhaps first) are reporting that last March the federal judge in the case between the heirs of Jerry Siegel on one side and Warner Brothers and DC Comics on the other has ended in a summary judgment favoring Siegel's heirs (his wife and daughter). This means that the family reclaimed the rights through revoking their assignment to those companies as of November 2004. Warner Brothers will appeal. The story has already moved through some of the usual suspects, and hit newspapers closer to the International Dateline than the U.S. is:

Comic Book Resources
Malaysia Star

That should go up to three figures by lunchtime. A story like this is newswire crack.

Because of the ruling, the Siegels may be due a portion of the profits generated not just by DC Comics' uses of the characters but from the television show Smallville. That has yet to be decided.

A lot of this case has blurred distinctions between legal minutiae and fan trivia. One stance taken by Warner Brothers has been that Smallville didn't really feature Superboy but a young, uncostumed Clark Kent -- a character they own through his appearance in the Superman comics, over which they have full control. Another assertion that Superboy was a derivative work from Superman appears to stand in contradiction to an earlier transfer of the character to the company in which DC fully participated. That Newsarama piece linked to above even has a couple I'd never heard of before -- the point that Superboy as such doesn't exist in the older Superman comics, which weakens the derivative work claim, and an assertion that a Superboy villain in the recent DC cosmic maxi-series was some sort of Nerdiavellian dismantling of the character in case the case went against DC.

I don't know about you, but I like the idea of companies making their characters do horrible things before they're gone. It's like pro wrestling where guys leaving a specific promotion are made to lose to people that are staying behind. I also adore the notion that someone's parody comic is going to call their younger version of the superhero "Younger Version of Heroman" instead of "Heroboy."

I have no prediction for the outcome of the appeal, but I'm reminded of a piece of recurring comics gossip that's been around for a while now, that DC used the Siegel heirs' case as the impetus to go to all of its major characters' creators and shore up any legal discrepancies once and for all, with new money going out in many cases. If true, that seems really smart. If false, I bet someone out there wishes it were true.

Looks like Superman talked to Warner Brothers' legal before showing up on this cover
posted 1:43 am PST | Permalink

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