Superheroes in court: the full story
July 15, 2010 10:33 AM   Subscribe

Superheroes in court: the full story
In the world of superhero comics, everyone is suing everyone else. Relatives of Jerry Siegel (the writer who created Superman) recently won a historic court victory giving them 50% of the copyright in Supie's first appearance. Relatives of Joe Shuster (Siegel's artist partner) are suing for the remaining 50% now. Meanwhile, relatives of Jack Kirby, Marvel Comics' most important founding artist, are using the same lawyer to challenge Marvel over characters like Spider-Man, Iron Man and Thor. Stan Lee, who worked with Kirby in creating all those characters, won his own lucrative victory against the company in 2005. And we've seen other comic book lawsuits from Steve Gerber (over Howard the Duck), Dan DeCarlo (Josie & the Pussycats), Marv Wolfman (Blade), Carmine Infantino (The Flash) and Gary Friedrich (Ghost Rider). It's partly Hollywood money that explains this rash of lawsuits, and partly a quirk of US law which is only now putting all the most valuable superhero characters up for grabs. To learn more, please click the link above.
posted by Paul Slade (3 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Very interesting!
posted by JHarris at 3:17 AM on July 16, 2010

Whew! That was pretty epic: ~14,700 words to discuss the creator disputes of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.

Something tells me that it could have been written more efficiently or with a sexier angle, but it answers some troublesome questions I've had about Marvel and DC's failure to introduce numerous new characters over the years.

It sucks that the creators of those characters weren't duly compensated, but I'm wondering if the new contracts being developed by Marvel and DC now recognize the creative contributions of so-called work-for-hire writers and artists.

I also have to wonder if those comics represented an internet-style gold-rush back in the early '40s.
posted by vhsiv at 6:14 PM on July 20, 2010

Thanks for for those comments, people. I'm glad you both found something interesting there.

I did write a shorter version of this piece for a UK film magazine called Little White Lies (link above), which came in at a "mere" 3,000 words or so. That necessarily had to miss out much of the background though, such as the Kirby artwork row and all the secondary cases discussed here.

When it came to my own website's version, I wanted to produce a one-stop guide for a general audience which related the whole colourful saga from soup to nuts, and I think that does require including all the background stuff. Comics fans who are already familiar with the subject may find that background's sometimes redundant, but in this case they weren't the primary audience I had in mind.

It's an awkward subject in that way, which risks falling between two stools. Somewhere between the died-in-the-wool comics fans and the indifferent masses, though, there must be a big audience who are literate in pop culture, and still affectionate enough about the comics of their childhood to find these industry shenanigans intriguing. That's why I thought it might be of some interest to Metafites.
posted by Paul Slade at 12:16 AM on July 21, 2010

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