Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Van Lente and Dunlavey on the heirs of Siegel, Shuster and Kirby pursuing legal rights

On Sunday, Nikki Finke of Deadline Hollywood reprinted the full text of a letter the late Joanne Siegel, who passed away at the age of 93 last month, sent to Warner Brothers CEO Jeffrey Bewkes. Siegel is, most of you probably know, the wife of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel and was, in fact the inspiration and model for Lois Lane. Along with her family and the estate of Superman's other creator, Joe Shuster, Siegel was involved in a tough, complicated series of legal battles with Warner Bros. over elements of the Superman franchise, and after a rather emotional build-up ("So I ask you to please consider—do these mean spirited tactics meet with your approval? Do you really think the families of Superman’s creators should be treated this way?"), she sums up the point of her letter thusly:
To protest harassment of us that will gain you nothing but bad blood and a continued fight.

To protest harassment of our attorney by falsely accusing him of improper conduct in an attempt to deprive us of legal counsel.

To make you aware that in reality this is a business matter and that continuing with litigation for many more years will only benefit your attorneys.
Heidi MacDonald's The Beat and Comic Book Resource's Robot 6 reprinted the contents of the letter, and when linking to it in the course of my own linkblogging at Blog@Newsarama, I referred tot he letter as "the saddest thing you'll read all day."

Well, I was wrong. I read much, much sadder things yesterday, without even having to venture into the "real" media's discussion of tragic international events. No, I simply read the comments threads on those Beat and Robot 6 posts.

If you've ever read a comment thread on any blog post dealing with the heirs of a comics creator dealing with the current owners of the intellectual properties their husbands or fathers made, then you know how miserable the sorts of things anonymous comics fans tend to spew in such arenas.

Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey's latest issue of Comic Book Comics, a history of comics presented as a comic book series, dealt with the history of Siegel and Shuster's dealings with DC over the ownership of Superman—as well as the similar difficulties that Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson and Jack Kirby had with DC/National and Marvel—and the Siegel and Shuster "story" hasn't really been completed in real life, so it doesn't really have a satisfying conclusion in their comic strip about it either (In 2008, judge Stephen G. larson ruled that the contents of Action Comics #1 revert to Siegel's heirs, and, Van Lente wrote, "The full implications of that decision are still being worked out, but it seems to be in the heirs' interest to work with the company," since, "many of the elements considered crucial to the mythos have appeared since Action #1 and are incontrovertibly owned by DC").

Van Lente and Dunlavey therefore ended their story with panel below, addressing the sorts of fan arguments against the creators and their families, reversing a creator-as-sheep, publisher-as-shepherd visual metaphor they employed throughout the story: Well said, guys.

No comments: