Hot on the heels of this revelation came the fast-tracking of the Justice League movie, coming at ya in 2015! Speculation abounds, but it seems obvious to many that Warner Brothers was holding off on setting the film's summer release date because they were having trouble settling their epic lawsuit with half the legacy of Supes' creative team. See, this was a long fight. Maybe this was the last bit of combat.
The families of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster have been seeking legal action against Warner Brothers and DC Comics on and off again for years, starting in 1946. Joe was never one to make a fuss, according to many sources, but Jerry developed quite the need to hold the upper hand. And after said 1946 suit, the boys' subsequent firing and quick exit from the comics world, his wife Joanne Carter took up the epic quest to win them some justice, in the form of script work (in Jerry's case; he wrote his most poignant Man of Steel stories in the 1960s, including "Superman's Return to Krypton") and repayment later on, as their respective families aged, Jerry developed heart problems, and Joe Shuster went blind. Both men died in the 1990s, but that didn't stop the legal action.
There's quite the amount of litigation to cover in this story, with a recent reversion of the Superman rights to Laura Siegel, Jerry Siegel's daughter, back in 2009. That reversion was an issue of concern for Warner Brothers because -- you guessed it! -- her claims, and potential ability to pull her father's contributions to the Superman mythos, interfered with the green-lighting of DC's hyped soon-to-be-released Superman blockbuster "Man of Steel." She knows it, too, and recently wrote a scathing letter to fans detailing her family's treatment by their corporate bosses over the years.
There's a lot of history here, and I'm not gonna get into it; all you really need to know is that Siegel and Shuster signed away their rights to Superman back in 1938. Essentially, every comics artist gave away from their characters for a fee, but this duo could never get DC to pony up what they saw as their rightful share of the profits from the character. So, Joanne and others took up their fight, with Jerry and Joe being recognized by fans and artists in the 1970s for the legacy of comics they forged as young guys in the 1930s.
Contested artists disputes are all too common in comics nowadays. But the noted outcome here isn't the outrageous injustice of artists and their families being forced to take deals and struggle to survive. Instead, fan interest centers on whether DC's movie plans have been inconvienced or not. So I am left to ask, what is the value of legends? Many of the men and women who started comics as an art form were once recognized for their contributions, and they fanned their own flames pretty insanely. And it still happens now, but the companies that gave those creators no rights have no incentive to help their families today, not when their contributions came in the past, and not the present, when sales are king. It makes me wonder where the field is headed, among other things ...
How Jerry and Joe formed Superman is a great story. How they lost him is a tragedy that his parent company won't recognize. The out and out lies told by Bob Kane to protect his legacy aren't of much consequence to DC's post-911 Batman books/films. And while Jack Kirby is a legend among comic book artists, he won't ever be hung in a gallery or put in a history book. So why did these people's families tend to their legacies so? It can't be just money or justice. I think it has something to do with preserving a person's contribution to the society they live in. What we can take away from this unending fight for creators' rights is that the artists' families and colleagues appreciated their work, and found their panels said something about the world, something worth identifying and claiminh. And if at least the people closest to them see something, maybe that makes up for the corporate onslaught ignoring it; maybe that helps other people see it? On the other hand, this settlement and movie worry just stands as another marker in the legacy war between artistic integrity and profit. Who will win, the vocal or the vicious, remains an open question for all time.