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Kite

No More Superman

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http://timesonline.typepad.com/blockbuster_buzz/2009/07/superman-no-more-movies-no-more-comics.html

Owen Vaughan reports on some complex copyright issues that could spell the end of the man of steel

It seems that copyright law is more powerful than Kryptonite or Lex Luthor. A bitter legal row over Superman could result in the character leaving DC Comics, the comic book company that has published his adventures since his first appearance in 1938.

In only four years, the entire copyright to the original Superman story will revert to the families and estates of the superhero's creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. According to their lawyer, this means that from 2013 neither DC Comics nor its parent company, Warner Bros, will be able to produce any new Superman story without the permission of the Siegels and the Shusters.

The Siegels and the Shuster estate is currently fighting Warner Bros over licence fees the studio paid to DC Comics for use of Superman in films and television. This week a court ruled against them but in a surprise twist the judge in the case told Warner Bros that if it did not start production on another Superman film by 2011, the Siegels would be able to sue to recover damages.

Despite internet rumours that the studio is in a panic, Warners says that its still has no plans to put another Superman film into production. In fact it is planning for possibility of a life without Superman - painful though that may be.

Whether Warners does rush out another Superman is irrelevant to Marc Toberoff, who is representing the Siegel family and the Shuster estate in their legal action. "Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created the original Superman story, which was published in Action Comics No 1, and that story contained Superman, Clark Kent and Lois Lane - all the basic elements of the Superman story," he told The Times.

"They sold that story for $130 in 1938 and signed a publishing release handing over their copyright. After that the character went through the roof but they still only got paid a page rate for their stories. For most of their lives, their families lived just above the poverty line while everyone else made millions.

"Siegel and Shuster created Superman when there were no superheroes.

Superman launched the whole superhero genre in America and it made a fortune for DC and Warners Bros. We did a study of the value of Superman

- it was a very complicated and expensive analysis - and it came to about $975 million."

He said that Siegels successfully recovered their half share of the copyright in 1999. DC retained the Shuster part of the original Superman copyright because Shuster did not have any children and only spouses and children could recapture copyright. However, a recent change in US copyright law gives the executors of an creator's estate the same benefits, with the Shusters set to recover their share from DC in 2013.

When asked if it was possible that the Siegels and Shuster estate could take Superman to another company, Mr Toberoff replied: "Absolutely."

This week a judge ruled against the Siegels and Shusters, saying that the licence fees that Warners paid to DC Comics for Superman were not below fair market value. Warner Bros and DC Comics said: "We are very pleased that the court found there was no merit to plaintiffs' position that the Superman deals were unfair to DC Comics and, by extension, the plaintiffs."

However, Mr Toberoff said that the case paled in comparison to the fact that in 2013 his clients would own the entire copyright to the first Superman story. "I was looking for an analogy to World War II: We won the war but they still want to fight the battle. The more we fight, the closer we get to 2013. Plus all the fighting just antagonises my clients. So it's almost like they are driving my clients into the arms of a competing studio."

To have Superman leave DC would be huge blow to the publisher. Superman is, along with Batman, the company's signature character: he has appeared in thousands of comics, five films and hundreds of cartoons and television series; he is part of the fabric of America and is arguably the world's most recognisable and popular superhero.

"Instead of treating the matter like a business deal, where everyone gets their fair share, Warner Bros has opted to have a war of attrition.

They have spent so much money on lawyers, that from a business point of view they should have put that money towards a fair settlement of this action," said Mr Toberoff.

However, he cautioned that reversion of copyright only applied to the US, which means that whatever happens after 2013, DC will still own the foreign copyright to Superman. "If my clients decided to take Superman to another studio that studio would still have to deal with DC, so it's almost like a stalemate situation."

Warners Bros believes that the Shuster claim is not valid but is planning for possibility that it is. The studio says that Action Comics No 1 is missing many key elements of the Superman story: there is no Daily Planet, no Perry White, no Jimmy Olsen; no Lex Luthor, Brainiac or Kryptonite. Most importantly, Superman doesn't fly in the issue and his famous shield is crude and almost unrecognisable. Because these features are missing, and because the Siegels and Shusters would have no control of Superman outside the US, no studio would strike a deal with them, it says.

Warners says that it wants to a strike a deal with the Siegels and Shusters but only one that is fair and economically viable. "Not doing another Superman film would be painful but Warners has other superhero franchises, such as the Flash and the Green Lantern, that it can exploit," said a source at the studio.

Even though Superman Returns made almost $390 million worldwide at the box office, the film was expensive to make and poorly received by the critics and comic fans. This is the reason why the studio did not do a sequel, the source said. He stressed that the studio had no plans to develop a Superman film or television series.

Yesterday the Scottish comic book writer and producer Mark Millar told The Times that Warners had approached him and Matthew Vaughn, the director of Layer Cake, to reboot the franchise. The last attempt at reviving Superman on screen, Superman Returns in 2006, was deemed to be a critical and financial failure and Millar and Vaughn had plans to turn the Man of Steel into a Lord of the Rings-type epic. However, the studio got cold feet and Millar and Vaughn moved on to other things. "They spoke to me and Matthew last year and we were obviously very interested as the love is there and the potential is enormous," he said yesterday.

"But we're not involved in Superman at this stage."

Millar, who is currently is collaborating with Vaughn on the movie adaptation of his hit comic Kick-Ass, told The Times earlier this year that his plan was "to do a Superman movie unlike anything you've ever seen before. Matthew wanted to cast someone who looked nothing like Christopher Reeve and create a new Superman for this generation. But Superman is still in stasis at the moment because the last one lost so much money and [Warners] are scared to do anything with the character right now. I'm not holding my breath."

Unlike Siegel and Shuster - and scores of comic book writers and artists throughout the years - Millar has managed to retain control over his creations. But asked if there was a danger that Marvel and DC would lose control of their characters, he said: "The big companies will own those old characters as long as Disney own Mickey Mouse, unfortunately. Guys like Jerry and Joe created Superman at a very different time. Anything created before the Eighties and Nineties was signed away to the big companies and the best-case scenario, realistically, is a generous pay-out for their families in these situations. Guys like me, who created new characters in this past decade, owe an enormous debt to all the creators who came before us. What happened to them taught us that companies don't have loyalties to creators when they get old and we need to retain ownership on the characters to look after our creative freedom and our long-term finances."

overall, if the creators / estate owners gave a crap about Superman, they would push for a new Tv series with today's effects it would be awesome instead of the shit known as Smallville which is an insult to Superman.

PS the hint at selling SUperman to another publisher (aka marvel) wouldnt happen,

marvel wouldnt take superman, he wouldnt fit in the marvel universe

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Bruce Campbell: '' This place has more security then the Batcave ''

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:picknose:

Personally I'd love to see Superman published by Image Comics. The possibility of Superman vs Spawn sounds interesting & all rights to Superman in the US would still belong to the creator's family.

That & I wonder how Stan Lee will act when 2013 rolls around... Assuming he'll still be around by then to have his creations end up at Dark Horse.


"Cool. I always knew Atheists would someday save The World."

- Fantomex

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i think superman wouldn't work in any other universe.

Why would Marvel chars go to Dark HorsE?


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Bruce Campbell: '' This place has more security then the Batcave ''

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That was a good article on the superman copyright, thanks for posting that. I have a feeling they won't settle for a lump sum payout, but instead insist on getting recurring lump sum payments in relation to whatever or whenever DC or WB is making money off of superman. If I was them, thats what I'd go for. Because honestly, Superman is a huge character, a lump sum payment now would probably be meager peanuts compared to 1 or 2 more generations from now when their grand kids or great grand kids could still be receiving continuous payments like huge never ending lotto winnings.

:picknose:

Personally I'd love to see Superman published by Image Comics. The possibility of Superman vs Spawn sounds interesting & all rights to Superman in the US would still belong to the creator's family.

That & I wonder how Stan Lee will act when 2013 rolls around... Assuming he'll still be around by then to have his creations end up at Dark Horse.

Does Stan Lee have his own copyright reversal claim like the superman creators have? O_O That would screw over marvel something huge if they no longer had stan lee's characters.


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I think something like Superman shouldn't be hidden from the world, it is like art, wth is the point in a Picasso if it is locked in a rich mans vault.

I really want Superman to become a new movie, BUT for the love of God have Christoper Nolan or James Cameron, hell even Kevin Smith have a part of it,

Edited by Kite

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Bruce Campbell: '' This place has more security then the Batcave ''

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tbh i wouldn't be sure if i would trust him, though i don't blame him for the crap of spiderman 3, they all had the same formula of Mary Jane being kidnapped... and the villain finding out Spiderman's identity


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Bruce Campbell: '' This place has more security then the Batcave ''

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i think superman wouldn't work in any other universe.

Why would Marvel chars go to Dark Horse?

I think Superman could easily fit it with plenty of other characters if Lobo somehow fits into the DC Universe.

Stan Lee Published his "Who Wants To Be A Superhero" comic through Dark Horse so I guessed he no longer worked for Marvel.

Does Stan Lee have his own copyright reversal claim like the superman creators have? O_O That would screw over marvel something huge if they no longer had Stan Lee's characters.
If I were Stan Lee I would...

"Cool. I always knew Atheists would someday save The World."

- Fantomex

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Oh yeah, Stan Lee has been teamed up with Dark Horse for a while now. His company "Pow Entertainment" releases on Dark Horse now... But! He has a contract with Disney that gives them first option rights on his released properties. If he were to get copyrights back on his marvel characters, they could technically end up in the Disney universe. *shudders at the thought* :err:


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HUlk SMAASSSHHHHHH replaced to Hulk HUUUUGGGG


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replaces the claws with candy cains ;p


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Exactly. X'D

Or imagine:

"Wolverine: The Brave and the Bold"

Its bad enough what DC did as a mockery to Batman, now image if Disney would do the same to Wolverine. :err:


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replaces the claws with candy cains ;p
There actually was a Wolverine parody on Kids Next Door that just so happened to be a Christmas Elf with Retractable Candy Cane Claws.

But more to the point Wolverine wasn't created by Stan Lee.


"Cool. I always knew Atheists would someday save The World."

- Fantomex

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Oh crap you're right! X'D

So instead of Wolverine, Disney would make a Hulk vs. Spiderman movie that would be rated G and at the end of the movie they'd be riding the t-cups at Disney World. :P


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spiders are too scary, so he will be renamed Sweeter-man

and shoots candy floss instead of webbing ;p


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Bruce Campbell: '' This place has more security then the Batcave ''

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How about Hulk vs. Iron Man then?... Hulk acting like Donald Duck & Iron Man acting like Jack Sparrow...


"Cool. I always knew Atheists would someday save The World."

- Fantomex

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If DC loses Superman... their comic sales would go down drastically. Batman can't carry the weight of their comics alone. Especially since Bruce wayne is dead wtf... I would never read another DC comic again!


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Steve Rodgers died,

then bruce wayne dies,

cough original cough

either way, without Superman JLA will suck, and yeppers, Batman cant carry DC

Batman be better swapping publishers, as they could bring out the more gothic / darker side of him


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Bruce Campbell: '' This place has more security then the Batcave ''

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DC is awesome right now because of Blackest Night. Green Lantern has been awesome the last 2 years. Bruce wayan might come back some time soon though since the Black Lanterns are zombies of the heroes who died.


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Marvel Civil War, Planet Hulk, and World War Hulk were awesome, but Secret Invasion was pretty shit

Ive never read any DC. ...


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