Strange visitor from another planet...
Above: Cover art to DC Comics’ rebooted and renumbered ACTION COMICS #5 by Andy Kubert and Jesse Delperdang.
ACTION COMICS #1 was first published in April 1938 (which had a cover date of June) by National Allied Publications (know known as DC Comics). It has been reported that Superman creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, were paid $130 by National for this first Superman story. My understanding is that the payment covered only publishing rights. It did not include rights to copyright or trademark of the Superman property.
Above: The cover to 1938's ACTION COMICS #1 featuring the origin and first appearance of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman.
In March of 2008, a federal court awarded Jerry Siegel’s heirs fifty-percent of the copyright to the Superman material that appeared in ACTION COMICS #1.
Federal District Judge Stephen G. Larson stated:
After seventy years, Jerome Siegel’s heirs regain what he granted so long ago — the copyright in the Superman material that was published in ACTION COMICS Vol. 1. What remains is an apportionment of profits, guided in some measure by the rulings contained in this Order, and a trial on whether to include the profits generated by DC Comics’ corporate sibling’s exploitation of the Superman copyright.
Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster should have retained ownership of Superman. Other than the folks at DC Comics (and DC Entertainment, and Warner Bros. Entertainment, and Time Warner), I don’t think many, nowadays, would disagree with this. It only makes sense to me since Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster drew the Superman origin story that appeared in ACTION COMICS #1 before ever being hired by National Allied Publications.
Recently, DC Comics has relaunched ACTION COMICS. It looks like with (the new) ACTION COMICS #5, the story of the infant Superman’s escape from a doomed Krypton will (again) be retold. This sounds to me like the same origin story that first appeared beginning in (the original) ACTION COMICS #1.
ACTION COMICS #5 solicitation from DC Comics:
As the assault from an alien threat takes a turn for the worse for Metropolis, keys facts about Superman’s past are brought to light for the first time! And how can certain elements from The Man of Steel’s future help to prevent the theft of the millennium? Don’t miss this awesome issue from series writer Grant Morrison and the guest art team of Andy Kubert and Jesse Delperdang!
If DC Comics retells Superman’s origin in ACTION COMICS #5, will the Siegel family be compensated? Does the Siegel family have any say or control over the content in ACTION COMICS #5? Do they have reprint rights to the original ACTION COMICS #1? If they own half of the copyright, can the Siegels be ignored? Are they even making a stink about this?
Now, I’m not interested in DC Comics’ new rebooted and renumbered universe. But, I do care about how creators are treated.
For more on this topic, check out "Siegel and Superboy" and "SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGINS?"