Friday, January 11, 2013

Siegel/ Superman Case Seems to Wrap It Up (For Now)

According to the articles I read Thursday, Warner Bros. is back to owning/ maintaining/ safeguarding with an army of lawyers - the rights to Superman, more or less as we've always known the character.  A judge somewhere far, far up the court system food chain (but not the Supreme Court) invalidated a 2008 decision to give the Siegel family many rights - essentially anything that had appeared in Action Comics #1 - and reverted the rights to Superman based upon a 2001 agreement that was more or less a "here's a pile of cash as a royalty" deal.

I won't get into the legal maneuvering too much, but it is a sordid, weird tale with attorneys with shady motivations, break-in's at law offices and all sorts of nonsense.  As this whole process has gone on and on, nobody in this has come out a hero, and it seems like the Siegels will get a bundle of money, but not the rights to Superman.*

I have stated before that the Superman comics have been a bit of a disaster in The New 52 because so much of the character was going to be affected if WB lost the case.  They had some part of Superman, just as the Siegels would have a very raw version of Superman.  They had an alien character with exciting powers and the highly licensable Superman shield.  But what else?

By virtue of owning Action Comics #1, the Siegels might have owned things like:

  • Superman's red trunks
  • Lois Lane, girl reporter
  • Superman escaping from an exploding Krypton in a rocket
  • Superman in a non-armor blue costume that didn't have a ridiculous collar

I don't think it's a mistake Superman's chronology as been so wacky the past year and a half.  DC had to sort of wait and see what would happen with the lawsuit and work backward from there.  Comics fans are used to picking up their character's histories piecemeal through buying back issues, watching cartoons, etc... and cobbling together a biography.

That said - more than a year on, The New 52 is it's own chronology, and Dan Didio and Jim Lee will be protective of this version of the character.

What I wonder is:  Now that DC has Superman and his red trunks back in their hands... will we see a return to a more traditional take on the character in some form or other?  I'd be lying if I didn't want exactly that in some form.  It's DC, so there's no shortage of ways to make it happen (multiple Earths.  Cough.).  And it would generate a comic I'd be more likely to want to read.

The NuSuperman has been rolled out to the public in a few small ways, and I imagine 2013 will be focused on the version from the movie, Man of Steel.  But laws of corporate synergy will want to pick a side, and while a good 200,000 comic fans may know the new suit, there's a few billion people out there who know the red trunks and blue tights.  So we'll see.

Mostly, I hope this means we get back Lois Lane as a reporter rather than as a vague "media-y type person" as she's been defined in Superman.  This toothless version of Lois has been a snoozer when she's recognizable as Lois.

I know I keep coming back to the issues of the New 52 and the Siegel case, but I do find them a fasinating combo.  We'll never know as outsiders what the lawyers at DC told Diane Nelson had to happen to her flagship character.  Possibly nothing.  I find that hard to believe when one considers the specific changes and hedging of bets that has occurred in the terribly awkward New 52 relaunch.  Really, thinking "this is just what DC's leaders thought is quality stuff" is terribly disappointing.

*frankly, I don't think they would have been able to successfully exploit what they would have won from Action Comics #1 to much effect

No comments: