Since the introduction of Superman in 1932, the comic book character has become the most famous of all the Super Heroes the world over. From comic books, television shows, films and memorabilia; millions of dollars have been made in his name. However, the creators of this heroic fictional character have not shared the same fate. Theirs is a different story of youthful decisions, poverty and a fight for justice, American style.
Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were in their early 20’s when they came up with the “S” on the chest clad Superman. The superhero was supposed to be used as a comic strip that would eventually find syndication. For six years Siegel and Shuster attempted with no success to find a publisher for their Superman comic strip. The pair soon after offered Superman in comic book form to DC comics. At the time DC comics was looking to start a group of comic books called “Action Comics” and needed a hero. The perfect timing brought DC Comics their superhero and Siegel and Shuster $130. They were also hired on to provide the writing and drawings for the comic book hero. At the time it seemed like it was a good deal.
As the popularity grew for Superman, Siegel and Shuster realized how much money they were missing out on by agreeing to this contract. In 1947, they decided to file a lawsuit to get copyrights to Superman. The judge that reviewed the case sided with DC Comics and upheld the original contract. After the dust settled DC Comics fired them and even though they put in writing that Superman with all rights to reproduction now and forever belonged to DC; the DC Comic executives would not rehire them.
They attempted another suit in 1973 based on the Copyright Act of 1909. They lost that suit as well and by the 1970’s found themselves living in poverty. After Siegel did several interviews, many in the literary world took up their cause. These literary giants pressured Warner Communications, the owners of DC Comics by this time to give Siegel and Shuster their just due. Finally Warner agreed to pay the pair twenty thousand dollars a year plus health benefits for the rest of their lives. They were also credited with the creation of Superman in all rights. It has been reported that by the time both men died they were making around $100,000 per year from their Warner Communications pensions.
In an interesting side not, the original check that bought Superman for $130 was recently sold at auction for $160,000. The check was found in the trash by an employee of the DC Comics back in 1973.
Sigel and Shuster are two of the greatest comic writers of all time and should have had a life befitting a king for their introduction of Superman. Unfortunately due to some early decisions and many failed law suits; they never received the financial gains they deserved. As their heirs continue to battle over the copyright to Superman, maybe justice will finally be served.