Federal Judge Affirms DC’s Ownership Of Superboy, Multimillion Dollar Payout to Siegel Heirs
Just a day after DC Comics unveiled its new credit acknowledging that Superman appears in the pages of its comics “by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family,” federal Judge Otis Wright III ruled that a 2001 settlement agreement between Superman co-creator Siegel’s family and DC parent company Warner Bros. awarded DC the full rights to Superboy.
Thursday’s ruling settles two unanswered questions from a January decision that overturned a 2008 ruling that awarded a portion of the copyright to Action Comics #1 to Siegel’s family. Not only did Wright determine that DC retains ownership of Superboy, he also ruled the Siegels have no claim to advertisements from Action #1. The deal also spells out a multimillion dollar financial arrangement for the Siegels.
Siegel actually battled DC over the rights to Superboy more than six decades ago. The writer pitched the publisher the idea for stories featuring a young Superman not long after Superman’s debut in 1938. DC turned down his pitch, but published a Superboy story in 1943 without consulting Siegel, who was stationed abroad with the Army. A few years later, Siegel and artist Joe Shuster sued DC, eventually winning a $94,000, out-of-court settlement.
Per the conditions of the 2001 settlement, which the Siegel family would later argue they never agreed to, the heirs relinquished any claim to Superman, Superboy and The Spectre in exchange for medical insurance and “a $2 million advance, a $1 million non-recoupable signing bonus, forgiveness of a previous $250,000 advance, a guarantee of $500,000 per year for 10 years, a 6 percent royalty of gross revenues, and various other royalties.” Our legal consultant is still reviewing the material, but our tentative reading of the document is that those gross revenues include exploitation of Superman in all media including television and feature films, meaning the Siegels’ 6 percent royalty could potentially amount to tens of millions of dollars a year.
Unless the family appeals the ruling, Thursday’s decision effectively puts an end to the protracted legal battle the Siegels have fought to win back the rights, or a portion of the rights, to Superman.