U.S. Supreme Court Declines To Hear Shuster Family’s Superman Ownership Case
The Kirby family may have secured a settlement with Marvel, but the family of another high profile comic creator that petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its case has not been quite so lucky. On Monday morning the Court released a list of all the cases that it declined to hear in this session, and the list includes the case of the family of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster.
The decision upholds the ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which stated that Shuster's nephew, Mark Peary, had no ownership claim on the character. The Shuster estate gave up its claims to Superman in a 1992 agreement that gave the family a $600,000 payout and a $25,000 annual pension.
Peary was trying to specifically reclaim the rights to Action Comics #1, which introduced the characters of Superman and Lois Lane, and established many of the familiar traits of the Superman character, including his civilian identity, Clark Kent. Peary claimed that the family members who signed that 1992 agreement -- Shuster's brother Frank and sister Jean -- did not have the authority to assign those rights. Copyrights did not carry over to siblings at that time; only children, grandchildren and spouses.
The Ninth Circuit also overturned a ruling that granted the heirs of writer Jerry Siegel a 50% stake in Action Comics #1.
This decision seems to close off one legal approach for the Shuster estate, and leaves the ownership of Superman entirely in the hands of DC and Warner Bros., though it is possible that the family may attempt to pursue their claim through other arguments.