Superboy Scaled

Superboy’s Death Was Due to A Real World Legal Battle

Many comic book fans have heard about the dispute between Batman creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger, in which Kane signed over for sole ownership of Batman, ultimately leaving his co-creator with nothing. The battle to get the credit for Finger continued long after their deaths, and was not resolved until 2015, more than 75 years after the character’s debut. His name now appears alongside Kane’s in all forms of media. However, a lesser-known legal battle arose between DC and the creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Following the success of Superman, Superboy was created in 1945, debuting in More fun comics #101 (By Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster) as a younger version of Clark Kent. The idea for the story was brought up by Siegel, who was serving in the army at the time. However, DC did not inform him before publishing the story. This violated the terms of Siegel’s contract at the time, although the company continued to publish Superboy stories without his knowledge.

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DC’s Superboy faced a real world battle

Upon his return from the military, Siegel was shocked to see the character he created see success. He continued to write Superman stories under his contract before convincing his co-creator to pursue a lawsuit against DC in 1947. The suit covered a variety of grievances, including missed royalty payments for the creation of Superman and ownership of both Superman and Superboy. The case was settled on April 12, 1948, with the judge ruling that DC owned the rights to Superman, while Siegel and Shuster owned Superboy. The creators would receive their missed royalty payments and any revenue they were not previously paid. Interestingly, the two parties decided to settle out of court for approximately $94,000 (nearly $1 million today).

After this, Shuster and Siegel’s contracts with DC were not renewed, and they went their separate ways. Superboy stories continued to be published until the character’s erasure Crisis on Infinite Earths. After this, a new version would debut in 1993’s “Reign of the Supermen”. This version is well known among fans as a clone of Superman and his nemesis, Lex Luthor. He would go on to become a founding member of Young Justice and an integral role in Geoff Johns’ Teen Titans ran in 2003. The character would be killed off during the events of Infinite Crisis, who sacrifices himself to save the universe. While the character’s sacrifice was a noble one, one has to wonder if there was a behind the scene reason for it.

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A new lawsuit by the heirs of Shuster and Siegel was filed in 2004, a year before Infinite Crisis started The lawsuit once again sought to examine the ownership rights of Superman and Superboy. Due to the ownership of the character in question, there is reason to speculate that Conner was killed off to avoid any legal problems arising from future appearances of the character. A similar effect was seen in the show Legion of Super Heroes. The initial press release for the show quoted Superboy (a young Clark Kent) as being a prominent character, but upon release he was referred to as Superman, seemingly a result of the ongoing legal battle.

Ultimately, the case would be settled in 2008, ruling that the Siegels and Shusters exclusively owned the rights to Superman as he appeared in Action Comics #1 and nothing after that. Conner would return in 2008 and continue the mantle of Superboy. Overall, the legal battle between DC and the Siegel and Shuster estates has shown that the legal aspect of comics can be a messy one. When the character was created, one could not foresee how much of an impact Superman would have on the world. Even now, nearly 100 years on, the character remains an icon in pop culture. Finally, Superman and Superboy are still featured in stories, and the future of the characters looks better than ever.

Sources: Justia Law, Scribd, Toy News International

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