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KANE WAS SMARTER THAN SIEGEL AND SHUSTER

On Sunday morning at the San Diego Comic-Con, I attended “Superman on Trial: The Secret History of the Siegel and Shuster Lawsuits,” which, moderated by Heidi MacDonald of PublishersWeekly.com, featured Brad Ricca, author of Super Boys, a recent biography of the creators of Superman, and the Siegel and Shuster Lawsuit Historylegal commentary of Jeff Trexler. The most provocative part of the session took place in the last minutes. Trexler noted that the legal counsel for the Warner Bros side of the still-ongoing wrangle over possession of Superman was seated in the front row, and he (whose name I didn’t get) observed that if writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster had not sued DC in 1948, they would doubtless have enjoyed the same sort of benevolent treatment that Bob Kane enjoyed from the publisher — and Kane died a wealthy and happy man.

Someone in the audience contended that Kane had negotiated a much more favorable contract with DC than Siegel and Shuster had (because, according to legend, Kane’s father entered  into the negotiation), but the Warner lawyer said that if that happened, there is no documentation of it. In fact, the only documentation is the contract Kane had, which was exactly the same as the one Siegel and Shuster signed at the beginning: it stipulated page rate pay, percentages and a 10-year term, subject, as usual, to renewal at the expiration of the term.

But Seigel got greedy. While in the army during World War II, he’d been advised by a would-be lawyer that he and Shuster should be getting more, and so he decided to go for DC’s fiscal throat. And lost.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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