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Characterized by Matt Fraction as “the most important $412 dollars in comics history,” the check written to a young Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, in part, for the rights to Superman, has surfaced among the items for an upcoming auction.
“Have you ever made a business decision that haunted you?” writer Gerry Duggan tweeted Monday, pointing to images of the check. “This piece of true comics history will make you feel better.”
Indeed that check, written March 1, 1938, by Detective Comics Publisher Jack Liebowitz, has been key to several legal and moral disputes, the first beginning barely a year after its signing. (Bleeding Cool notes an April 6, 1939, stamp on the back for the U.S. District Court of New York, suggesting it was entered as evidence in DC’s copyright-infringement lawsuit against Bruns Publications over the Will Eisner-created Wonder Man.)
Of the $412, $130 was for the rights to Superman; the remaining $282 was in payment for stories contributed to Detective Comics, Adventure Comics and More Fun Comics. It’s worth pointing out that Liebowitz managed to misspell the last names of both Siegel and Shuster, leading them to sign twice on the back.
The check will be among the items from Siegel’s personal collection auctioned Nov. 14-30 by Comic Connect. Other memorabilia include Siegel’s favorite suit and tie, clumps of his hair — yes, you read that correctly — his personal typewriter and a Superman script.
“Much has been made of the original 1938 $130 payment to Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster,” Comic Connect said in a statement. “Did DC Comics take advantage of two eager young men looking for their big break in the comic business or was this unequivocally fair business practice between comic book writers and publishers in a 1938 America? Whatever you believe, the $130 check is the quintessential symbol of this debate for the ages.”