Axel-In-Charge: Unmasking the "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Despite a series of seemingly definitive decisions in DC Comics’ favor, the nearly decade-long legal fight over the rights to Superman continues, with the estate of co-creator Joe Shuster asking an appeals court just three weeks ago to overturn a ruling barring the family from reclaiming the artist’s stake in the Man of Steel. At the center of the battle is tenacious and controversial attorney Marc Toberoff, the longtime nemesis of Warner Bros. who represents the heirs of Shuster and his collaborator Jerry Siegel.
He’s the subject of a lengthy feature in the latest issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, in which he pledges he’ll take the Superman dispute to the Supreme Court, if necessary. “This case is by no means over,” he tells the magazine. “My clients and I are prepared to go the distance.” It’s an interesting article that’s part history lesson and part personality profile, with several tidbits (of varying importance) that I can’t recall seeing previously:
• Toberoff is charging the Siegel family a 30 percent contingency fee, but Laura Siegel Larson points out that “He has not made a penny out of this.” He won’t say how much he’s spent on the case.
• The attorney and his children barely escaped a 2007 wildfire that destroyed his Malibu home and all of his possessions; he appeared in court in a hoodie and sweatpants until he could buy a new wardrobe. He also survived a near-fatal car accident that same year while on his way to a deposition in Philadelphia: Although his car was crashed, trapping him within, “Toberoff snacked on half a sandwich in his briefcase awaiting the police. He made the deposition on schedule.”
• While I knew that Toberoff’s movie-making interests became a point of contention in the Superman case — he and the Shusters set up a joint venture in 2001 that would’ve given his Pacific Pictures half of the family’s character rights — I hadn’t realized he was a producer on such films as My Favorite Martian, Black Irish, Bottle Shock and 2010’s Pirahna.
• Toberoff acknowledges it was “a mistake” for him and Hollywood super-agent Ari Emanuel to approach the Siegels in 2002 with an offer to license their Superman rights for $15 million. (They said no, and he later dissolved the joint venture with the Shusters.)
• Mark Warren Peary, Shuster’s nephew and the executor of his estate, is the author of The Ten Biggest Diet Myths and Greatest Health Secrets Revealed.