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‘This case is by no means over,’ vows lawyer in Superman battle

From Action Comics #1

From Action Comics #1

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:

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Comics A.M. | ‘One Piece’ returns; Dubai as comics center?

One Piece, Vol. 70

One Piece, Vol. 70

Manga | The mega-popular series One Piece resumed publication in this week’s issue of Shonen Jump, after a two-week hiatus due to manga-ka Eiichiro Oda’s health problems following a tonsil infection. [Cruchyroll]

Comics | It seems like we are reading a lot about comics in the Arab world lately, and Egyptian graphic novelist Achraf Abd Elazim argues that the fourth major comics center (after New York, France and Belgium, and Japan) will be Dubai. [Your Middle East]

Comics | Michael Cavna kics off Comic Riffs’ celebration of Superman’s 75th birthday with a roundup of writers’ opinions on why the character has stood the test of time. [Comic Riffs]

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Comics A.M. | For Superman’s 75th, a look back at rights battle

Action Comics #1

Action Comics #1

Comics | To mark the 75th anniversary of Superman, and the premiere this week of Warner Bros.’ Man of Steel, Edward Helmore of The Telegraph recounts the long and bitter legal feud between DC Comics and the families of creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster over the rights to to the multibillion-dollar property, a battle from which the publisher has seemingly emerged victorious. [The Telegraph]

Comics | The New York Post’s Reed Tucker has some ideas on how to “fix” comics, starting with cutting the cover price to increase sales. [Parallel Worlds]

Comics | With an exhibit of original art from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts opening in a local gallery last week, a local comic convention in the works, and a thriving comics retail scene all year round, South Florida could just be the next comics hotspot. [WLRN]

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Another car drives through fence around site of Shuster home

The plates on the fence surrounding the site of the Shuster family home (via CapedWonder)

The plates on the fence surrounding the site of the Shuster family home (via CapedWonder)

Two years after a car drove through a fence surrounding the site of Joe Shuster’s former home in Cleveland, it’s happened again.

The Plain Dealer reports that a 41-year-old Cleveland man has been charged with drunken driving, leaving the scene of an accident and driving without a license after he allegedly drove off the street late Wednesday afternoon and plowed through the wooden fence. While a portion of the fence and seven large metal plates reprinting the first Superman story are missing, it’s unknown whether those plates are destroyed or were merely removed until repairs can be made.

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Hutchinson, Kansas, declares June 21 ‘Smallville Day’

welcome to smallvilleIt’s not exactly what three residents had in mind last year when they launched a campaign to change the name of Hutchinson, Kansas, to Smallville, but this week city council voted to proclaim June 21 as “Smallville Day” in honor of Superman.

That’s the same day the Man of Steel will be inducted into the Kansas Hall of Fame, alongside “the Father of Basketball” James Naismith, the band Kansas, Menninger Clinic founders Charles, Karl and Will Menninger, and the Union Army’s 1st Regiment Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry.

The push to rename Hutchinson was begun last year by friends Ben Eisiminger, KC McNeely and Christopher Wietrick, who noticed similarities between their city and the fictional hometown of Clark Kent — among them, a similar location and population (many more are detailed in the video below). The city of 42,080 also has a Clark Road and a Kent Road.

The Hutchinson News reports that given the 75th anniversary of Superman, the looming release of Warner Bros.’ Man of Steel and the Hall of Fame induction, Wietrick thought it was a perfect time to approach the city council with the idea. Tuesday morning, the members voted unanimously in support of the “Smallville Day” proclamation, which will be read at the June 18 by Mayor Bob Bush.

On June 21 the editor and publisher of The Hutchinson News will travel to Topeka to accept Clark Kent’s induction into the Kansas Hall of Fame, alongside Laura Siegel Larson, the daughter of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel.

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Shuster estate urges appeals court to reverse Superman ruling

From Action Comics #1

From Action Comics #1

If you thought the nearly decade-long legal battle for the rights to the Man of Steel had come to an end last month, think again: On Thursday, the attorney for the Joe Shuster estate asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn an October ruling that the family was prevented from reclaiming the artist’s stake in Superman by a 20-year-old agreement with DC Comics.

At issue is a 1992 deal in which the estate relinquished all claims to the property in exchange for “more than $600,000 and other benefits,” which included paying Shuster’s debts following his death earlier that year and providing his sister Jean Peavy and brother Frank Shuster with a $25,000 annual pension. On Oct. 17, U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright found that the agreement invalidated a copyright-termination notice filed in 2003 by Shuster’s nephew Mark Peary. Less than three months later, the 9th Circuit overturned a 2008 decision granting the heirs of Jerry Siegel the writer’s 50-percent share of the copyright to the first Superman story in Action Comics #1, effectively granting DC full ownership of the character.

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Ohio’s Superman license plates included with state budget

superman-ohioFrustrated by the glacial pace of a bill to create a Superman license plate, an Ohio representative pinned the legislation to the state budget, which passed the House on Thursday — coincidentally, the 75th anniversary of the Man of Steel.

“This is an important moment for Ohioans,” State Rep. Bill Patmon, who represents Cleveland, told The Plain Dealer. “This license plate is all about recognizing the American dream and the heroes that make it possible.”

The legislation now moves to the Senate, and then on to Gov. John Kasich for final approval. If all goes as planned, the plates will be available for purchase by Ohioans next summer.

Celebrating the creation of Man of Steel in 1932 by Cleveland teenagers Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the plates originally were intended to bear the phrase, “Birthplace of Superman,” but Warner Bros. and DC Comics objected to the slogan, insisting the superhero was born on Krypton. So instead they’ll now say “Truth, Justice & the American Way,” and sport the iconic “S” emblem.

The Siegel and Shuster Society began the push for the plate in 2011. A portion of the proceeds from sales of the specialty plates will go to the group to fund Superman projects.

Judge rules DC Comics owns Superboy rights

superboyEven as Cleveland’s mayor proclaimed April 18 “Superman Day” to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the release of Action Comics #1, a federal judge effectively brought to an end the lengthy legal battle for the rights to the Man of Steel.

Deadline reports that on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Otis Wright granted summary judgment to DC Comics, declaring that a 2001 agreement with the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel included the rights to Superboy and advertisements for Action Comics #1. Those two issues had been left unresolved in a January decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturning a 2008 ruling that the family had successfully reclaimed a portion of Siegel’s copyright to the first Superman story under a provision of the 1976 Copyright Act.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Happy anniversary, Lois Lane

A Lois Lane sequence from Action Comics #1, by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

Three panels which helped define a legend (from Action Comics #1, by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster)

Seventy-five years ago, on or about April 18, 1938, the company that would become DC Comics published the first issue (cover-dated June 1938) of a new anthology series. Today, Action Comics #1 is remembered mainly (and justifiably so) for introducing Superman.

Naturally, many of the elements and concepts from that first Superman story have changed over time. In Action #1, all we see of Krypton is its final fate. Pa Kent doesn’t have a first name, and Clark works for the Daily Star. There’s no Lex Luthor, no Jimmy Olsen, no Kryptonite, and no Superboy. Even Superman’s powers pale in comparison to what they would become.

However, two characters are already fleshed out pretty well, with motivations and dynamics instantly recognizable to today’s readers. One, of course, is Clark Kent, who creates the Superman identity to “turn his titanic strength into channels that would benefit mankind,” and who hides that strength behind a pair of glasses and a meek demeanor.

The other is Lois Lane.

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Cleveland mayor declares April 18 ‘Superman Day’

The plates on the fence surrounding the site of the Shuster family home (via CapedWonder)

The plates on the fence surrounding the site of the Shuster family home (via CapedWonder)

Someone, somewhere determined that on April 18, 1938 — it was a Monday, if you’re interested — Action Comics #1 arrived on newsstands, delivering riveting tales of Tex Thompson, Zatara the Master Magician and Scooby the Five-Star Reporter, and oh, yeah, introducing the world to Superman, Lois Lane and Krypton. It’s an issue that essentially gave birth to the superhero genre, and set the course of the fledgling comic-book industry.

Although DC Comics doesn’t appear to be marking the 75th anniversary of the Man of Steel, the city where teenagers Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created the character is, beginning in about an hour. At 1 p.m. ET, Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson will present the Siegel and Shuster Society with a proclamation on the steps of City Hall declaring today “Superman Day.”

To commemorate the event, a Superman flag will be raised, and the lights on City Hall and the Terminal Tower (familiar to anyone how watched The Avengers) will be turned blue, red and yellow. In addition, Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport will have cupcakes for travelers, and a birthday card for the Last Son of Krypton at its recently installed Superman Welcoming Center.

Cleveland newspaper celebrates Superman’s 75th anniversary

superman-plain dealerFollowing the video on Friday, The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s celebration of the 75th anniversary of Superman kicked into high gear Sunday with seven more stories, including a front-page feature.

Superman was, of course, created in 1933 by teenagers Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who lived in the city’s Glenville neighborhood (spotlighted in that Friday video), and then sold in 1938 to Detective Comics. The newspaper’s anniversary coverage includes:

Interviews with fans traveling to Cleveland to mark the occasion

A timeline (of sorts, although it’s more like a game board) of Superman’s 75-year history, from his arrival on Earth to his first encounter with Beppo to his relaunch in DC Comics’ New 52

A more in-depth chronicle of Superman’s journey

A rundown of the Superman-related events planned over the next few months

A Superman quiz

An interview with Brad Ricca, author of the upcoming Super Boys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster — the Creators of Superman

A video explaining everything you want to know about kryptonite in just 90 seconds

In addition to all of that, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has proclaimed Thursday “Superman Day.”

Cleveland newspaper takes Superman back to his roots

Jerry Siegel's former home in Cleveland

Jerry Siegel’s former home in Cleveland

Kicking off its celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Man of Steel, The Plain Dealer has released a video that traces Superman’s Cleveland roots, from the character’s creation by teenagers Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in the city’s Glenville neighborhood to the studio they later established that employed local artists like John Sikela, Leo Nowak, Ed Dobrotka and Hi Mankin.

Over the next few days, the newspaper will roll out more Superman content, including a 90-second video about kryptonite, the full story of the character’s creation, and an illustrated timeline.

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Judge denies DC’s claims against attorney in Superman feud

action1Following a series of devastating legal blows to the estates of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, their lawyer has finally received some good news: A federal judge denied a bid by DC Comics to force Marc Toberoff to pay $500,000 in attorneys  fees.

According to Variety, U.S. District Judge Otis Wright on Thursday rejected the publisher’s 2010 claims that Toberoff illegally interfered with its copyright claims to the Man of Steel when he convinced the Siegel and Shuster heirs to walk away from “mutually beneficial” agreements and seek to recapture the rights to the first Superman story in Action Comics #1. They argued that the attorney stood to gain a controlling interest in the property.

But Wright sided with Toberoff and the Siegel and Shuster heirs, saying that DC had waited too long to make its claims of tortious interference. “The point here is that DC had more than enough knowledge by November 2006 to have tickled a suspicion that its business relationship with the Shusters was being tampered with,” the judge wrote. “It was then—and not when DC gathered the smoking-gun evidence supporting each element of its cause of action—that it should have filed suit.”

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Judge confirms Superman belongs to DC Comics

Superman Unchained #1

Superman Unchained #1

A federal judge confirmed Wednesday that the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel relinquished any claims to the character in a 2001 agreement with DC Comics. However, that seems unlikely to end the nearly decade-long legal battle over the Man of Steel.

The order by U.S. District Judge Otis Wright III follows the January decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that the Siegel heirs had accepted a 2001 offer from DC that permits the publisher to retain all rights to Superman (as well as Superboy and The Spectre) in exchange for $3 million in cash and contingent compensation worth tens of millions — and therefore were barred from reclaiming a portion of the writer’s copyright to Action Comics #1.

Unwilling to give up, Siegel attorney Marc Toberoff introduced a new strategy earlier this month, arguing not only that the Ninth Circuit didn’t settle all of the outstanding issues but that if there was a contract, then DC failed to perform: “DC anticipatorily breached by instead demanding unacceptable new and revised terms as a condition to its performance; accordingly, the Siegels rescinded the agreement, and DC abandoned the agreement.”

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Comics A.M. | Judge won’t sanction lawyer in Superman battle

Superman

Superman

Legal | A federal judge on Friday denied DC Comics’ bid for sanctions against the attorney for the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, finding that Marc Toberoff made “no deliberate attempt to mislead” during the discovery process and, perhaps more importantly, did not interfere with the publisher’s rights to the Man of Steel when he allegedly inserted himself into settlement talks in 2001. [The Hollywood Reporter]

Legal | Stan Lee will be deposed this week by lawyers representing Stan Lee Media in its multi-billion-dollar lawsuit against Disney involving the rights to the characters the legendary writer co-created for Marvel. Stan Lee Media, which no longer has ties to its namesake, claims Disney as infringed on the copyrights Iron Man, the Avengers, X-Men and other heroes since 2009, when it purchased Marvel. The long, tortured dispute dates back to a sequence of events that occurred between August 1998, when Marvel used its bankruptcy proceedings to terminate Lee’s lifetime contract, and November 1998, when Lee entered into a new agreement with the House of Ideas and signed over his likeness, and any claims to the characters. Stan Lee Media has long claimed that on Oct. 15, 1998, Lee transferred to that company the rights to his creations and his likeness. SLM asserts in the latest lawsuit that neither Marvel nor Disney, which bought the comic company in 2009, has ever registered Lee’s November 1998 agreement with the U.S. Copyright Office. [The Hollywood Reporter]

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