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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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DC Comics seeks definitive end to decade-long Superman legal battle

From Action Comics #1

Seeking to end nearly a decade of litigation, DC Comics has asked for summary judgment in lawsuits brought by the heirs of Jerry Siegel regarding the copyrights to Superman and Superboy.

In a motion filed Thursday in federal court, and first reported by Law360, the publisher’s attorneys assert the Jan. 10 ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that effectively affirmed DC’s ownership of the Man of Steel bars Siegel’s daughter Laura Siegel Larson from moving forward with any claims.

That decision overturned a 2008 ruling that permitted Siegel’s family to recapture his portion of the copyright to the first Superman story in Action Comics #1 under a provision of the 1976 Copyright Act, which seemingly cleared a path for the estate of his collaborator Joe Shuster to do the same this year. That would have given the family of ownership of many of the Man of Steel’s defining elements, including his origin, his secret identity, Lois Lane and certain aspects of his costume and powers (super-strength and super-speed), while leaving DC with such later additions as Lex Luthor, kryptonite and Jimmy Olsen — not to mention the all-important trademarks.

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Comics A.M. | Siegel & Shuster heirs fight DC’s interference claim

Superman

Legal | In the aftermath of last month’s ruling that DC Comics retains full rights to Superman, the heirs of creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster are urging federal judge to dismiss claims that their lawyer interfered with the publisher’s copyright to the character. DC sued attorney Marc Toberoff in May 2010, accusing him impeding a 1992 copyright agreement with the heirs by striking overriding deals with them in 2001 and 2003. The families insist the publisher filed its claims two years too late, as the statute of limitations expired in 2008. [Law360]

Webcomics | Malicious hackers hit the Blind Ferret servers last week, and they didn’t just wipe out the websites that host Least I Could Do, Girls with Slingshots and other high-profile webcomics — they also wiped out the backups. Gary Tyrell has the story and advises creators to have multiple backups in multiple locations. [Fleen]

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Comics A.M. | Shuster attorney appeals Superman decision

Action Comics #1

Legal | A federal judge this week made final his Oct. 17 decision that the heirs of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster surrendered the ability to reclaim their 50-percent interest in the property in a 1992 agreement with DC Comics, triggering an almost-immediate appeal to the 9th Circuit by Shuster estate lawyer Marc Toberoff. Jeff Trexler delves into the legal strategy behind the attorney’s motion for final judgment. [The Hollywood Reporter]

Legal | Todd McFarlane has settled his lawsuit against former employee Al Simmons, who earlier this year released a book in which he claimed to be the inspiration for Spawn. McFarlane had accused Simmons of violating the terms of his employment pact and breaching his duty of loyalty. Settlement terms weren’t disclosed. [The Hollywood Reporter]

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Comics A.M. | Ohio’s Superman license plate moves closer to reality

Superman specialty plate

Comics | Ohio drivers moved a little closer to getting their Superman specialty license plate Wednesday as the proposal was outlined for a state Senate committee. The bill, which already passed the state House, is on track to go to the full Senate for a vote before the end of the year. The Siegel & Shuster Society launched the campaign for the plates in July 2011 to honor the 75th anniversary of the Man of Steel in 2013; the character, which debuted in 1938, was created six years earlier in Cleveland by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The original plan for the plates to include the slogan “Birthplace of Superman,” that met with objections from Warner Bros., which insisted he was born on Krypton. The legend will now read, “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” [Plain Dealer]

Manga | Tony Yao summarizes a recent article from The Nikkei Shimbun that analyzes the readership of Shonen Jump, which is 50 percent female despite the magazine being targeted to boys (“shonen” means “boy” in Japanese). They break down the popularity of series by gender and discuss how the female audience affects editorial decisions. [Manga Therapy]

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DC and Siegel heirs face off in appeal of Superman copyright case

From Action Comics #1

The 9th Circuit heard two appeals Tuesday that could decide the bitter 15-year-old legal battle for control of the Man of Steel.

An attorney for DC Comics asked the three-judge panel to reverse a 2008 decision granting the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel his portion of the copyright to Action Comics #1, arguing the family is reneging on a 2001 agreement that would have ensured the company’s ownership of the billion-dollar property.

DC has long argued that Siegel’s daughter Laura Siegel Larson walked away from a settlement deal that would’ve allowed the company to retain all rights to Superman in exchange for $3 million in cash and contingent compensation worth tens of millions. The publisher claims the heirs only withdrew from the settlement after attorney Marc Toberoff entered the picture, falsely asserting he had a $15 million offer for the rights from a billionaire investor (alleged to be Hollywood super-agent Ari Emanuel, brother of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel). However, a federal judge determined in 2008 that, without a formalized contract, there was no agreement.

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Comics A.M. | Appeals court to hear Superman copyright case today

Superman

Legal | The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments today on whether a negotiated 2001 deal DC Comics should prevent the daughter of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel from reclaiming his portion of the rights to the Man of Steel under a provision of U.S. copyright law. A federal judge determined in 2008 and 2009 that the writer’s heirs had successfully recaptured the copyright, asserting that because the 2001 agreement hadn’t been formalized, there was no deal. The appeals court is also set to review a ruling allowing DC to sue Marc Toberoff, who represents both the Siegel family and the estate of his collaborator Joe Shuster, for interfering with its agreements with the heirs. [Business Week]

Creators | Collaborators Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher talk about the latest Valiant relaunch, Shadowman. [USA Today]

Creators | John Ostrander, who writes several Star Wars comics for Dark Horse, gives his take on Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm. [ComicMix]

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Comics A.M. | Scottish city may honor Beano characters

Bash Street Kids

Comics | Scottish publisher DC Thomson has asked Dundee City Council to rename a street in the city’s west end to honor the Bash Street Kids, stars of the long-running comic strip in The Beano. An unnamed street adjacent to 142/144 West Marketgait would be called Bash Street as part of the celebration of the magazine’s 75th anniversary. [LocalGov]

Retailing | North Hollywood will get a new comics shop on Nov. 10, when Blastoff Comics opens its doors. Owner Jud Meyers seems to think it is an essential part of a hip neighborhood: “They want restaurants, they want bars, they want supermarkets, they want gyms. What didn’t they have? They don’t have a comic book store, every neighborhood has got to have a comic book store.” The opening will feature an assortment of comics guests, including Mark Waid, Greg Hurwitz, and Jim Kreuger, whose The High Cost of Happily Ever After will premiere at the event. [Patch.com]

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Comics A.M. | Penguin Group to launch kids’ graphic novel line

Penguin Group

Publishing | The Penguin Group plans to wade into the market for children’s graphic novels with a new line aimed at middle-grade and young-adult readers. “Clearly it’s a huge, growing market, the kid’s graphic novel market,” Penguin’s Rich Johnson told ICv2 at New York Comic Con. “You see those titles making the bestsellers list all the time. So we are looking to do work in that area to get more kids reading comics.” [ICv2]

Creators | Feisty as ever, Stan Lee talks about his World of Heroes YouTube channel and breaks up the camera crew a couple of times in an interview shot New York Comic Con. [MTV Geek]

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DC Comics wins crucial victory in Superman legal battle

From Action Comics #1

Handing a major victory to DC Comics, a California federal judge has ruled the heirs of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster surrendered the ability to reclaim their 50-percent interest in the property in a 1992 agreement with the publisher.

While the decision likely will be appealed, for now it means DC and parent company Warner Bros. can use the Man of Steel any way they wish beyond Oct. 26, 2013, when the Shuster estate would have recaptured its copyright to the first Superman story in 1938′s Action Comics #1. However, the companies must account for any profits earned from the property with the family of co-creator Jerry Siegel, which reclaimed its share in 2008 through a provision of the U.S. Copyright Act (the scope of that decision is on appeal). Had the Shuster estate succeeded, DC and Warner Bros. eventually would have been unable to use many of the character’s defining aspects, including his secret identity, his origin, certain elements of his costume and powers (super-strength and super-speed), and Lois Lane — barring a new agreement with the families of the two creators, naturally.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright granted DC’s motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of whether the Shuster estate’s 2003 copyright-termination notice was invalidated by a 20-year-old agreement with the late artist’s sister Jean Peavy. The publisher had argued the family relinquished all claims to the Man of Steel in 1992 in exchange for “more than $600,000 and other benefits,” including payment of Shuster’s debts following his death earlier that year and a $25,000 annual pension for Peavy.

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Jerry Siegel’s daughter speaks out in open letter to Superman fans

Action Comics #1

The same day that she helped to dedicate an exhibit at Cleveland’s airport recognizing the city as the place of Superman’s creation, Jerry Siegel’s daughter issued a letter to fans recounting her family’s fight to reclaim a portion of the Man of Steel copyright, and criticizing the tactics used by Warner Bros. and DC Comics in the increasingly bitter legal battle.

Characterizing their 15-year crusade as “my family’s David and Goliath struggle against Warner Bros.,” Laura Siegel Larson writes, “My father, Jerry Siegel, co-created Superman as the ‘champion of the oppressed … sworn to devote his existence to helping those in need!’ But sadly his dying wish, for his family to regain his rightful share of Superman, has become a cautionary tale for writers and artists everywhere.”

A federal judge ruled in 2008 that the family had succeeded in recapturing that share of the first Superman story in Action Comics #1 through a provision of the U.S. Copyright Act (the scope of the decision is on appeal), paving the way for the estate of Joe Shuster to do the same in 2013, effectively stripping DC of some of the defining elements of the Man of Steel, including his secret identity, his origin, his costume and Lois Lane. DC fired back in 2010, suing to force Marc Toberoff to resign as the Siegel attorney, claiming he enticed the heirs to walk away from a $3 million deal that would’ve permitted the company to retain control of Superman and stands to gain controlling interest in the property. DC is also asking a court to block the Shuster estate from reclaiming its stake, arguing the family relinquished all claims to Superman in 1992 in exchange for “more than $600,000 and other benefits,” including payment of Shuster’s debts following his death earlier that year and a $25,000 annual pension for his sister Jean Peavy.

Siegel Larson’s letter, first published by The Hollywood Reporter, arrived on the heels of a DC motion filed Wednesday in the Shuster case accusing Toberoff of, among other things, concealing evidence.

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