In an ongoing California court battle over Superman, Judge Stephen Larson issued a ruling Wednesday that awards the family of the superhero’s co-creator, Jerry Siegel, rights to additional works, including the first two weeks of the daily Superman newspaper comicstrips, as well as portions of early Action Comics and Superman comicbooks.
This means the Siegels now control depictions of Superman’s origins from the planet Krypton, his parents Jor-L and Lora, Superman as the infant Kal-L, the launching of the infant Superman into space by his parents as Krypton explodes and his landing on Earth in a fiery crash.
After a court order reverted rights to the Siegels in 2008, they owned the basis of the Superman character, including his costume, his alter-ego as reporter Clark Kent, the feisty reporter Lois Lane, their jobs at the Daily Planet newspaper working for a gruff editor, and the love triangle among Clark/Superman and Lois.
But that didn’t give them the full Superman copyright because DC owns other important elements like Superman’s ability to fly, the term kryptonite, the Lex Luthor, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White characters, Superman’s vision powers and expanded origins.
The confusion exists because Superman first appeared in 1938 in Action Comics No. 1, which was sold by Siegel and co-creator Joel Schuster to DC. Everything after that was a work-for-hire, owned by DC.
However, copyright law dictates that full ownership of Superman goes back to the Siegels in 2013. That will give them the chance to set up Superman pics, TV shows and other projects at another studio.
Superman remains the elusive dream of the perfect hero and a hero we choose to hold onto for clarity in our imperfect Thrall World. Now more than ever before we need Superman and we anxiously await his return.