The Supreme Court’s action lets stand a lower court ruling in favor of DC Comics, which has blocked efforts by Shuster’s family members to reclaim copyrights in Superman. A provision of the Copyright Act allows authors to terminate and reclaim previous assignments of copyrights, although certain conditions must first be met.
The decision on Monday means that a lower court ruling stands in favor of DC Comics, which contended that a 1992 deal they made with Shuster’s sister Jean Peavy and Frank Shuster had given up their ability to reclaim the Superman copyrights. The deal included pension payments of about $25,000 per year.
The story was also reported on by NBC news, FOX, and pretty much everywhere else.
The fan community has always held out hope that the case would be heard by the Supreme Court in some fireworks display of justice. I get that. But legal scholars have always cautioned against that optimism. Justice — and the law — isn’t that simple. Superman, and this case, certainly is not.
But now that I am no longer writing the book, so to speak, I don’t have to be so objective. Of all the parties involved, I think the Shusters have been taken advantage by nearly every single party they have come in contact with. Don’t get me wrong, there have been bad things on all sides of this case — some of them unforgivable. But now that legal avenues have been exhausted (how many times have we said that?), it is my strong hope that DC one day acknowledges Joe’s family — the artist who co-created Superman — with a more appropriate settlement. It is not the most important thing in the world (the Shusters would be the first to agree), but that’s my two cents. When a settlement does come — someday — to this case of two dead men, I hope that both families are treated in equal measure. Because that is what a settlement should acknowledge. That is what they did.
This image by the great Drew Friedman is available here as a very limited print. I have mine.
Drew’s new book Heroes of the Comics (just out) is fantastic: not only does he provide great facts and stories about each person, but his portraits of them offer their own narratives as to who these people actually were. I haven’t gone back to a book like I have with this one in a long time. Highest possible recommendation, especially as a gift (for yourself, too).
For those of you who subscribe to the blog — thank you! I think that the Court case offers a good time to take a hiatus. Or an Adam Warlock cocooning. I will have a big announcement soon — the next book! — which is going to be very, very different.