The Superman Birthday Conversation

By | Thursday, April 18, 2013 Leave a Comment
Here's the short version of the basic conversation I saw online today...

Person 1: "Yay! The man of steel turns 75 today! Happy birthday, Superman!"

Person 2: "Let's not forget that he was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and they got royally screwed! DC has man hundreds of millions of dollars off their character and treated them like shit!"

Person 1: "Dude, what is your deal? Can we not just celebrate a great character that's brought joy to tons of people?"

Superman is one of the most recognizeable characters in the world. He's been very much a part of our culture for three quarters of a century now, and is argueably the single most iconic character to come out of comics. Thousands of stories have been told about him and, while many of them were absolutely drek, a great number of them helped to inspire and encourage people. You've heard that story about J. Michael Straczynski helping to tackle a thief at Comic-Con, partially inspired by a nearby Superman cut-out, right? That's one of the more famous stories, but there are thousands of tales of people taking their cues on goodness and respect and honesty and justice from Superman stories, whether they were comic books or serials or TV shows. There's a lot to be said for that, and it's partially why there's convention in his honor every year in Metropolis, Illinois.

But at the same time, the two men who created the character were shafted. Big time. They were screwed in such a huge way that DC's purchase of the character for a mere $130 is often called the "original sin" of comics. (It isn't, for the record. Richard Outcault, for example, got screwed out of both the Yellow Kid and Buster Brown over thirty years earlier!) What makes DC's abuses worse is that they have spent decades doing everything they can to keep as much recognition and money away from Siegel and Shuster. Yes, they did provide some compensation in later years, but barely a drop in the bucket from the monies they earned from any one of the Superman movies.

Even today, long after both men and their spouses are dead, there's only reference to Superman at all on DC's home page (a single image of the character amid the rest of the Justice League) and the last reference to him on their official blog was in December of last year. Everybody else is celebrating, but not DC.

And THAT is what is most egregious. Not that Siegel and Shuster got treated like shit 75 years ago -- but that they're STILL treated like shit 75 years later! That, officially, Siegel and Shuster are persona non grata at the company that bought stole the character from them.

I'll be honest: I'm not a fan of Superman. I liked him when I was a kid -- I watched all the cartoons and saw the Christopher Reeve movies. I even watched the George Reeves TV show when it ran briefly on Saturday afternoons on our local UHF station. The first comic I ever purchased with my own money was Action Comics #495. I appreciate the character. Not really a fan any more, but I liked him pretty well back in the day. And I would like to be able to celebrate a character that has had such a powerful impact around the globe. But, damn it, DC, it is LONG past time that you stop being hypocritical and practice the justice that your biggest, most famous, most valuable character preaches.
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