Newsarama have done a phenomenal breakdown of the complexities of the current executor of the Shuster estate attempting once more to claim the rights over Superman. I would not want to repeat it here, nor compete, but I do have a lot of thoughts to share.
The first thing I notice is that the new lawyer for the estate, if successful in this motion, will derive a whole 25% of earnings. So much for honouring the memory of a great creator. This is not a battle launched with the same spirit that gave us Image Comics and the many other creator-owned treasures we have come to know and love; nor the spirit that has over recent years delivered new business models for writers and artists in many of the not-so-smaller press companies.
As a regular reader of the TechDirt site, I am not a fan of stringent intellectual property laws. As much as they pretend to be protecting the creator, they more often than not stifle innovation, or act simply as mechanisms for ‘gatekeepers’ to skim off the profits while delivering the creator very little return on their passion. One only has to look at the current state of the music industry and the resistance to new forms of distribution and promotion of works for an example of this.
But in this case, I am in a quandary, finding myself sat on the bench with the copyright maximalists, and it’s an uncomfortable place to be.
But we have to accept, the comics industry is NOT the music industry. As creator rights have grown in the past two decades, we can not view the Big Two as gate keepers like the music labels. If you add something to their universes, then you are well aware of the circumstances under which you do so. If anything, nowadays this is not only a creator’s opportunity to contribute to a dynamic and evolving universe, but also a platform with which to publicise your own work. Simply look at Jonathon Hickman, who is nearing the end of a stupendous run on the Fantastic Four (and FF). From this day forward, I will buy anything with his name on it, just as I do if I see the names of Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, John Ostrander or (and here’s a blast from the past that keeps me digging through the back issue bins) Mark Evanier.
Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster did not have the benefit of working under today’s more enlightened conditions, and if they were alive today, I would be shouting at the top of my voice in their support.
But this? This is just greed, and legal action for the sake of legal action.
God save us from lawyers.