Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Superboy/Superman "law crack" and more

First, Paul Levitz participates in a "How I Got Here" series in the Wall Street Journal, interviewed in San Diego. Totally not relevant to the rest of this entry, just thought I'd put it here rather than a whole post by itself.

Second, an update on the Superboy and Superman lawsuit, which you'll remember are being tried sort-of together by the same judge. Jeff Trexler at Uncivil Society has the latest set of briefs (which came out while I was at San Diego) which he calls "law crack".

The latest briefs from both sides are available, with the Siegels and DC taking their best shot at legal questions arising from the Siegels' copyright interest in the Superman material in Action Comics 1.

Five new documents are now available in pdf format, which contain insight and information on both the Superman and Superboy lawsuits:
  • The Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Points and Authorities on Pre-Trial Issues, 80 pages saying how they have recaptured copyright of some part of Superman, why Warner Bros. is wrong, and how they should pay the Siegels
  • The Defendants' Brief on Additional Issues, 80 pages saying why Warner Bros. has not lost copyright of Superman and should not have to pay the Siegels anything
  • The Declaration in Support of Defendants' Brief on Additional Issues, multiple exhibits including the 1939 agreements beween Siegel, Shuster, and DC in which S&S confirm that "Detective Comics Inc. are the sole and exclusive owners of the comic strip entitled SUPERMAN"; a letter from DC saying that the artwork is slipping in quality despite having 43 pages a month to churn out; and copies of JLA #2, Justice #11, and JLA Classified #27.
  • The Declaration in Support of Plaintiffs' Pre-Trial Briefing, multiple exhibits including expert witness statements by Jim Steranko and Mark Evanier; Evanier's rebuttal to the defendants' expert witness; excerpts from Evanier's deposition; the 1947 agreement between DC and Siegel/Shuster; and excerpts from Jerry Siegel's unpublished autobiography (as provided by Mark Waid).
  • The Declaration in Support of Defendants' Brief on Additional Issues, a brief by Paul Levitz explaining how WB/DC licenses and merchandises Superman, including DVD releases. Levitz's testimony, by the way, was given on July 21, just a couple days before San Diego.

The Legion shows up a few times here and there, in particular in Evanier's statements.

Of the documents as presented, I have only read the declarations so far, and not the two 80-page giant briefs. I've made it this far reading all of the documents Jeff has found, so I'll get to those sooner or later. But while Mark Evanier writes some excellent briefs, making me think about some points that I hadn't thought of before regarding what was original (and thus copyrightable), I still have this gut feeling - which is why it's good I'm not a lawyer - that while the Siegels will win at least a portion of the Superman case, I can't help but think that for all Siegel and Shuster did that's original with Superboy, it's still "Superman as a boy" and thus derivative, meaning Superboy was never the Siegels' to reclaim.

There's another court date set for August 11, next Monday. We'll see what happens then.

1 comment:

Jim Drew said...

I tend to agree with you, Michael.

"Okay, so you did 'Superman as a boy'. It follows logically from him arriving on Earth as a baby and exhibiting powers, and being seen as an adult, that he must have existed as a boy as well."

"Okay, you provided Lana Lang: a sometimes girlfriend of Superman-as-a-boy and sometime antagonist/annoyance for him, a character who primary roles were to get in trouble and need to be saved, and to be a snoop who tried to uncover Superman-as-a-boy's secret identity. Just like Lois Lane."

And so on. The core concepts, the archetypes, were already in place, with only variations provided rather than distinct new content.