ANDY FISH is a comic book artist

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Saga of Siegel and Shuster

One of the books I'm reading on my new Color Nook is SUPERMAN VS HOLLYWOOD which details the mishandling of the Superman character and Hollywood's initial negative reaction to comic books as fodder for film.

Detailed in the book is the story of Superman's creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster who created the character when they were still teenagers from Cleveland and who parlayed him into the first costumed superhero in the new medium of comic books.

Signing over the rights to the character to National Publications, now DC Comics, the pair were contracted to produce Superman stories for ten years at a pretty decent salary for the time-- so much in fact that they were able to hire a team of ghosts to work on the popular strips-- a practice which continues to this day in the commercial art world, but in 1946 the pair decided to sue DC Comics for ownership of Superman and upon settling the suit for $94,000.00 shortly after they were fired.

Some years later, Warner Bros was putting a lot of money into SUPERMAN THE MOVIE and artists Neal Adams and Jerry Robinson aided Siegel and Shuster in creating a publicity campaign outlining the facts that the two were living in near poverty while Superman had generated close to $50Billion for the company.  DC finally opted to provide the men with a 20K a year pension and health insurance, eventually upping it to $30,000.00 each annually plus bonuses from the success of the film of $15,000.00 each.  

It would make for an interesting film, although I'm skeptical WB would be happy about the negative impact it would have on their public image.  Many of the golden age creators lived out their final years in near poverty while their creations continued to churn in revenue for comic book companies-- and DC isn't the only one guilty in this, most of the publishers at the time used the same shoddy business practice of denying monetary rewards for characters that were created.

Times have changed and today a smart creator will maintain some of the rights and revenues generated by their own works.