Jerry Siegel

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Jerome "Jerry" Siegel (October 17, 1914 – January 28, 1996), who also used pseudonyms including Joe Carter and Herbert S. Fine, was the co-creator of Superman (along with Joe Shuster), the first of the great comic book superheroes and one of the most recognizable comic book or cartoon characters of the 20th century.


Contents

Biography

Early life

The son of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania, Siegel was the youngest of six children. His father Mitchell was a sign painter who opened a haberdashery and encouraged his son's artistic inclinations. Tragically, Mitchell Siegel was shot and killed in his store by a thief when Jerry Siegel was still in junior high school.

Siegel was a fan of movies, comic strips, and, especially, science fiction pulp magazines. He became active in what would become known as fandom, corresponding with other science fiction fans, including the young future author Jack Williamson. In 1929, Siegel published what might have been the first SF fanzine, Cosmic Stories, which he produced with a manual typewriter and advertised in the classified section of Science Wonder Stories. He published several other booklets over the next few years.

Siegel attended Glenville High School in Cleveland, Ohio and worked for its weekly student newspaper, The Torch. He was a shy, not particularly popular student, but he achieved a bit of fame among his peers for his popular Tarzan parody, "Goober the Mighty". At Glenville he befriended his later collaborator, Joe Shuster. The writer-artist team broke into comics with Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson's landmark New Fun, debuting with the musketeer swashbuckler "Henri Duval" and the supernatural-crimefighter strip Doctor Occult in issue #6 (Oct. 1935).


Superman

Siegel and Shuster created Superman. They had used characters of the same name in short stories and in a 1933 comic-strip proposal. In 1938, after that proposal had languished among others at More Fun Comics — published by National Allied Publications, the primary precursor of DC Comics — editor Vin Sullivan chose it as the cover feature for National's Action Comics #1 (June 1938). The following year, Siegel & Shuster initiated the syndicated Superman comic strip.

In 1946, Siegel and Shuster, nearing the end of their 10-year contract to produce Superman stories, sued National over rights to the characters. In 1947, the team had rejoined editor Sullivan, by now the founder and publisher of the comic-book company Magazine Enterprises; there they created the short-lived comical crime-fighter Funnyman. Siegel went on to become comics art director for publisher Ziff-Davis in the early 1950s, and later returned to DC to write uncredited Superman stories in 1959. When he sued DC over the Superman rights again in 1967, his relationship with the hero he had co-created was again severed.

Siegel's later work would appear in Marvel Comics, where under the pseudonym "Joe Carter" he scripted the "Human Torch" feature in Strange Tales #112-113 (Sept.-Oct. 1963), introducing the teenaged Torch's high school girlfriend, Doris Evans; and, under his own name, a backup feature starring the X-Men member Angel, which ran in Marvel Tales and Ka-Zar. Siegel wrote as well during this time for Archie Comics, where he created campy versions of existing superheroes in Archie's Mighty Comics line; Charlton Comics, where he created a few superheroes; and even England's Lion, where he scripted The Spider. In 1968, he worked for Western Publishing, for which he wrote (along with Carl Barks) stories in the Junior Woodchucks comic book. In 1970s, he worked for Mondadori Editore (at that time the Italian Disney comic book licensee) on their title Topolino, listed in the mastheads of the period as a scriptwriter (soggettista e sceneggiatore).


Siegel & Shuster v. Time Warner

Siegel in 1975 launched a public-relations campaign to protest DC Comics' treatment of him and Shuster; ultimately Warner Communications, DC's parent company, awarded Siegel and Shuster $35,000 a year each for the rest of their lives and guaranteed that all comics, TV episodes (which would eventually include the popular Smallville show), films, and (later) video games starring Superman would be required to credit Superman was "created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster."

In 1986, Siegel was invited by DC Comics' editor Julius Schwartz to write an "imaginary" final story for Superman, following the pivotal Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline and the miniseries The Man of Steel, which reintroduced Superman. Siegel declined, and the story was instead given to writer Alan Moore, and published in September 1986 in two parts entitled Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? (the story was published in Superman #423 and Action Comics #583).

Siegel died in 1996. In 2005, he was posthumously awarded the Bill Finger Award For Excellence In Comic Book Writing. He was inducted into the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1993.


Posthumous Superman lawsuits

On April 16, 1999 Siegel's wife and daughter secured half of all rights to "each and every work (in any medium whatsoever, whenever created) that includes or embodies any character, story element, or indicia reasonably associated with Superman or the Superman stories, such as, without limitation, Superman, Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, Superboy, Supergirl, Lana Lang, Lex Luthor, Mr. Mxyzptlk, Ma and Pa Kent, Steel, the planet Krypton, Kryptonite, Metropolis, Smallville, or the Daily Planet."

Superboy was the subject of a legal battle between Time Warner, the owner of DC Comics and the estate of Jerry Siegel. The Siegels argued that the character of "Superboy" was an independent contractor at the time of the original Superboy pitch, and DC wasn't interested. After returning from World War II, Siegel found that DC published a Superboy story using ideas from his original pitch.

On March 23, 2006, federal judge Ronald S. W. Lew issued a summary judgment ruling that the Siegel heirs had the right to revoke their copyright assignment to Superboy and had successfully reclaimed the rights as of November 17, 2004. Warner Bros. and DC Comics replied that they "respectfully disagree" with the ruling and will seek review. Warner Bros. and DC Comics filed a motion for reconsideration of Judge Lew's ruling in January 2007. On July 27, 2007, federal judge Stephen G. Larson (who had replaced Lew upon his taking "senior status") issued a ruling reversing Judge Lew's ruling that the Siegel heirs had reclaimed the rights to Superboy.


References

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