The Official Death Of Superman Forever
It's a bird. No, it's a plane. It's SUPERMAN!!!
It's hard to believe sometimes that Superman has been a part of American pop culture for nearly a century now. In fact, like so many of you, I grew up reading the Superman comics. Next to Spider-Man, Superman was my favorite comic book to read. Although it wasn't always like that, there used to be a time I hated Superman. Seriously, outside the first two movies with Christopher Reeves, I hated the character. Why? He was merely too much of a boyscout to me, and it seems nothing was ever a problem for him. Everything in Metropolis would be fine. Bad guys would get what they deserve, and none of his super hero work would interfere with his personal life much. Unlike Spidey, where it did. Therefore, what was at stake? Plus, nobody can dare tell me the whole mass retardation in Metropolis wasn't stupid on how nobody recognized Clark Kent as Superman, when all he did was put on a pair of glasses as Clark. Not even Lois Lane figured it out until he told her. How dumb do you have to be?
Then came the classic storyline, "Death and Return of Superman." Now before I go any further, I'd like to point out this hub does not go over that saga, despite this article's title. No, this hub isn't even about that, as it's more about the recent copyright issues surrounding the character, and my current thoughts about a iconic character that I grew up with reading about.
To get back to what I was trying to say, I didn't really start to get into Superman until D.C. Comics made an announcement back in the nineties, that they were going to kill off Superman. Seeing this as an opportunity to get something valuable and worth a lot of money down the road, I tried to collect as many issues as I could. However, that didn't mean I was going to let those issues collect dust, as I did read the issues as I bought them. I was still in high school, at the time, and I was still collecting comic books. I'll be perfectly honest, the whole Doomsday and Superman part, was just a slug fest. Seriously, not a lot of story line there. "The Funeral for a friend", part was very boring for me. Sure the first few issues were good but after that, it became one big snore fest as it just showed how the minor characters whined and complained saying how much they miss Superman/Clark Kent. Blah, blah, blah, and just a whole lot of pouting over his death. I know the writer's were trying to create a heartfelt and genuine story, but it was a bit over dramatic for my taste.
Then came "The Return of Superman" or better known as the "Reign of Supermen." Needless to say, I was hooked ever since. Loving the concept of how when the world becomes so desperate accept these four impostors as the genuine article, in absence of the real hero, that would allow one of them use this to their advantage to try to conquer Earth. That's when I really got into Superman. Even though I don't read comic books anymore, I still watch a lot of cartoons. I guess a part of me inside just never grew up or something. That's why I guess one could say that the super hero genre of movies, are my favorite. As most of them tend to bring out the kid inside me.
That's one of the reasons why when I found out D.C Comics and Warner Bros. were going to possibly lose the rights to the character completely that much more devastating. Although I dont' read the comics anymore, I still love the movies. In fact, I'm always kind of sad that Hollywood has never put up a Superman movie that's faithful to the comic book, outside the first two movies with Christopher Reeves. Sadly, even that didn't get Superman right either. As Warner Bros. continues to want to portray Superman as some almighty god like figure that has no limits to his power, although in the comics there are limits. Plus, Clark Kent is always the bumbling idiot. Seriously, in the comics he's always average guy, but Warner Bros. still wants to use the "Steve Urkell" type Clark. Anyway, I digress.
The Lawsuit and What It Could Mean For Superman
Last year, there was an impending lawsuit against Warner Bros. and D.C. Comics, filed by the heirs of Jerry Siegel, one of the co-creators of Superman. Apparently, when Jerry Siegel and Joel Shuster sold the rights to the character, back in the 1930's, to D.C. for one hundred and thirty eight dollars. Their heirs claimed D.C allegedly ripped them off, as they had no idea how immensely popular this character was going to grow over time. To make matters even more worse, none of the heirs were given any royalties for the last Superman movie, "Superman Returns." That's why in July 2009, a lawsuit was ruled in favor of D.C. Comics and Warner Bros., when the Siegel heirs tried to sue them for the royalties. Luckily, D.C. Comics and Warner Bros. managed to win that case.
However, that's not to say it was a total loss for the Siegel heirs. As the judge did rule that if Warner Bros. wasn't filming a new Superman movie by 2011, then the heirs could rightfully sue for damages. In 2013, both the Shuster and Siegel families will own the entire copyright to Superman. Basically meaning neither D.C. Comics nor Warner Bros. will be able to use any iteration of the character in any medium, without making some type of new deal with the heirs of Siegel and Shuster. Therefore, if Warner Bros. and D.C. wish to retain the rights to the character, then it might be best to get started on a new movie asap. However, here's the problem.
There is no script, no director, no actors assigned to the movie, and it doesn't look like that's going to change. In fact, the only thing that is certain about Superman is that "Smallville" is petitioning for another season, and that "Superman Returns" wasn't as financially successful as Warner Bros. hoped. Therefore, Warner Bros. wants to reboot it and start production to have it released as early as 2012. Oh and Warner Bros. has asked Christopher Nolan (Director of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight) to mentor the lucky directory, whom will have a chance to reboot Superman. Sounds easy, but it's not considering the other details of this lawsuit. You see even though D.C. and Warner Bros. won the case, they lost certain rights to the character.
Confused? I'll gladly explain. Any depiction of Superman's origin with him coming from Krypton and landing on Earth is now owned by the Siegels. Basically, D.C. and Warner Bros. are not allowed to make any references to it, without the Siegel heirs consent. It gets even worse too. Depictions of Superman's real parents, his infancy depictions, and the whole concept of Superman's planet exploding. Seriously, D.C. and Warner Bros. can't even bring that up anymore. Then there's the depiction of Clark Kent, Lois Lane, his costume, love triangle with Lois/Clark/Superman, and their jobs at Daily Planet. All these facets of the Superman mythology belong to the Siegels, legally.
However, D.C. Comics and Warner Bros. still own the rights to all of Superman's powers, Lex Luthor, term Kryptonite, Jimmy Olson, Perry White, and whatever expanded origins D.C. Comics may have done in the past. Basically, translating that any new director, who has the daunting task to relaunch the movie franchise, isn't going to have full access to the whole Superman mythology. On the bright side, he'll have Christopher Nolan mentoring him though. I guess you can take that for whatever it's worth.
Some who might read this are probably still confused as to how exactly D.C. can reboot a character without having access to his full history. Well, here's how the confusion got started. In 1938, Superman first appeared in "Action Comics", which was sold to D.C. by Jerry Siegel and Joel Shuster. Everything that happened after that was "work for hire" by D.C. Comics. According to the ruling, the heirs of both families will own Superman in 2013. Which will give them the ability to shop around and set up various mediums of the character through different studios and companies.
Final thoughts: Although I don't read comics anymore, I think this is rather sad to say the least. As it would be kind of strange if Superman were to suddenly be bought by Marvel/Disney and see him fighting next to Iron Man and the Avengers. Seriously, it could happen. However, would that really work? I mean, whenever you think about D.C. Comics, one of the very first characters that come to mind is Superman. It's like how Spider-Man is often associated to Stan Lee or Marvel. You can't just ignore that. Or there's even a possibility that the heirs of both families might not even put another Superman movie out there or put him out there through any medium. Then what? They could very well decide to live off the collected royalties they get when they sue Warner Bros. in 2011, if there's no movie in production.
Plus, what does mentoring even mean? All the new director has to understand is f@*k Richard Donner's version of Superman, and come up with your own. That's the mistake Bryan Singer did, and look what happened. Don't get me wrong, I liked "Superman Returns", but it could have been a lot better. I know he was trying to pay homage to Donner's version, but my thoughts are if your going to do that....then get Donner to come out of retirement, and have him direct the next movie. I don't think he's dead yet. Seriously, it's ridiculous. I loved Donner's version just as much as the next fan, but please for the love of god, come up with something else. You think Christopher Nolan cared too much about Tim Burton's version of Batman? Hell no. He made up his own version of the character based on research of the comics. Which is exactly what the new director of Superman needs to do.
Plus, according to the articles I researched, none of Superman villains are taken away from them to use, so Warner Bros. needs to use a different villain than Lex Luthor. Superman has villains across the freaking galaxy and in parallel worlds, so you have a great deal of choices. Pick any one of them outside of Lex, and make a movie.
Anyway, I apologize for that short rant, but I would like to say this. Superman was always one of my favorite characters as a kid, and I hope he'll be around for centuries to come.