Yesterday I took a look at the possible financial motivations for DC comics’ upcoming massive reboot of their superhero universe. Today I am going to go over the possible legal motivations for at least part of it.
In 1999 the heirs of Superman co-creators Jerry Siegel filed a lawsuit to regain at least partial ownership of his creation. In 2008 they won a significant part of that suit. According to the ruling the Siegel estate now owns 50% or all concepts related to Superman introduced in the early comics and newspaper strips. This includes his origin as an alien from a doomed world, his alter ego of Clark Kent, his career as a reporter, his love interest Lois Lane and the Lois/Clark/Superman love triangle. Also his Basic powers of super strength, super speed and being bullet proof.
What they don’t own is his expanded powers including flight, the vision powers or other super senses, or his weakness Kryptonite. They also don’t own Lex Luthor, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, Lana Lang, Supergirl, Krypto, and the Daily Planet.
Add to this that apparently they will gain control of the full copyright in 2013.
Now how does this affect the reboot?
While there has been no official comment one has to wonder.
According to writer Grant Morrison they have changed some of the basics of the story.
Ok, but how?
The one thing we know for sure is that the costume is different. You no longer have the red trunks on the outside of the suit. Another thing is when I look at it I get the impression that it is metal, like maybe armor of some kind.
The biggest buzz however is for plot points that I have not seen confirmed officially anywhere. The big one I touched on yesterday. Lois Lane will no longer be the love interest. The rumor mill suggests that Superman will now be involved with Wonder Woman. I also note that not one solicitation, interview or press release that I have seen has used the name Clark Kent. To be fair I have heard nothing saying he won't be Clark Kent, just that with eveything else going on it is something I took notice of.
It doesn’t take a legal genius to see that the reboot appears to be moving away from the Siegel co-owned aspects of the character. The theory going around is that DC will try to establish that the current Superman is a distinct character from the Siegel co-owned version prior to the 2013 deadline. And what better way to sneak that in then as part of a universe wide reboot.
The inherent problem here is public perception. If you ask any person on the street about Superman’s backstory they will tell you some variation of the one used in the 1978 film. Trying to sell an altered Man of Steel to the public, especially one as picky and the comic fan community, is an uphill battle.
Next post I take a look at the possible role of DC comics’ parent company in the relaunch.