Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rebooting Superman

As long as I can remember, my three favorite things have always been (in no particular order) Star Trek, Disney World, and Superman. This blog is mainly about Disney World, and I’ve written about Star Trek from time to time, but this is the first time I’ve been compelled to write about Superman. The reason, as you might have guessed, is the recently-announced Giant Reboot Of The Whole DC Comics Universe.

There’s a lot we don’t know at this point, but it seems that Superman will get the most drastic changes, with a new origin and even a new costume:

superman1Okay, why does he need a belt if he no longer has the red undershorts?

So what’s the reason for all this? After all, this will be the third new origin Superman has been given since 2003. Well, since the reboot is being coupled with a new digital distribution scheme it’s obvious that DC is trying to create a jumping-on point for new readers. Unfortunately, there may be an even more nefarious reason for the big changes coming to Superman: lawyers.

You see, a court has ruled that the rights to the Superman’s first appearance in 1938’s Action Comics #1 should revert to the family of co-creator Jerry Siegel. I’m no expert in coypright law, but based on what I’ve read elsewhere this means that the Siegels now own all the elements of the Superman mythos that appeared in that seminal issue. This would include his classic costume, his Kryptonian orgin, his power of invulnerability, and Clark Kent’s job as a newspaper reporter with a gruff editor and a co-worker named Lois. The theory in most Superman fan circles is that this new version of Superman has been designed to excise those things. This amounts to having lawyers make creative decisions, and that’s a very bad thing.

There are already Superman-like characters that are designed to be similar to him, yet different enough to avoid claims of copyright infringement. It doesn’t matter if DC still has the right to publish comics about a character named Superman who wears the S-shield on his chest, if he’s missing half of the Superman mythos then he might as well be Mr. Majestic, Samaritan, Supreme, or any of the other knock-off characters we’ve seen over the years.

The worst-case scenario here is that Warner Brothers (DC’s parent company) and the Siegels will be unable to come to terms, and that both parties will market their own versions of Superman using the pieces of the character that they each own. This would obviously be a disaster. Hopefully, both sides realize this and reach some kind of a settlement.

The only reason I have for optimism here is that Grant Morrison, author of All-Star Superman, the most perfect Superman story ever, is involved with the reboot and will be writing Action Comics. My hope is that the “new” Superman will end up a lot like the proposed Superman 2000 revamp that Morrison, Mark Waid, and Mark Millar proposed back in the late ‘90s.

Still, if Warner Brothers and the Siegel family can’t come to some kind of an agreement over the copyright issue, then not even Grant Morrison will be able to save Superman. And that would be a shame.


  1. I wouldn't worry about Superman too much - according to numerous comic books sites, he'll be fine. :)
    Comics Alliance http://www.comicsalliance.com/ has plenty of information on the new DC universe.

  2. Thanks for reading! I wrote this before we knew as much about the reboot as we know now. Since Grant Morrison's Superman (the first five issues or so anyway) will basically be the Golden Age version, it sounds like the Siegel lawsuit isn't as much a factor as was initially thought.

    I'm really excited about the prospect of Grant Morrison working on a regular Superman title. Hopefully he stays on the book a good long time.


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