The legal battle between the heirs of Superman creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel and the companies that house the Man of Steel, DC Comics and Warner Bros., has been nothing short of a David and Goliath story for quite a while now. However, after a recent decision, a small concession for the former could mean big problems for the latter.
On Wednesday, Judge Stephen G. Larson ruled in favor of DC Comics and Warner Bros. in a suit filed by the heirs of Jerry Siegel, according to Variety. The Siegel family asserted that they are owed profits on "Superman Returns" due to a "sweetheart" deal between DC and the WB, but the court disagreed with the claim.
Yet, in what could be viewed as a silver lining for the Siegels and Shusters, the judge ruled that if production on a new "Superman" film does not begin by 2011, the families will be eligible to sue Warner Bros. for damages, as they will own the entire Superman copyright in 2013.
"[The] entire accounting action pales in comparison to the fact that in 2013, the Siegels, along with the estate of Joe Shuster, will own the entire original copyright to Superman, and neither DC Comics nor Warner Bros. will be able to exploit any new Superman works without a license from the Siegels and Shusters," said Marc Toberoff, who represents the Siegels in the case.
"The Court pointedly ruled that if Warner Bros. does not start production on another Superman film by 2011, the Siegels will be able to sue to recover their damages," he added.
The logical step for Warner Bros. and DC Comics, then, is to get started on the "Superman" reboot they announced last year, but as Warner Bros. chariman Alan Horn testified, there are no current developments on a sequel -- no director, no script, nothing. Horn said that the very earliest another "Superman" film could be released was 2012.
Given that the ruling came down yesterday, it's a pretty good bet that the coming days and weeks will be filled with Warner Bros. and DC Comics executives teaming up to fast-track a "Superman" sequel so as to avoid yet another lawsuit over the film's rights in the future. As a result, the Man of Steel could be flying on screen much sooner than we'd anticipated -- but would a rushed "Superman" movie fare any better than the already mildly-received "Superman Returns"?
However this one shakes out, one thing is certain: with the rights reverting to the Siegels and Shusters in 2013, the clock is ticking on the Last Son of Krypton's film future.
What do you make of this latest "Superman" lawsuit?