Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Here are a couple of articles about the forthcoming Superman themed license plate in Ohio. I'm linking to these in part because of what's not being said in them.

First, here's what is being said. Ohio wanted to create a plate that read "Birthplace of Superman." But Warner and DC comics said they shouldn't. Or asked them not to. The relevant phrases quoted in the article are "does not want to offend" and "there was some discomfort over saying 'birthplace'". Neither of these statements come from DC or Warner. They come from Ohio people who are accommodating the company who owns Superman. So they're changing the plate so it will read something else; they have not decided on the exact wording.

Here's what's not being said, at least as far as I can tell: This is absurd. This is worthy of ridicule. We call something a birthplace because that's where it started. Siegel and Shuster lived in Ohio when they made up Superman. Therefore, by any definition it is Superman's birthplace.

So Warner doesn't want to acknowledge that. I'm reminded of the final page of All-Star Superman #10, which features Frank Quitely's rendition of one of Shuster's earliest drawings of Superman. The dialogue reads "This is going to change everything." In Morrison's original script, it read, "We're going to make a million dollars." I'm paraphrasing there, because he said it in one of the thousand interviews I watched about All-Star. It changed for the final version, he said, because Superman didn't make its creators millionaires; instead it made lots of money for people who publish Superman. Problems ensued, into which I will not go here.

Anyway, I've largely avoided writing about creators' rights here, but I think I'll do so at length in the near future. This isn't a creators' rights concern; it's something else entirely. It has to do with rewriting history. It could be the beginning of something entirely dishonest. I understand the motives of people in Ohio, not wanting to force Warner to say "No More Superman for you", but I still wish somebody with influence would stand up and stop this sort of thing.


  1. The legal wrangling that goes on, and has gone on, in the comics world is becoming more fascinating to me every day. I wonder if DC wants to consider itself the "birthplace" of Superman, just like John Goldwater seemed to hijack the credit, somewhat, for Archie Andrews' creation by Vic Bloom and Bob Montana. Maybe the corporations want to convince the freelancers that they (the publishers) create the environment that allows the creations to be brought to life. Then again, this is the result of trying to psychoanalyze a corporation by the mentality it attempts to foster. :)

  2. Hey Brian,

    It also occurred to me that this might be something similar to the early Superman shows and serials, where the role of Clark Kent was credited but Superman wasn't. And how some of the men who wore the costume for public events weren't allowed to appear out of character. So maybe it's the same sort of thinking, where they're trying to preserve the illusion of Superman as somehow real. When I wrote this entry, I wasn't in such an accommodating mood.

  3. That's a good observation about the credits issue. Also, perhaps DC didn't want the actor to become bigger than the character they're portraying, just as Orson Welles did after playing The Shadow on radio. So the same purposeful disdain the comics would give their creators (although at the time of the radio show's beginnings, Siegel and Shuster were being allowed to sign their names to the strip) was being extended to the acting world too. Boy, that Superman IS powerful! :)

    I can understand not wanting to cut the corporations any slack. I'm rarely so understanding, myself. I dislike the taste of the lash, but I understand its usefulness, unfortunately.

    The whole creators rights debate is fascinating and similarly futile on our end. Expecting a corporation to give its subordinates a financial break ... well, who's holding their breath on this one?

    And it's a complex discussion too ... yes, Siegel and Shuster pursued a dream of ownership that left them virtually bankrupt in the '70s, but during WWII, they were making the equivalent of rockstar money. Alan Moore can inspire leagues of fans to shake their fists at the eeeevil Warners corporation for what seemed like a great deal 25 years ago ... and yet is anyone reading RED LANTERNS and grinding their teeth over the money that Martin Nodel's estate isn't getting?

    This could be a book all on its own. ;)