Longtime readers of these posts on the Superman case may recall what happened after I posted the stripts & scripts from the previously unpublished 1934 collaboration between Jerry Siegel & Russell Keaton.
As Judge Stephen Larson recounts in a new opinion issued today (p.36), this post led the Siegels’ lawyer, Marc Toberoff, to contact pioneering publisher Denis Kitchen regarding Kitchen’s comment noting the existence of additional unpublished Siegel-Keaton material, and the correspondence led to the plaintiffs’ discovering a script for a Superman story that Siegel and Shuster would later adapt for Action Comics #4:
Plaintiffs have submitted declarations evidencing that the script in question was in the possession of Russell Keaton’s widow who turned it over, along with other materials, to the family’s literary and marketing agent, Denis Kitchen, in 1993. Mr. Kitchen thereafter on August 21, 2008, posted a comment in response to a blog story titled “Russell Keaton, Superman’s Fifth Beatle,” wherein he disclosed that, in addition to the subject of the story (which concerned the illustrated strips, but not the scripts, Siegel and Keaton had created concerning the version of Superman as someone from Earth’s future), “there’s LOTS more correspondence and scripts.” Plaintiffs’ counsel thereafter ran across Kitchen’s post while searching the Internet, and after contacting him obtained a copy of the script, which he then promptly produced.
As explained earlier, the discovery of this material led the Siegels to seek the copyright to additional Superman material beyond Action Comics #1:
According to Toberoff, the script he discovered due to the Newsarama post provides conclusive proof that other Superman material by Jerry Siegel should not be considered work for hire. The football story in Action #4 “was unquestionably recaptured” by the Siegels, he concludes, and it “gives rise to a strong inference” that the material in Action Comics #2-6 was also written earlier. Moreover, based on other evidence, Toberoff argues that the court should award the Siegels co-ownership of other Superman material published during a five-year termination window that ends on April 16, 1943, including the Superman dailies, Action Comics #7-61 and Superman #1-23.
Judge Stephen Larson has just issued his ruling on this claim, and while they didn’t get everything, the result is another notable victory for the plaintiffs: the Siegel heirs are now co-owners of the Superman material in Action Comics #4 as well as certain other key early pages & newspaper strips.
I’ll have more after I’ve read the entire ninety-nine page opinion. For those who can’t wait, here’s the conclusion:
At the conclusion of this final installment regarding the publication history of and the rights to the iconic comic book superhero Superman, the Court finds that plaintiffs have successfully recaptured (and are co-owners of) the rights to the following works: (1) Action Comics No. 1 (subject to the limitations set forth in the Court’s previous Order); (2) Action Comics No. 4; (3) Superman No. 1, pages three through six, and (4) the initial two weeks’ worth of Superman daily newspaper strips. Ownership in the remainder of the Superman material at issue that was published from 1938 to 1943 remains solely with defendants.