Laura Siegel Larson, Daughter of Superman Co-creator Jerry Siegel, Speaks Out On Current Superman Lawsuit
Action Comics #1 was published nearly 75 years ago, and much of modern comics culture has shaped itself around the actions both within, and outside of those pages. The never-ending battle of truth, justice, and the American way has been felt inside the courtrooms as the families of the creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, fight a legal battle with Warner Bros over the rights to the Superman character.
Siegel and Shuster were paid only $130 when they sold the rights for Superman to DC Comics. No one would realize how Superman would become the quintessential superhero, and millions have been made from the comics and other licensing deals throughout the years. Siegel and Shuster’s plight is but only one example of creator rights legal battles that face the comic book industry today.
Recently, a new development in the long legal battle came when Laura Siegel Larson, daughter of the late Joe Siegel, sent out an open letter shedding some light on the recent legal ramblings from her own perspective. Larson is continuing the legal battle that was fought by her mother, Joanne Siegel, until her death in 2011.
Larson’s letter in full:
“October 11, 2012
Dear Superman Fans Everywhere,
My father, Jerry Siegel, co-created Superman as the “champion of the
oppressed … sworn to devote his existence to helping those in need!” But
sadly his dying wish, for his family to regain his rightful share of Superman,
has become a cautionary tale for writers and artists everywhere.
My family’s David and Goliath struggle against Warner Bros., the
media conglomerate, goes back to April 1997, when my mom and I
exercised our clear right under the Copyright Act to achieve my dad’s dream
of recovering his copyrights. In April 1999, my dad’s half of the original
Superman rights reverted to us, entitling our family to a significant share of
Superman profits, which Warner DC Comics refused to pay. For over
thirteen years they have fought us at every tum, in and out of court, aiming
to make recovery of the money they owe us so impossibly difficult that we
would give up and settle for peanuts.
We refused to be intimidated despite my elderly mom’s heart
condition and my multiple sclerosis. In 2008 the U.S. District Court ruled
that my mom and I had successfully recaptured my father’s Superman
copyrights and were entitled to Superman profits since April 1999.
Angered and alarmed by this defeat, Warner Bros. resorted to a
despicable old trick: diverting attention from the legal merits of our case by
personally attacking our long-time lawyer, Marc Toberoff. Through DC, the
media giant filed a lawsuit against Mr. Toberoff, my family and the Estate of
Superman’s co-creator Joe Shuster, falsely claiming “unfair competition”
and that Toberoff interfered with an out of court offer that Warner tried to
push on my mom and me in early 2002 – an offer full of studio accounting
traps that we refused to sign before we even knew Mr. Toberoff!
Warner Bros. possesses documents stolen from my attorney’s office
which mysteriously ended up on the desks of three top Warner executives.
Warner claims it has no evidence whatsoever as to when these large
packages arrived. According to Warner, the thief also included a cowardly
anonymous letter that vilifies our attorney and mischaracterizes the
privileged attorney-client communications enclosed. In a disgraceful
violation of my privacy, Warner’s lawyers attached this nasty anonymous
letter to a publicly filed complaint and leaked it to the media.
In the midst of this sideshow, my mom, the original model for Lois
Lane, passed away last year at 93, still determined to keep her promise to my
dad. She never got to relax and enjoy any proceeds from the crusade she
fought until her dying day.
Now the torch is in my hands and I won’t be silent any longer about
Warner Bros.’ tactics. I refuse to be bullied or deterred from enforcing my
farnily’s rights, and fully support my attorney who has tirelessly defended
them. Warner Bros.’ smear campaign has only made me more determined
than ever. We have the right to the attorney of our choice, which is none of
Warner’s business. Marc Toberotfhas stood by us through thick and thin
and we stand by him. We love and respect Marc who has poured his heart
and soul into helping us obtain justice in court, tenaciously litigating on our
behalf against the legions of highly paid corporate lawyers that Warner Bros.
has at its disposal. [t was Marc’s dedication and skill that brought us victory
in federal court, which Warner Bros. desperately hopes to derail with its
vindictive and baseless lawsuit. Make no mistake, Warner Bros. is attacking
our attorney to attack us and for no other reason.
Warner has spent about $35 million dollars on corporate lawyers to
fight my farnily and the Shusters instead of investing in a fair settlement.
The very attorneys who are lining their pockets with millions in fees accuse
my attorney of profiteering when, in fact, Marc has not received one cent
since he filed the first Superman case for us in 2004, and has advanced
enormous sums out of his own pocket on our behalf. Unlike Warner’s
highly paid attorneys, Marc Toberoff will not be compensated unless and
until we prevail. He works under an attorney’s contingency fee agreement.
The notion advanced by Warner that he is trying to own or control Superman
Fighting for what’s right has not been easy. No one would want to
endure what Warner Bros. and DC Comics has put my family, the Shusters
and my attorney through. And that’s exactly what their executives and
lawyers want. By filing frivolous lawsuits against my farnily, the Shuster
farnily and our lawyer, by publicly revealing my private communications, by
driving up litigation costs and refusing to negotiate fairly, these companies
think that other creators will be afraid to stand up to them, and that lawyers
will think twice before taking on their cases.
What Warner Bros. apparently doesn’t realize is that despite their
tremendous power, I will NEVER give up on my parents’ dream of
rightfully restoring my father’s rights to his family.
Would Superman, the embodiment of “truth, justice and the American
way,” let Warner Bros., DC Comics, and their gang of attorneys get away
with this? Not for an instant!
Laura Siegel Larson
Los Angeles, California”