Jun 3, 2011

If DC Loses Superman, This Is What Should Happen

Yesterday, I spoke to a comic fan, Rick Diehl, and a comic book artist, the Eisner-nominated Shannon Wheeler (His I THOUGHT YOU WOULD BE FUNNIER was left off the Eisner ballot, so you can help him out by voting for him here.Go on. Tell the Academy I sent you.), and they both suggested something that I thought was very interesting about the DC Universe reboot (or, as they're calling it now, a relaunch).

Now keep in mind this is pure speculation at this point, but it's an interesting thought to ponder, and this is a comic book website, consarn it! Speculation and guesswork are comic books' middle names!

Namely, the idea is that this reboot is happening because DC could be losing Superman.

That Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez guy, he sure can draw.

You see, the copyright for ACTION COMICS #1 and the stuff that appeared in it partially expired in 1999, under laws that helped artists and musicians who were screwed over by big companies, giving the heirs of Jerry Siegel the legal right to have half of the earnings on Superman going forward. DC has contested this at every turn, but like Neil Gaiman says, the result is pretty much inevitable.

The estate of Joe Shuster jumped into the fray as well, and their half of the copyright will go back to them in 2013.

(More on this case here.)

I've made my feelings (sometimes vehemently) clear on this before: I'm firmly on the side of the artists and their estates here. Siegel and Shuster were kids who got ripped off, and DC has had over 70 years to make it up to them as an act of good will, and they didn't. They never have. Siegel and Shuster had to be sponsored by Neal Adams in the 1970s right before the Superman movie so they could so much as get credit for their creation, and they died after a life of poverty. Then the copyright reverted back to the Siegels and DC fought it every step of the way. Had DC Comics just settled and come to a deal with the Siegel and Shuster heirs back in 1999, I'm fairly certain (as is Neil Gaiman) that they would have taken the money and compromised and everything will go as planned.

However, speculation is now abounding that because of the bad taste this whole affair (Joanne Siegel, Jerry's widow and inspiration for Lois Lane, died during this trial), the heirs of Siegel and Shuster may not be open to doing business with DC Comics or Warner Brothers after they win the case, which is looking more and more likely. And if that happens, that means that DC would lost all the elements of Superman that were originated in or derived from ACTION COMICS #1.

You know, I know Joe Shuster was a pretty crude artist,
but this cover still rocks.

Now, there's a lot of stuff that happened after ACTION COMICS #1. Namely, Superman couldn't fly here. He didn't have heat vision or X-ray vision, and he didn't work for the Daily Planet. The Superman costume now isn't the same as the Superman costume then (though they are obviously based on the same template), and the terms "Smallville," "Lana Lang," and "Krypton" didn't exist.

However, what is in ACTION COMICS #1 is a man in a blue suit with a red S and a red cape. He is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. He was rocketed to earth from a doomed planet. His name is Superman, and by day he's a mild-mannered reporter named Clark Kent. He has a fellow reporter that he is infatuated with. Her name is Lois Lane. And he fought for social justice.

Theoretically, DC will not be able to use any of those elements past 2013, which would absolutely explain the rumor that Lois Lane and Superman would no longer be married past September of this year. Of course, this is problematic for DC because these are, obviously, the most recognizable (and therefore, arguably, the most important aspects of Superman). And theoretically, this would mean that DC's Superman would have a different origin, which would tie into what they're doing with him right now at FLASHPOINT, where it looks like his new origin will have something to do with a scientific firm. (I'll bet anything that something is called "Krypton.")

I will be getting this, because Gene Ha rules.

Now, let's be honest. Once you get past his origin, we all know what Superman stands for. He's the biggest force for good in all of comics, yes? Okay.

So what if — there were two Supermen running around in the future? One published by DC, and one published by the heirs of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster? Wouldn't that be something?

Just imagine DC putting out a version that's more standard superhero conventions, but with top-notch talent. One without Clark Kent, Lois Lane, or his farmboy upbringing, but one with the power to fly, heat vision, and a general sense of wonder. We know Grant Morrison is writing a Superman series starting in September, and to many, this is a hand-in-glove fit. Just by the essence of the character, I simply agree. Grant Morrison writes an awesome Superman, one that is quite simply full of wonder. In fact, I have to say that ALL-STAR SUPERMAN is the best Superman story to have ever been published.

Now, just imagine the Siegels and the Shusters putting out another Superman comic book, one where Lois Lane and Clark Kent are involved, the hero can't fly, and where he is a little more grounded, and deals with social issues more than he deals with supervillains (of which there will also be no shortage). You know, like this guy:

If done well, this could create a rivalry between the two comics that could really make the news and get people talking! And if done well, it could be the spark that comics absolutely needs!

Obviously, DC's version would have more marketing behind it, but that's where the fact that the Siegels and Shusters' version will have more familiar elements may be able to offset it. The problem there would be for the Siegels and the Shusters to get an appropriate creative team, one behind which you can market this new Superman comic and guarantee quality. And after discussing again with Rick, when you look at the following criteria — a big name able to match up to Grant Morrison, knows how to write Superman, one readers would flock to to see his take on Superman, passionate about creators' rights, passionate about social issues, and maybe, just as a bonus, would do this just to stick it to DC — the writer seems really obvious:

That's right. Alan Moore. Moore fits all that criteria, and while Morrison may win the award for having written the best Superman story of all time in ALL-STAR SUPERMAN, I would say Moore wins the award for second, third, and fourth place in WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE MAN OF TOMORROW:


and SUPREME: THE STORY OF THE YEAR (which is not strictly a Superman story, but you know it really is):

And of course, from a purely "Hollywood" level, Moore and Morrison have a rivalry — if not in real life, certainly in the eyes of the fans — and this may drum up some news and intrigue for the industry as well, with readers taking sides and sparking debate and tons of it.

Now, who would the artist be? Well, Rick and I discussed that as well, and if you want to work within the realm of possibility, it would obviously be a guy who draws a great Superman, but for some reason doesn't want to be hired by DC Comics. Well, coincidentally enough, I just ran into this note from Steve Rude, saying he does want to draw Superman, but DC wouldn't take him back.

Imagine CLARK KENT: THE SUPERMAN by Alan Moore and Steve Rude on one side of the racks, and SUPERMAN by Grant Morrison and, say, Gary Frank on another!

I'm not saying it will happen — I still think that DC and the Siegels and Shusters will eventually come to a deal — but if it does happen, like they used to say, just imagine.

Just imagine.


Unknown said...

Excellent article!
The possibilities really make one think.

Anonymous said...

Good article. I seriously doubt they ever self publish though. I think the most likely scenario if they don't come to an agreement with DC is that they come to an agreement with Marvel (Disney). Their pockets are much deeper than anyone else's.

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