Saturday, April 26, 2008


Running for a plane....

Dear Neil,

I've been thinking about the Siegel & Shuster families regaining the rights to Superman, and it raised some questions to which I can't find ready answers and thought you might have.

(I'll use your works as illustrative points since you know what rights you have to your works.)

If a character is created by more than one artist (Superman by Siegel & Shuster, Tim Hunter by yourself & Mr. Bolton), do both artists or their estates have the right to separately sell licensing, merchandising rights, etc? Could the Siegel estate sell the rights to a Superman movie to Fox, the Shuster estate sell the rights to a Superman movie to Universal and DC still make films with Warner? Also, do you have the rights to just the characters, or do you have the rights to sell the stories you wrote for, say, "Sandman" or another serial owned by another person or company?

It bothers me that there might be a potential for a David Niven "Casino Royale" situation with other characters of whom I'm fond, especially the Man of Steel.



I think you mean "Thunderball" not "Casino Royale" -- the problem with "Casino Royale" IIRC was simply that someone else owned the film rights,and used them to make a parody after the bond films had become successful. Thunderball was co-written (started out as a film treatment with someone else, which Fleming then novelised, and the someone else sued and established that they co-owned the copyright on the treatment) which allowed "Never Say Never Again", which has the same plot, to be made...

The short answer is, Yes you do. And it's not as simple as that, because there's trademarks and suchlike to consider, and most the comics examples you're pointing at are Work For Hire and owned by the company.

Look over the Posner decision (which is up at -- the link from two days ago seems to have died.) If I feel like licensing out a Medieval Spawn comic -- or Medieval Spawn underpants -- I can. It's co-created, not work for hire, and co-owned.

If DC Comics wished to avoid future problems with Superman and the estates of the creators, I cannot help feeling that, seeing DC knew what the law said, they should have done a sensible deal with the Shuster family in 1999, rather than forcing them to fight a nine-year law case. That way the Shusters go, "Thanks for the money, of course everything will stay like it is," rather than, "Eww. You people are nasty. Why did you make us fight for something that was ours? We'll go and talk to Marvel and Twentieth Century Fox about licensing a Superman movie." It's what I would have done, if I was DC and Warners anyway.

My assistant has just pointed out that I am leaving for a plane to Australia in 40 minutes and am blogging in pajamas so will I kindly back away from the keyboard...?

Only time for a quick link to the Neverwhere circus-play at If you get to it, send a review and I'll try and post it or link to it...

Off to airport. But first -- clothes!


Later. Five minutes until I leave the house. I seem to have just destroyed one cell phone and lost the other, which means I may be buying a new one in Narita airport. Argh. Meanwhile, if you want to learn too much about an author and his notebook...

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