Comic Book Legends Revealed #448
Welcome to the four hundred and forty-eighth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and forty-seven. This week, was the hit film Man of Steel the result of a legal obligation on DC’s part? Plus, in honor of Fred Van Lente Day, two legends suggested by Fred himself! Was Marvel responsible for Conan being known as Conan the Barbarian? Did Barry Windsor-Smith re-use his Archer and Armstrong characters in his Storyteller series?
NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).
COMIC LEGEND: DC had to make Man of Steel to fulfill a legal obligation.
STATUS: Basically True
Reader Luis A. wrote in about this one a while back.
You see, one of the interesting side effects to the various court cases that DC has had with the estate of Jerry Siegel is that when it comes to the Siegel’s rights to the Superman character, there was an additional argument that went beyond the fact that the Siegels were part owners of the character. This additional argument was over HOW much money DC owed them due to their part-ownership of the character.
One of these major areas of debate was over how much money DC was getting paid from their parent company, Warner Brothers, to adapt Superman comics into films. The Siegel estate argued that DC was effectively selling the character at below cost to Warner Brothers and that the Siegels should be able to go after Warner Brothers directly for more money. The courts ultimately ruled that the Warner Brothers/DC Comics arrangement was a fair market deal and that the Siegels could not go after Warner Brothers.
However, one area where the courts did more or less side with the Siegels was over the concept of whether DC Comics was optimizing the Superman property. The charge by the Siegels was that DC owed them a right to make as much money off of the character as they possibly could, and that DC was screwing things up by not making Superman movies (just one movie was made since the late 1980s).
The court basically sided with the Siegels on this issue and ruled that if DC did not begin work on a Superman movie by 2011, then the Siegels would be able to sue over misuse of the character and be theoretically eligible to get some money from DC Comics for not making the best use of the character.
All they “won” was the right to sue if that did not happen, but DC, of course, did not want to let it even go that far, so they were under a particular time crunch to get a movie into production by that deadline (they wanted to make a new Superman movie ANYways, of course, but they specifically HAD to get one into production to avoid the lawsuit), and that was a major factor in the exact timeline on what eventually turned into the 2013 blockbuster The Man of Steel…
Here‘s a Variety article on the 2009 ruling.
Thanks to Luis for the suggestion!
Check out some Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed!
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On the next page, the first Fred Van Lente suggestion – was Conan not a Barbarian before his Marvel series?
December 6, 2013 at 12:38 pm
Interestingly, Brian, after I suggested this to you, I was proofing the final issue of Ariel Olivetti and my adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s “People of the Black Circle” and completely forgot about this line of dialogue from Howard’s original; Conan says: “Listen: I was born in the Cimmerian hills where the people are all barbarians.”
So though the character describes himself as such, it was the Marvel comic that popularized it as his “title.”
December 6, 2013 at 12:46 pm
Right, Fred, that was exactly what I had in mind when I noted that Howard came pretty close to saying it without ever actually using the phrase “Conan the Barbarian.”
December 6, 2013 at 12:51 pm
very cool legends today! Is there anything Valiant writers don’t know or can’t do? lol
December 6, 2013 at 1:00 pm
I voted for BWS Archer Armstrong on the best runs ever list.
December 6, 2013 at 1:16 pm
So how exactly would Archer and Armstrong be more marketable? I don’t know either series.
I knew “Conan the Barbarian” wasn’t Howard’s term, but I never really connected the origin with the Marvel book, interesting.
Howard himself, of course, repackaged an unsold King Kull story to create Conan, which I imagine you cover in your book.
Read through the Monster pages at the link. More interesting, from the look of it, than the Mantlo story we did get.
December 6, 2013 at 1:30 pm
Probably the biggest advantage Archer and Armstrong has is that it is set in present day. But in general, Archer and Armstrong is a bit toned down in approach and humor.
December 6, 2013 at 1:48 pm
interesting to learn that stan lee himself did not want marvel going after conan. and that is where he also got the barbarian part. plus that superman returns got made so dc would not have to pay the estates any money in their quest to make sure they don’t share any of the profits with who they should be doing.
December 6, 2013 at 2:26 pm
December 6, 2013 at 3:31 pm
one thing that hasn’t worked out? The horrible recoloring of BWS art in reprints
December 6, 2013 at 3:51 pm
BWS is a great storyteller and he lays out his pages magnificently but I’ve always disliked the way he draws faces.
December 6, 2013 at 6:02 pm
Thank you Brian Cronin..
December 6, 2013 at 6:49 pm
December 6, 2013 at 9:32 pm
Am I the only one who thought “Man of Steel” referred to the comic miniseries?
December 6, 2013 at 9:50 pm
Excellent articles, Brian. Now this MoS is more than meets the eye.
December 6, 2013 at 9:56 pm
Thank you, Aaron! I had totally forgotten that there was a nasty little movie called “Man of Steel” and I assumed that Brian was talking about the comic. It was only when I got to the end of the piece that I got confused and I realized, “Oh, he must have been referring to that movie that came out last summer! Come to think of it, that was also called ‘Man of Steel’!”