Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the six hundred and sixty-third week where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.
NOTE: Here is a bonus Comic Book Legends Revealed that I did for Martin Luther King Day about how a MLK comic book inspired an iconic civil rights protest!
Click here for Part 1 of this week’s legends. Click here for Part 2 of this week’s legends.
DC changed Superman’s costume because of their lawsuit with the estate of Jerry Siegel.
I’m Going With False
DC made news recently when they revealed the cover to Action Comics #1000, which seemingly debuted a brand-new costume for Superman designed by Jim Lee that included the return of Superman’s famous red trunks, which he had worn since his first appearance all the way to 2011 and the launch of the New 52…
Here was his costume on the cover of Action Comics #1…
Here it was right before the New 52…
And here it was in the New 52, designed by Jim Lee…
With the return of the red trunks, there has been some discussion about why the change was made in the first place.
One theory was that the change had to do with DC’s lawsuit over the rights to Superman with the estate of Jerry Siegel. The courts ended up determining that an earlier settlement with the Siegels was binding and so the lawsuits ended (the same thing happened with the Joe Shuster estate. DC has entered into a settlement in 1992 that was ruled to be binding). However, in 2011, the lawsuit was still very much alive.
One of DC’s arguments in the lawsuit was that even if the court were to rule that DC did not fully own Superman as he was sold to DC back in 1938 (essentially, the material that made up Action Comics #1, including the cover), that they no longer told the adventures of THAT character. They argued that Superman is an ever-changing character and that they told the adventures of “an ever-evolving portrayal of Superman.” In other words, their version of Superman was so distinct from the character in Action Comics #1 that he was, in effect, a separate character.
Because of this position, dramatically changing his costume would go hand in hand with that idea.
However, that’s simply a case of allowing correlation to imply causation.
Noted comic book legal scholar, Jeff Trexler, wrote about this over at The Beat back in 2011, saying:
Judging by what DC has released, the changes made in the Superman relaunch would seem to reflect DC’s strategic emphasis on creative change. Costume alterations may not establish that the character is wholly new, but they do arguably provide evidence of how the company is creating stylistic elements distinct from the character’s original form. Changes in continuity are also consistent with DC’s argument, inasmuch as they underscore the company’s ongoing creative input and quite possibly take the disputed material further away from the key elements present in the co-owned Siegel content.
What Trexler was simply saying, though, was not that that is WHY DC made the costume changes, but just that the costume changes fit well with DC’s already established strategy of saying that Superman was a constantly-evolving character.
DC re-designed EVERY superhero’s costume for the New 52, in pretty much the same exact way that they re-designed Superman’s costume, so there is no evidence that they re-designed Superman’s costume specifically to make his costume different for the sake of their lawsuit. Instead, it seems like merely a statement that followed their previously established idea that, yes, Superman is always-evolving and, shockingly enough, he was evolving again. DC’s position was already based on the change from the original costume to the one that Superman was wearing in 2011 already (the one he was wearing Pre-Flashpoint) and all the changes to the character since Action Comics #1 (him being able to fly, Kryptonite, stuff like that), so since they already MADE their “Superman evolved a lot from his debut in Action Comics #1” argument well before the New 52 idea came about, it seems unlikely that they would have specifically made Superman drop his red trunks to add to their argument, at the same time that they happened to change every other hero in the same way. In other words, they didn’t really NEED it/the timing certainly suggested coincidence.
So I’m confident enough to give this one a false.
Check out my latest TV Legends Revealed – Was Carol Hathaway originally dead in the ER pilot?
OK, that’s it for this week!
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See you all next week!