Whose Superboy is This?


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A new Superboy series hits stores today. What does this mean regarding the heretofore unresolved Superboy lawsuit? Did DC win or is there something else going on here?

For your average, everyday, non-law degreed comic fan, trying to understand the lawsuits surrounding Superman and Superboy is like trying to watch a telenovela on Telemundo when you are not a native Spanish speaker. You know there is a lot of drama going on, you know there is a conflict, you know that it is rather important regarding the world the argument takes place in, but you will never be able to truly and fully understand what’s going on.

Even if you are a lawyer, all the intricacies of the cases could have your head spinning. Changes to copyright law allowed the heirs of Jerry Siegel to file notice of termination of copyright to Superman in 1999, and to Superboy in 2002. DC almost immediately contested this termination on the grounds that Superman and Superboy were work-for-hire characters, meaning that DC owns them. Since that time, there have been multiple attempts at settlement, numerous judgments handed down, and many appeals.

This Superman case is a topic better left for another column (or 15). Since we are talking about Superboy, let’s stick to that one. I’ll try to explain it as best I can as much as I understand it. That might not be all that much.

After the success of Superman, DC Comics went to Siegel to create a younger version of his Superman character. Siegel submitted a number of versions of the concept to DC, none of which passed DC’s muster.

In comes World War II. Siegel is called into service in 1943, being stationed in the Pacific theater. While Siegel is in the military, DC starts publishing the adventures of Superboy in More Fun Comics and other series starting in 1944. When Siegel got out of the military and saw the new Superboy, he recognized parts of his rejected submission in the character and decided to sue.

In 1947, a judge decided in Siegel’s favor: he was the creator of Superboy. A year later, Siegel and DC Comics came to a settlement where the author signed his copyright to Superman and Superboy over to DC.

DC held those copyrights for 28 years and then renewed them for another 28. During that time, Congress changed copyright laws, allowing the original creators or their heirs to apply to take the copyrights back after 47 years. Two years before DC’s copyright renewal was up, the Siegel family filed a notice of copyright termination. DC fought back.

Initially, a judge referenced the original 1947 decision to grant the Siegel family the copyrights to the Superboy character. DC filed an appeal but also began a purge of any reference to Superboy from its titles. The villainous Superboy-Prime was renamed Superman-Prime. And the then current Superboy, Connor Kent, was killed off in the pages of Infinite Crisis.

DC’s appeal was successful and some of the Siegel family’s claims were dismissed. Bolstered by this victory, DC began plans to undo the changes they made to their Superboy characters. Superboy-Prime was called Superboy-Prime again. And Connor was about to make a return.

Connor Kent was reintroduced to the DC universe in Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds. The character then returned to comics in the lead story of the revitalized Adventure Comics. He also rejoined the Teen Titans in their book. And now, he’s getting another series in his name.

Does this mean Superboy is back for good? Not necessarily. The legal matters surrounding the Superboy copyright have not been definitely settled, and probably won’t be until the Superman lawsuit is decided. That decision will probably have a bearing on the Superboy one.

If DC wins the Superman lawsuit, most likely they will win the Superboy battle as well and they can continue publishing this book. If they lose, they could have an argument that the Connor Kent Superboy is different enough from the Superboy Jerry Siegel created to be a separate character entirely. But, considering how quickly DC removed the character from their books after the initial decision, it is likely they know this argument doesn’t hold all that much weight.

However, if you are hesitant to add this series to your pull list, you shouldn’t worry that much. The courts seem to be pressing for some kind of settlement, a long and arduous process due to the contentious demands of each side. And the judge in the case has resigned from the bench, and having his replacement get up to speed is bound to take some time.

Of course, don’t be surprised if the series’ name changes to Wonder Kid and you find yourself reading the adventures of Connor Jones. Or, quite possibly, the series ends abruptly with no warning at all. This might be one occasion where a series cancellation will not be foreshadowed in Previews or the comics’ news websites but rather in legal dockets.

Also out this week:

Amazing Spider-Man #647:

“Brand New Day” did something that was nigh impossible—it removed the bad taste left behind in fans’ mouths after “One More Day.” Sure, keeping up with a three times a month schedule, creating new and interesting characters, and revitalizing a number of Spidey’s rogue gallery was a great feat, but the great stories are what made fans almost forget the fact that Spider-Man made a deal with the devil. Almost.

Now, the “Brand New Day” experiment is at an end. Gone are the three issues a month and rotating slate of creators. We will now have a bi-monthly schedule and one writer—Dan Slott. But while it might be over, you cannot deny that BND was a resounding success—one that fans will look back on in years to come as one of the best eras in Spider-Man comics.

Various (W), Various (A), Marvel Comics, $4.99. Ongoing Series.

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less:

Vertigo has been spanning the globe lately with its graphic novels. First was the fictional account of life in the capital city of Egypt in G. Willow Wilson and M.K. Peter’s Cairo, then there was Cuba: My Revolution by Inverna Lockpez and Dean Haspiel. And now, we are going to Israel.

This time around, the graphic novel is a travelogue in more than just name only. This is Sarah Glidden’s autobiographical account of her trip to the country. She came with a load of misconceptions and was quickly challenged on each and every one of them. As she learned more about the country, she learned more about herself. If you are interested in Israel or journeys of discovery, then this graphic novel is for you.

Sarah Glidden (W/A), DC/Vertigo Comics, $24.99, Original Graphic Novel.

Dungeons & Dragons #1:

Comic books and roleplaying games go hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly. You often find that fans of one are fans of the other, and you often find stores that cater to both at the same time. It’s no wonder that the biggest name in roleplaying games—Dungeons & Dragons—is making its return to comics this week.

This time around, the franchise is at IDW and they are adding a special twist on the roleplaying/comic book relationship. There will be a special, incentive version of the comic book that acts as a module with playable game content. This means that you and your friends can play the comic book you just read. Why this hasn’t be thought of before is beyond me.  

John Rogers (W), Andrea Di Vito (A), IDW Publishing, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

Captain America: Man Out of Time #1:

Captain America will be joining Thor on the silver screen next year as well. And he is getting a similar upswing in comic book appearances as well. Marvel’s push for Cap seems a bit lighter than the one for Thor, but that might only be an illusion. From looking at the solicitation, Cap rivals Thor in total number of books.

But, as a mitigating factor, Marvel does do special things like this—bringing Mark Waid back to the character. Waid goes down with Joe Simon, Roger Stern, J.M. DeMatteis, and Mark Gruenwald as one of the definitive Cap writers. His stories were some of the most fondly remembered by Cap fans, and many thought he left the book too soon. Well, he’s back.

Mark Waid (W), Jorge Molina (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.


William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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