I feel guilty every time I wear the Superman
I mean. It's fun. It encourages assholes to make asshole remarks, thereby keeping the universe upright. It gives me the excuse to act cool, and jump in front of oncoming trains, bullets. Occasionally, I fly.
It's doesn't get me girls. Shockingly.
They're not exactly household names. When you ask someone who created Mickey Mouse, I would imagine there's scarcely a person within the United States who would not know that it was Walt Disney. Walt Disney got rich off of Mickey Mouse. He's made lots of people rich off of the damn mouse. And, it looks like people will continue to get rich off of him for some time.
Not everyone knows the names of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Shuster died blind in 1992. Siegel died in '96. They received little money from their creation, and had been shunned by the DC Comics, who is still defined by Superman.
Siegel and Shuster had created Superman in 1933. Superman was, of course, significantly different at the time. He couldn't fly, and certainly didn't have the trusting friendship of Krypto the Superdog.
They had created Superman, but they couldn't get him published. For five years they tried without any luck.
In 1938, they found themselves at DC Comics signing a document stating:
I, the undersigned, am an artist or author and have performed work for strip entitled 'SUPERMAN.'
In consideration of $130.00 agreed to be paid to me by you, I hereby sell and transfer such work and strip, all good will attached thereto, and exclusive right to use the characters and story, continuity and title of strip contained therein, to you and your assigns to have and hold forever and to be your exclusive property and I agree not to employ said characters or said story in any other strips or sell any like strip or story containing the same characters by their names contained therein or under any other names at any time hereafter to any other person, firm or corporation, or permit the use thereof by said other parties without obtaining your written consent therefor. The intent hereof is to give you exclusive right to use and acknowledge that you own said characters or story and the use thereof, exclusively. I have received the above sum of money.
This might sound somewhat familiar, as it is essentially the same principle the recording industry has been trying to push: work for hire. The artist gets screwed.
Ironically, there have been rumors in the past that DC Comics had already owed the two the money, but refused to give it to them unless they signed.
Regardless, the two went on writing Superman for a few years. They made good money, and continued to write Superman until 1946. Yes, they were making good money off of writing and drawing Superman, but DC Comics was making incredible money. Furthermore, DC Comics decided to launch the spin-off Superboy without their permission. Represented by Albert Zugsmith, they sued DC for the rights to the character. All that good money they made? That was spent on legal fees. The case was settled out of court, with DC Comics paying the two $200,000 as royalties for Superboy. But, in return, the two had to deny that they had created Superman. Their names were taken off the comic books.
And, of course, they were fired.
After, the two briefly worked on the Funnyman comic strip. It wasn't a success and Shuster decided to stop working in the comic industry. Before his eyes failed, Shuster worked as a messenger. After they failed he was supported by his brother. Siegel's family was nearly broke until he eventually was allowed to work again in low pay positions at DC. He was fired in 1964, supposedly for complaining about the company's treatment of him. By the 70s, he was working in a mail room, making only $7,000 a year.
In 1975, they would once again sue DC for the rights to Superman and again, the courts would rule against them. To save themselves from embarrassment, DC Comics decided to pay the two a yearly stipend of $35,000 dollar - provided they made no public statements about DC Comics.
"I can't stand to look at a Superman comic book. It makes me physically ill. I love Superman, and yet, in my mind, he's been twisted around into some kind of alien thing." --Jerry Siegel.
What DC Comics did to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster was worse than just screwing them out of money. They took their creation, and warped it. Superman is not the man he was 70 years ago. Superman's integrity has been compromised. He's been changed time and time again, to make him cooler, to sell more comics. Movies, merchandise. Superman Red, Superman Blue. The Death of Superman. The Death of Clark Kent.
And once - they gave him a bad haircut.
DC has not respected the artists or their intentions. Instead, Superman has become some perverted cash cow.
I feel guilty every time I wear the Superman shirt.