“Superman” check drawing attention, bids
The 1938 check given to “Superman” creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for the rights to the character is now up for auction at comicconnect.com. The current bid for the item is more than $36,000. The item up for sale is a check for $412 that included a $130 line item for ownership of Superman.
Stephen Fishler and Vincent Zurzolo, co-owners of ComicConnect.com, say the check is a highly valuable historical document.
“That $130 check essentially created a billion dollar industry,” said Zurzolo in a news release. “Without this check being written out by DC Comics, there would be no Superman, and thereby no Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, X-Men, or any of the other characters that came into existence after the concept of the superhero was born with Superman.”
- Matt Price
Click past the cut for the full release.
It appears that historic, lopsided business deals seem to come in threes. The sale of Manhattan in 1626 for $24, the sale of Babe Ruth in 1919 for $100,000, and the sale of Superman for $130 in 1938.
It’s true. On March 1, 1938, DC Comics paid $130 to the creators of the Superman character for full ownership and rights to the now famous—and highly lucrative—iconic superhero.
DC Comics gave two young men from Cleveland, Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster, a check for $412 that included a $130 line item for ownership of Superman. With that payment, Siegel and Shuster signed a release granting the company rights to Superman “to have and hold forever.”
Little did teenage creators Siegel and Shuster know that Superman would go on to become a national treasure and that they would be left without any rights to the character or to the millions of dollars he generated. The check and the rights they gave up, which was a standard business practice at the time, spawned 70 years worth of legal battles that continue to the present. The debate over “creator’s rights” was spawned that day.
In the 1970′s, Charles Schultz was earning millions of dollars off of his Peanuts creation while Siegel and Shuster were practically destitute. The difference is that Schultz owned his characters and Siegel and Shuster, by selling them for $130 in 1938, did not. At the time the first Superman movie came out, Shuster was an aging delivery boy.
The check—thought to have been lost over time or thrown away— was recently consigned to ComicConnect.com by the heirs of a DC Comics employee who had the foresight to save the check. In fact, the story goes that in the early 1970s, after DC Comics had won one of its many legal battles against Shuster and Siegel, the owner told employees to throw out a box of old court documents. But one of the employees found the check and decided to keep it. For 38 years, the check sat in the employee’s dresser drawer.
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