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Warner Bros. defeats heirs of 'Superman' co-creator in latest legal battle

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Action Comics

Almost 75 years after Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman, the battle for ownership of the Last Son of Krypton has become an expensive and much-disputed industry unto itself. Four years ago, Siegel’s heirs won a major victory when a judge granted them half of the Superman copyright, at least regarding how Superman appeared in Action Comics #1. As reported by the LA Times, however, Shuster’s heirs have not been so lucky: Yesterday, a federal judge ruled that the family of the co-creator could not reclaim a similar 50% stake in the copyright.

In court papers obtained by EW, the ultimate decision features an exciting winding road through the last three-quarters of a century — and references similar cases involving John Steinbeck, Winnie the Pooh, and Lassie. But the crucial link in the chain is a 1992 agreement between DC and Shuster’s siblings (the artist had no other heirs), when DC agreed to pay the late Shuster’s debts and pay his sister $25,000 a year. The decision comes at a fortuitous time for Warner, which is preparing to release a new Superman film, Man of Steel, next year.

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