Newsday (Suffolk Edition) from Melville, New York on December 10, 1975 · 125
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Newsday (Suffolk Edition) from Melville, New York · 125

Melville, New York
Issue Date:
Wednesday, December 10, 1975
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By Thomas Collins Nowaday Media Writer The creators of Superman have been appearing In Metropolis lately in the hope that justice and the American Way, as they see it, will prevail in . their case. In a press conference yesterday, attended by many of Clark Kents and Lois Lanes media colleagues, Jerry Siegel and Joseph Shuster both 61 and flat broke recounted how they signed away the rights to the Man of Steel back in 1938 when they were struggling to get into the comic book business. Of the millions that Superman has earned over the years, most of it has gone into other people's pockets. Its ironic, said Shuster, who is half blind and Uvea with his brother in a small apartment in Forest Hills. What could have been an American dream has become an American tragedy. Tbs press conference was the latest in a aeries of efforts to reach the public through the media and exert moral pressure on Warner Communications, the present owner of the Superman copyright, to give them an adequate pension and provide for their heirs. They decided to speak out after yean of lawsuits that largely went against toe destitute duo and when Warners, they said, appeared to be procrastinating after promising them a pension. Siegel and Shuster have asked for $25,000 a year each, about toe salary an artist would get for drawing Superman. Warners reportedly offered them $10,000, which later was raised to $12,000 and finally to $15,000 as their media appearances including television talk shows increased. Warners maintains that toe corporation is not legally obligated to give them anything, but that it feds some moral obligation. Jack Iaebowitz is a director at Warners and, as toe former head of National Periodical Publications, was toe one who originally persuaded Siegel and Shuster to sign toe Superman release. He said In an interview this week that Wamen was considering giving them pensions for humanitarian reasons. They have no legal rights, he said. AH toe press conferences and TV shows cant get you anything that isnt yours. Obviously angered that toe two men have taken thdr case to the public, he claimed that they had been more than fairly treated over the years, having earned about $500,000 over a 10-year period from 1938 to 1948 in whidi he employed them as artists on the Superman strip. Uebamdtz, who has a reputation as a philan-' thropist, dedined to estimate how many millions Superman had earned for himself and for National Periodical, which later was sold to Warners, but compared Siegel and Shusters situation to that cl inventors employed by a company. Everybody gets humanistic about this, he said. But it is being distorted. Whan you work for the . phone company and they make zillions from your invention, do you think you are entitled to a piece of those zillions? You work for a salary. So they got a salary. When you sell something; you Just cant get it back, he went on. Wa mad Superman valuable through our efforts and abilities. Arent you supposed to profit from your business and toe money you put into it? If Siegel and Shuster had just stayed putr he said, instead of initiating lawsuits, they would have profited well over toe years. As Superman, which was an instant hit when it appeared in toe first Issue of Action Comics in 1938, became even more popular, their page rate was increased, he said. For toe original 13-page story of Superman, he said, they were paid $10 a page. Siegel, who currently works as a $7,000-a-year mail clerk for a state agency in Los Angeles, had toe idea for a superhero when he was 17 and an admirer of toe acrobatic actor Douglas Fairbanks Sr. He told his friend, Joe Shuster, about it, and for the next five years they tried to peddle toe concept to comic book publishers. One publisher, Siegel said, offered them 5 per cent of future royalties, but they thought they could do better. When they took toe idea to National Periodical, they were assured by toe company that they would be well taken care of. We thought they were responsible, ethical people and we had nothing to fear," Siegel said in a recent interview. It never occurred to us that we would end up in want and they would make millions. There were times, he said, when he had contemplated suicide. Shuster has fared just as badly over the years. Because of his growing blindness he could no longer illustrate comic books and was forced to take menial jobs. For a while, he worked as a stock clerk in Macy and then in Bloomingdales. During the yean when Superman waa becoming a star of television and movies, and spawning a host of other comic book superheroes, Shuster was employed as a messenger in toe canyons of Manhattan over which the Man of Steel could leap in a single bound. When a Broadway musical based on Superman was produced, he went down to watch toe opening-night celebrities going into the theater. I couldnt afford a ticket, he said. One day, ha said, his messenger job took him into the very offices at 480 Iflrington Ave. where Superman waa being produced on the drawing boards at National. Liebowitz, told that Shuster was in toe office, summoned him inside. He dosed the door, Shuster said m an interview. "He didn't want anybody to hear. He told me: Youll have to give tip that job. Youre giving the company a bad name. We dont want you going around making us look had.' Shuster said that he gave up his jab and that Liebowitz bought him a suit, a pair of shoes and an overcoat and paid- him a stipend of $100 every two months. Liebowitz, in toe interview, said he did not recall toe incident He said he paid Shuster a retainer of $6,000 a year, which he later raised to $7,500. "He was getting money without doing any work, he said. But toe money stopped when Siegel and Shuster again went to court in an effort to win back toe Superman copyright In two lawsuits, one in toe 1940s and one initiated in toe 1960s and resolved in April, toe court ruled that Superman remained toe legal ward of National Periodical. But the pair won a $100,000 settlement in toe first suit far Siegels idea for the Supetboy character. Their situation has aroused toe concern of their fellow artists. Yesterdays press conference was sponsored by toe National Cartoonists Society, headed by Bill Gallo. As professional artists, we are shocked and outraged . . . Gallo said. Neal Adams, a free-lance artist who has been acting in their behalf, called the situation appalling. For many, it appears to be a case for Superman, but not even the Man of Steels X-ray eyes may be able to penetrate a corporations heart Liebowitz, whose nephew. Jay Emmett, is handling ton matter for Warners, doesnt see it that way. Its a case, he said, that everybody is exaggerating. II Joseph Shuster, left, and Jerry Siegel with the man from Krypton. W

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