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Superheroes in Court: continued

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Murder Ballads
Secret London

In 1943, Siegel was drafted and sent to work as a Stars & Stripes reporter in Hawaii. Only then did DC decide Superboy might be worth launching after all, debuting the character with Joe Shuster art in January 1945's More Fun Comics #101. Superboy was now a young crime-fighter rather than the super-prankster Siegel had originally envisaged, and quickly became popular with young readers. He was promoted to the lead feature in DC's Adventure Comics the following year, but still without any transfer of the rights from Siegel.
Siegel and Shuster raised this in their court case too, and this time the judge agreed. “It is clear to me that, in publishing Superboy, the Detective Comics Inc acted illegally,” said Justice J Addison Young in his 1948 ruling. “I cannot accept defendant's view that Superboy was in reality Superman. I think Superboy was a separate and distinct entity.” (12)
It cost DC just over $94,000 to settle that one - worth about $850,000 today - but the company insisted that Siegel and Shuster signed over their Superman rights all over again before delivering the cash. Then it sacked them from all their remaining Superman assignments and removed their printed credit as his creators. Superman's first movie serial screened in 1948, his first feature film (Superman and the Mole Men) in 1952 and his TV adventures the following year. Meanwhile, in the comics, DC was busy extending the Superman family of comics, giving Jimmy Olsen his own book in 1954, Lois Lane hers in 1958 and introducing Supergirl the following year.
Siegel and Shuster's big hope for a career outside Superman - a slapstick hero called Funnyman - had collapsed by then and, Siegel was left with few other options in his career outside DC. He returned to the company in 1959, beginning a seven-year stint as an uncredited writer on Superman's books. Siegel wrote a lot of “imaginary stories” for Superman during this period - fanciful tales which were kept outside the main continuity - and also had a stint on the newspaper strip, but was ruthlessly bullied by Superman editor Mort Weisinger. “I get a lot of scorn, belittlement and hot-tempered abuse from Weisinger, who says my plotting and scripting is inferior,” he wrote in a letter to Shuster. “This is really making a buck the hard way, but it's the only way I can support my family.” (11)

Atlas still had its monster books as the 1960s dawned, but the company was struggling. Among the pre-war flood of superheroes, only Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman had remained constantly in print, and Lee's attempt to reinvent Captain America as a “Commie smasher” had floundered. DC had enjoyed some success in the late 1950s by launching revamped versions of their second-string heroes, introducing a new version of The Flash in 1956, and a new Green Lantern three years later, but it wasn't until 1960 that Martin Goodman decided superheroes were worth another try.

Of the nine books that saved Marvel, Kirby drew covers for eight and interior art for six

The story goes that Goodman was playing golf one day with Jack Liebowitz, his opposite number at DC, when Liebowitz mentioned DC's success with a new team book called Justice League of America. “Goldman left the golf course planning to publish a super group of his own,” says Les Daniels in his authorised Marvel history, “despite the fact that his current line-up of characters included nobody more powerful than Millie the Model. As Lee recalls it: 'Martin said 'Gee, maybe we ought to do a team of superheroes'. And when he said 'Gee, maybe we ought to,' that was a command. I went home and wrote a two-page outline and sent it to Kirby. We talked about it, and he went home and drew it'.” (13)
The resulting book was Fantastic Four #1, published in November 1961. Atlas became Marvel, and whole new age of comics was born. In the two years that followed, Marvel introduced Spider-Man, The Hulk, Dr Strange, Iron Man, Thor, The Avengers, Nick Fury and The X-Men. Of the nine books launching those characters, Kirby drew covers for eight and interior art for six. Stan Lee's credited as the sole writer on all nine books, but how much help he had from Kirby in dreaming up the characters and plotting their adventures has been a subject of hot contention ever since.
One puzzling aspect of the Kirby lawsuit is that it names Spider-Man as one of the characters his family wants. It's true that Kirby was the first artist Lee gave his Spider-Man script to, and that Kirby provided Spidey's first published cover, but Lee rejected his stab at the book's internal art in favour of Steve Ditko's more sinewy approach, and it's Ditko who ultimately got the job.
But consider Joe Simon's account of Spider-Man's conception, as told in his 1990 memoir. Back in the early 1950s, Simon had pitched Harvey Comics with a character called, first, Spiderman and, later, The Silver Spider. Responding to this pitch in a February 1953 memo, Harvey Comics editor Sid Jacobson says: “The Silver Spider should be thought of as a human spider. [...] He therefore wouldn't have the power of flight, but could accomplish great aerobatical tricks of almost-flight by the use of silken ropes that would allow him to swing a la Tarzan or a la Batman. The silken threads that the spider would use might come from a special liquid from some part of his costume (and) could be used as a net.” That sounds uncannily like the Spider-Man we know today. (14)
Harvey never did publish The Silver Spider, leaving Simon and Kirby free to recycle some aspects of the character when they started working up The Fly for Red Circle in 1959. Fast forward now to Marvel's early sixties renaissance and Goodman's agreement that Lee could try a superhero character in the then-dying book Amazing Fantasy.

Cat fight: continued

Archie's core cast had begun an animated cartoon show on CBS in 1968, produced by Filmation Studios, and the fictional cast scored a US number 1 with its single Sugar Sugar the following year. Hanna-Barbera, a rival cartoon studio, was confident it could sell a similar music-themed show of its own, and asked Archie if it had any other suitable characters available. It didn't, but that was easily fixed.
      Archie renamed Josie's book Josie & the Pussycats with its December 1969 issue, and had the girls decide to form a band. DeCarlo designed some suitably skimpy stage costumes for them, based on the fancy-dress one his wife had worn on their recent Caribbean cruise. He later claimed that Goldwater told him about the TV deal only the day before the new show started to air. “They had sold them to Hanna-Barbera without a word to me,” he added. “Meanwhile he (Goldwater) stopped sending me the 5%.” (44)
      Josie & the Pussycats began its first season on CBS in September 1970, with plots much like those in Hanna-Barbera's Scoobie Doo and a look melding DeCarlo's style with the studio's own. DeCarlo consulted a lawyer from The Cartoonist Association, who told him he could win a case over Josie, but that the payout would be small. Plus, he'd almost certainly lose his job and be black-listed throughout the industry if he sued. His only choice, it seemed, was to sign Archie's new paperwork.
      “We had the work-for-hire thing,” DeCarlo said in a 2001 interview. “It was tough. I had two kids in college, and I just bought a house two years before. I felt that, if I didn't sign it, I would have been canned. And I would have been canned.” (45)
      Josie's first CBS series was followed by a second, which moved her adventures to outer space. Each of the two series racked up 16 episodes before cancellation. Josie's comic book closed in October 1982, after 106 issues. DeCarlo continued drawing for Archie.
      Six years after Josie's comic ended, he received an unexplained cheque for $1,406.25 from Archie, together with a letter explaining that accepting that money would constitute his disavowal of any rights in the Josie characters.

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