Monday, October 15, 2012

"I refuse to be bullied..." - Laura Siegel Larson's 'Open Letter'

The Superman/DC Comics case keeps taking more and more interesting turns with each week that it drags on and it's sure to become a major case study for law students for decades to come when it's finally resolved.  Last week saw yet another massive release of documents, allegations and information, most of it was fairly redundant and had been released before, but in the release there were a few gems.  However the most interesting release of them all has come not via the court, but via Laura Siegel Larsen herself.

In an ‘open letter’ to the world, Laura Siegel Larson has attempted to explain her family’s side of the situation and is doing her best to paint lawyer Marc Toberoff as a white knight who is doing his best to fight the good fight, and I’m sure that’s exactly how she sees him.  It wasn’t always the case though, and the various releases have shown correspondence from Laura to Toberoff showing a frustration with his tactics.  Laura also claims that both she and her mother rejected the DC Comics deal well before they heard of Toberoff, but it’s a fact that by the time they rejected the deal, Toberoff had signed up the Shuster estate and had made a serious, unsolicited, approach to Michael Siegel and by early 2002 Toberoff more than likely had Joanne and Laura in his sights.  Laura can say that Toberoff is fighting the good fight and has no desire to control the Superman property, but the contracts still show that, if the case is settled in favour of Laura Siegel Larson and the Shuster estate, Toberoff will have the controlling share.  That information is out there in black and white.  As for the stolen documents, these documents should have been disclosed as part of the discovery process anyway, but there has been a block in place.  As for the amounts – we now know that the figures being thrown about show that the Siegel’s would have realised in excess of $20,000,000 by now – peanuts compared to what DC have been making, but it’s hardly an amount to sneeze at.  DC were also paying Joanne Siegel over $125,000 per year as a pension, plus medical benefits, until she passed away, again, not an amazing amount, but more than a lot of people earn in this day and age.  I keep saying this to people - there is a lot more to this case than meets the eye, and there appears to be skullduggery on both sides of the fence.

It’ll be interesting to see how the courts handle Laura’s ‘open letter’ as it’s highly unusual for a lawyer in such a high profile case to allow a document of this type to be released while the case is still in progress, but then not much about this case can be considered to be conventional, including a veiled claim in a court filing by Toberoff that DC Comics is somehow supplying me, and using this blog, as a conduit to publicise their case and smear his reputation.  I’m sure if DC or Warners wanted to do either of those tasks then they’d easily find a better outlet and, for the record, I’ve never communicated with anyone involved in this case, about this case, other than a few emails to Mark Waid regarding his deposition.  Just thought I’d get that out there.

 It wasn't always wine and roses's just two documents detailing how Toberoff and the Siegels interacted at the beginning.



Michael Hill said...

Dan, it baffles me that anyone can justify Warner's behaviour in this case. I hope Toberoff prevails simply because he's fighting for creators' rights, something that the majority of comic fans seem to rank below the welfare of the characters.

Mikeyboy said...

If indeed it is true that they won that case in 99...then this little tale of woe should be over.
But alas it is not over and a media giant worth Billions is refusing due compensation to rightful parties.
Not cool man. While Superman is a hosuehold figure of triumph the company who produces his heroic a conglomerate of hypocrites

Daniel Best said...

Mikey - the thing is that the lions share of any payout will now go to Marc Toberoff, not the Shuster/Siegel heirs. It is their right to pick any lawyer they want, as it's their right to sign away their legacies, but when they replace one owner with another, well, watch people complain.

As I've said, more than once, DC Comics owe a lot of money. They should be paying millions to the heirs - they're not. On the other side of the coin, they've attempted to pay millions and have been rebuffed. Nothing in this case is as clear cut or as simple as anyone would like it to be. I've immersed myself in this and, frankly, I can't recognise who the villian is anymore.

Mikeyboy said...

Just who exactly determines exactly what is FAIR?

James Howell said...

This is a case that I have went back and forth. The circumstances surrounding the creation of Superman are much different than ninety nine percent of the other comic related lawsuits.

I do not believe that DC should lose ownership of the character. They took all of the risks. DC is the main reason we have Superman. If DC had not bought the character and invested time and money to see it succeed then Superman would not exist. There would be no comics. No cartoons. No movies. No toys. Nothing. They bought the character. Siegel and Schuster made good money while they worked there. DC also stepped up at different times and helped out with debt and funeral costs. One arguement that has always fascinated me when these lawsuits are debated is the way certain fans look at business. Some are quick to say that companies do not create. Yet, they will then impose morals on the company. How can someone state that a business cannot create, but should exhibit our morals and values. The reality is that in the business world unless you have it in writing; you are probably not going to get it. Business does not understand right or wrong. Good or bad. Its sole function is to make money.

I am not trying to say that the heirs should be left out. They should reap some reward from the creation of Superman. I just find myself going back and forth on what that should be.

Thanks for another great post Daniel. I check your site daily.

Daniel Best said...

In this case mike, the court will decide what is fair. That's what it's there for.

Graeme said...

" I've immersed myself in this and, frankly, I can't recognise who the villian is anymore."

Truer words have never been spoken. I have no idea what I think. The whole thing just seems like a sordid mess.

Kid said...

It seems to me that this is a simple case of the kids wanting to profit from 'family jewellery' that daddy sold a long time ago. I'm not convinced that the Siegel and Shuster heirs are morally entitled to anything.

mr ed said...

If there is such a generous settlement on the table, then how is it this is about money. Does everyone understand Laura is over seventy years old? And how long will this case drag on. Keep in mind Toberoff won a summary judgment. It can be assumed Warner will pursue this until all appeals have run out. If it was about money Laura would have taken the money.

Graeme said...

I'm not convinced that the Siegel and Shuster heirs are morally entitled to anything.

Define "morally"?

Laura Siegel grew up impoverished with her mom even though her Dad created the greatest comic book character ever and the publisher wouldn't cut them in, forcing Jerry Siegel to work menial jobs.

I think she's morally entitled to a stake in Superman. DC's attitude impacted her situation.

But that's "morally entitled". Whether she's entitled to anything is up to a court to decide

Kid said...

Graeme, if a person sells something while he is alive, his heirs have no legal or moral rights to whatever was sold - either while the person is alive or later, when he is deceased. As none of the relatives contributed to Superman's success, morally, legally, or ethically, they are not entitled to benefit from him, in my view. As I said, daddy sold the 'family silver' a long time ago - his kids and grandkids aren't entitled to a cut after all this time.