What I learned from the Superboys

by jeffhilimire on July 29, 2013

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I just finished the book, Superboys (Amazon affiliate link), which tells the story of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the original creators of Superman. It’s a fascinating story mostly because of how difficult it was for them to get Superman off the ground (pun intended, particularly because Superman didn’t even fly until years after he was created). But tenaciousness and a belief in the character carried them through until the Man of Steel became what he is today.

The big lesson with their story, however, is to always make sure you have appropriate legal counsel. They sold the rights to Superman in 1938 to Action Comics/National for $130. That’s right, $130. Ironically someone paid $160,000 for their $130 check in an auction last year. I’m sure Jerry and Joe are turning over in their graves (they passed away in ’96 and ’92, respectively).

It took them 30 years after they created Superman to gain some of the rights back and now their families will receive checks for all of eternity and you’ll see the names Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in the byline of every Superman (or related) comic and movie going forward. But the boys from Cleveland never saw anywhere near the same kind of wealth that DC Comics, Warner Bros. and the rest received. And that’s a shame.

If I’m being honest, I’m not a huge fan of the US legal structure, having seen the ugly side of it after I sold my business. But if you believe in yourself and you’re “creating” something (a business, your own code, or even a superhero), there are few other things you should spend your money on than excellent legal counsel.

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