This week, a U.S. District Court Judge made yet another ruling in the decade-long legal battle between DC/Warner Bros. and the estate of late Superman co-creator, Jerry Siegel. The latest ruling (in this convoluted case) stated that all was fair (legally at least) regarding the licensing fees WB paid to DC comics in 1999, in order to develop properties like Superman Returns and Smallville.
Here’s the part you’ll care about: while the judge found that the deals between WB and partner DC weren’t illegal, he did state that WB should’ve paid 3-4 times what they did, and that if WB doesn’t produce another Superman film by 2011, the heirs of creators Siegel and Joe Shuster (who will jointly own 100% of the rights to Superman come 2013) will be able to sue the studio to “recover their damages.”
So, will Warner Bros. try to get another Superman film into production by next year?
Here’s what Warner Bros. currently has going for them, as far as a new Superman movie is concenered: No script. No director. No Supes film of any kind in development. No star to play Superman. Bupkis, really. No Man of Steel sequel to Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns; no “dark” Superman Unleashed reboot. Nothing but Bupkis. So much for months and months of rumors…
So what’s the best move now for Warner Bros. and DC?
Understand: in 2013, when the Siegel/Shuster heirs take ownership of the rights to Superman, NOTHING gets done without their approval. DC doesn’t release one issue of the comic book or any animated features; Warner Bros. doesn’t put out any Superman-related movies or TV shows. Unless the Siegels/Shusters give the go-ahead, WE DON’T GET SUPERMAN.
That said, it becomes easy to see why DC/WB might suddenly halt other planned comic book films to focus all their attention on Superman. After all, Supes is the most recognized superhero in the world and anything released with his name slapped on it is automatically going to have a better chance at ma$$ appeal than any other superhero this side of The Dark Knight.
But what can DC/WB do at this point? Developing and producing a Superman film takes a great deal of time and a WHOLE lotta money. And 2011 is NOT far away; we all know how quick time passes as movies crawl their way towards theaters.
So, the big questions: Should DC/WB try to push out one more Superman movie before the legal deadline? Should they try to go live action, or focus on an animated feature like the upcoming Superman/Batman: Public Enimies? Should they be in backrooms right now, trying to beg the Shuster/Siegel heirs to cut them a new deal before Superman ends up playing for team Marvel (it is possible)?
Let’s get to the debate. Leave your comments.
(If you want to read more about the current legal battle between the Siegel estate and DC/WB, you can do so here.)