Let’s start the year out with a return to comics’ original sin: Daniel Best reprints Truth, Justice, & The Corporate Conscience by Steve Gerber, an article from WAP, a creator’s rights newsletter published in the 80s by Gerber, Steven Grant and Frank Miller.
Gerber, for those who don’t know, was a very influential writer for Marvel in the 70s who eventually sued for ownership of a character he co-created, Howard the Duck. He lost the suit, but never the anger. He died in 2008.
Gerber explains in the intro, it’s a piece he originally wrote in 1975 or 1976 for Rolling Stone about the mistreatment of Siegel and Shuster — the original was killed, and this version has existed only in those very rare newsletters.
For Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster, however, he represents something quite different. “I can’t stand to look at a Superman comic book,” Siegel says. “It makes me physically ill. I love Superman, and yet, in my mind, he’s been twisted around into some kind of alien thing.”
Jerry Siegel works in a mail room in Los Angeles. He earns $7000 a year. Joe Shuster is legally blind, unemployed, and, with his brother who supports him, inhabits a shabby apartment in Forest Hills, Queens, from which he ventures out only occasionally. Both Siegel and Shuster are sixty-one years old. Neither is the picture of health.
Gerber updates the piece with his own history with Howard the Duck. It’s essential reading to understand the heritage of creator rage and current calls for guilds and organizations. 70 years later, the battle is still raging.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.