Thursday, July 8, 2010

DC VS VICTOR FOX: The Testimony of Jerry Siegel

This is the fourth installment of testimony from Detective Comics, Inc. vs. Bruns (Fox) Publications. As I've done previously, I’ll present the scanned transcript pages and leave my comments to the end.

Jerry Siegel needs no introduction--to us. But in 1939, he was just a young Midwestern writer-for-hire who had come up with the costumed character that was the bone of contention in this courtroom. Although he was likely intimidated by the proceedings, Siegel suspected what Liebowitz and Donenfeld already knew: Superman was a money-maker. Getting his fair share of that money would be another matter.

"Now in reply to your letter. Frankly, when I got through reading it, it took my breath away. I did not anticipate that when I asked you to come to New York to discuss this matter of newspaper syndication, that you would want to take advantage of this visit and try to boost up your price on "Superman". You must bear in mind, Jerry, that when we started Action Comics, we agreed to give you $10.00 a page, which is $4.00 a page more than anyone else is getting for any feature in any of our four books." [Jack Liebowitz in a letter to Siegel, Sept. 28, 1938]

-- Jerome Siegel, plaintiff witness herein referred to as The Witness
-- Asher Blum & Raphael Koenig, attorneys for defendant Brun Publications (Fox)
-- Samuel Fried, attorney for co-defendants Kable News Co. and Interborough News Co.
-- Horace Manges, attorney for the plaintiff Detective Comics, Inc.
-- Judge John Woolsey, herein referred to as The Court

[note: I've also included the brief testimony of Warren Angel, Vice President and General Manager of Kable News. While his testimony has little, if any affect on the case's outcome, I have included it for the completists out there.]


Siegel, pg. 1

Siegel, pg. 2

Siegel, pg. 3

Siegel, pg. 4

Siegel, pg. 5

Siegel, pg. 6

Siegel, pg. 7

Siegel, pg. 8

Siegel, pg. 9

Siegel, pg. 10

Angel, pg. 1

Angel, pg. 2

Angel, pg. 3

Angel, pg. 4



Siegel's role in testifying was, by design, very specific.

Manges: I only bring on this witness because they plead as a separate defense lack of originality.

Despite being the creator (along with Joe Shuster) of Superman, Siegel suffered the ignominy of knowing he was just the hired help. Instead of being the aggrieved parties, the ones suing for damages for copyright infringement, Siegel and Shuster had signed away all rights to the character. Siegel sat in the courtroom as Liebowitz and the attorneys detailed the copyright transfer, the phenomenal success of the comic and the potential licensing possibilities.

And he was here only to speak to the originality of his creation.

The defense attorney tries to imply that Siegel copied the currently popular comic strip, The Phantom, thereby making it the common source for both Superman and Wonder Man. After getting Siegel to acknowledge familiarity with The Phantom, the defense attorney tries to pin him down:

Blum: How was that character, "The Phantom", dressed; in what costume?

Siegel: Well, when I first saw the book
[a "Phantom" Big Little Book] I was startled to see how similar it was to the "Superman" features.

What seems to be an admission of imitation, soon proves to be something else entirely:

Siegel: However, there is one other thing I would like to mention--I mean in connection with my having seen this book.

Blum: Go ahead.

Siegel: When I saw this book I went over to the artist's office, and I wondered whether our "Superman" had been lying around the King Features Syndicate.

Siegel's (obviously rehearsed) implication that The Phantom may have been copied from his submission of Superman to King Features, briefly rattles the plaintiff's attorney before they move on.

While Siegel never does produce a drawing of Superman that pre-existed its publication in ACTION COMICS--odd, since such drawings have turned up since--he does satisfy the Court with a letter submitting the strip to Frank Armer, editor of Super Magazines, Inc, dated June 20, 1934. Not stated, but known to at least some of those in court that day:

Super Magazines was a company owned by Harry Donenfeld.

Next up: Max Gaines and Sheldon Mayer


  1. 'tis God's own work you're doing here. As a modest historian of comics, I am in awe of your efforts and want to thank you again.

  2. *blush*

    Thank you again, Diana. I don't think I'm worthy of such praise, but I certainly appreciate it. The true hero in this is the finder of the transcript; I'm just a reporter.

  3. Awesome stuff, still got to read it.

    But one thing, your link to the Mr Angel testimony page 1 is broken, you have it listed as page 10.

  4. Ken,

    Your modesty suits you and would be justified if you had not a. proven to be a pretty damn good researcher without the help of others as well and b. created this website which I hope (together with your other endevors on the internet) will continue to draw out all those with information. I myself have attracted four or five relatives or researchers with my blog, so I know this eefect exists. I hasten to add most of the cntacts I have made that way was of relatives who were looking for more information than they could give. So all praise to you.

  5. Thanks for the heads-up, Jamie! The link has been fixed.

  6. Ger, my friend, thank you!

    As I stated when I started up this blog, I hope it becomes a catalyst for the exchange of comic history information. Thanks to you and others, it seems to be working out that way.

  7. Hi, Ken. Not a comment for here, but come and look at my blog what I found. Nothing as momenteous as your recent find, but here we have a completely forgotten cartoonst doing what Jules Feiffer did years and years later. I have immediately ordered his 'graphic novel' through amazon. Let's ope this internet thing works and I can get some one to react to it.

  8. Glad to provide the link, Ger!

    I recommend that all check out Ger's always interesting and informative blog:

    And yet another expansion of comic history's horizon!

  9. Great work, absolutely fascinating to read! Thanks so much.

  10. Thank you, Peter!

    If you care to read a more detailed evaluation of the complete transcript, please pick up a copy of the May, 2011 issue of ALTER EGO magazine #101.

    I wrote a comprehensive analysis of all the testimony and provided background information to put everything that's said into context.

    Check it out!