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Warner Bros. wins rights to Superman; hero's creators lose out on royalties (video)

Henry Cavill as Superman in the upcoming
Henry Cavill as Superman in the upcoming "Man of Steel."
Warner Bros.

A court ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in San Francisco means that Warner Bros. — and subsidiary DC Comics — maintain the rights to use Superman and his associated ideas for the foreseeable future. A lower court had ruled in favor of the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel, but the appeals court ruled that the family must abide by a 2001 agreement.

DC Comics paid Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for the rights to the character in 1938. How much? A whopping $412. However, the creators’ estates have been locked in legal battles for years, trying to wrest control of various aspects of Superman.

What would losing have meant for Warner Bros.? That certain key components of Superman — his costume and origin story, to start with — would not be in their control, and they would have had to renegotiate a deal to license those aspects of the character.

The loss would have meant that money earned by Warner Bros. through Superman since 1999 would have had to be shared with Siegel and Shuster’s heirs. Here’s a look at some of the media portrayals which raked in that money since then.

Smallville (2001–2011)

The hit CW TV series (that began at what was then known as the WB) did a lot with that Superman origin that the creators were after. It ran for 10 seasons and became the longest running network TV genre show in history.

Justice League (2001–2006)

The Justice League cartoon, which featured Superman in a prominent role, ran on Cartoon Network for years.

Superman Returns (2006)

“Superman Returns” faced what the studio termed disappointing box office, and a planned sequel was aborted. Still, it pulled in $200 million domestically and another $191 million internationally, so a cut of that could have meant big bucks.

Direct to DVD animated films (2007-present)

Along with appearing in animated form on TV, Superman also appeared in numerous direct-to-DVD animated films, like “Superman: Doomsday,” “Superman/Batman: Public Enemies,” and most recently “Superman vs. The Elite” in 2012.

Man Of Steel (2013)

The latest live action take on Superman hits theaters this June. There’s also a Justice League movie in development, with Superman as its linchpin.