I wish I could do a lot more for you

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Since the character's inception in the 1930s, the original creative forces behind Superman - and now their surviving families - have been disagreeing with publishers both behind closed doors and in court. From relatively petty arguments concerning the aesthetics of Superman's jockstrap through to more pressing matters relating to legal ownership of the Superhero, all debatable bases have been exhaustively covered. Luckily for bystanders, one of the few positives to be gleaned from the situation is the fascinating correspondence uncovered and submitted as evidence during the latest legal trial. Over the next week or so I'll be posting a few of these letters, beginning somewhat depressingly in 1976 and working backwards...

In December of 1974, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster - Superman's co-creators - were told by a U.S. Court of Appeal judge that they had indeed signed all copyrights to the Man of Steel over to National Allied Publications, for good, back in 1938. For $130. Two years later, as the first Superman movie was close to release and moviegoers geared up to spend millions watching the adaptation, Siegel wrote the following letter of conveyance to his daughter Laura along with photostats of original artwork and manuscripts relating to the introduction of 'one of the most successful fiction characters of all time', in the hope that someday she would 'be able to market this for its full value and get some material benefit from being the daughter of the originator of Superman'.

Transcript follows.





Transcript
JERRY SIEGEL

11928 Darlington Avenue, Apt. 102
West Los Angeles, California 90049
November 21, 1976

Ms. Laura Siegel
11928 Darlington Avenue, Apt. 102
West Los Angeles, California 90049

Dear Laura:

You are a wonderful person and a loving daughter and you have given me a lot of happiness.

I wish I could do a lot more for you. But there is something I can and want to do at once.

This is a letter of conveyance - and with this letter I am presenting to you as a gift, to do with as you wish, what I believe to be some very valuable material.

Six original photostat positive reproductions of the first week of the SUPERMAN daily strip, which was conceived by me, written by me, and drawn by Joe Shuster in late 1934. Also, six original photostat negatives of the same material. (Both of these photostat reproductions of the original art work of the first week of the SUPERMAN daily strip were made in late 1934.)

From 1934 on, this material was submitted by me to numerous newspaper syndicates, and publishers, in an attempt to make a deal for the publication of Superman. When, in 1938, a deal was made for SUPERMAN to be published in the new magazine ACTION COMICS, practically all of the original drawings from which these photostats were made were cut up and pasted onto comic book pages, with slight alterations (some panels trimmed, other panels slightly extended in size). A few of the panels in these photostats were never published... in daily strip number 1, I believe panel 1 was redrawn and the title and by-line inserted; I believe panel 3 of that strip was redrawn, and I believe the final panel of that first daily strip may have been redrawn.

That first week of SUPERMAN daily strip photostats was submitted to potential markets with two additional manuscripts I wrote. Fortunately, the original typed pages of these two rare Superman manuscripts are still in existence, and I hereby present them to you, in addition to the above described photostats.

The first "SUPERMAN (Synopsis)" manuscript, 3 pages long, contains a description of "(Releases for 2nd Week"). The story in the manuscript continues where the first six drawn-up daily strips of Superman ended. The manuscript contains a detailed description of what the second week of proposed Superman daily strips would contain...daily strips 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. This contains not only detailed descriptions, but some dialogue, too. This synopsis manuscript describes exactly what appeared in the second week of SUPERMAN daily strips. The drawn daily strips of Superman, herein described, were later cut up, pasted onto pages, and reproduced together with the art of daily strip week one, in ACTION COMICS No. 1, June, 1938 issue.

The second "SUPERMAN (Synopsis)" manuscript, 4 pages long, contains a description of ("Releases for Weeks 3 and 4"). The story in the manuscript continues where the story of "2nd week" in the first manuscript ends. The manuscript contains a detailed description of what Superman daily strip weeks 3 and 4 contained; describing in week 3, daily strips 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18. And it describes in week 4, daily strips 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24. Again, both descriptions and some dialogue are in the manuscript. This synopsis manuscript describes exactly what appeared in the 3rd and 4th week of the SUPERMAN daily strips. The drawn strips of Superman, herein described, were later cut up, pasted onto pages, and reproduced together with the art of daily strips week one and two in ACTION COMICS No. 1, June, 1938. On page four of this second manuscript is some material I wrote in which I described why I felt Superman would become a great hit "sure to become the idol of young and old." In it, I described more of the proposed format for the adventures of Superman.

The Superman daily strip art work for weeks 2, 3 and 4 was prepared after I wrote detailed script based on these two synopses manuscripts.

This material is the original conception of the SUPERMAN comic strip, as conceived and written by me. It was in this material, created by me in late 1934 (this concept was not published until June, 1938 issue of ACTION COMICS No. 1) - the version which went into publication - that Superman emerged to become one of the most successful fiction characters of all time.

Most creators of successful literary properties leave valuable estates to their heirs. I am very sorry that because of my inexperience that this is not true in your case. I am glad, though, that this original material in which Superman was first created has survived through the years, and I am giving this to you, my beloved daughter Laura, in the hope that someday you will be able to market this for its full value and get some material benefit from being the daughter of the originator of Superman.

With loving regards from your father...

Jerry Siegel