By the time Man of Steel comes out in 2012, it will be six years since the last Superman movie. But thanks to a bizarre legal battle, there could be TWO Superman projects up and running by 2013.
Man of Steel, directed by Zack Snyder and produced by Christopher Nolan, is scheduled to come out in December 2012. But less than a year after that, according to Variety, certain rights pertaining to the character will revert back to the families of Superman's original creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
Notice we said "certain rights." Not everything will belong to Siegel and Shuster's heirs. That's because, the way this has played out legally, everything that the pair invented for Superman before they began working for DC Comics will be owned by their families. Everything they came up with for the Superman mythology after DC starting paying them will still belong to the comics giant (which is owned by Warner Bros. Pictures).
As a result, the Siegel and Shuster estates will own the rights to Superman's costume, as well as his ability to "leap tall buildings in a single bound." Other iconic aspects, like his ability to fly and most of his rogues' gallery, including arch-nemesis Lex Luthor, came into being under the DC Comics umbrella and therefore belong to the company.
Now, this is where the Variety article gets deep into the legal weeds, but the bottom line is that theoretically, starting in 2013, the families and Warner Bros./DC could both proceed with their own Superman movies. However, a Siegel/Shuster movie would essentially be based around elements created in 1938, before they began working for DC, while a Warner Bros. movie would be based on what the article calls the "modern Superman." A 1938 movie could not show Superman flying, while a "modern Superman" film would not have access to the classic costume.
So can't Warner Bros./DC cut the families a nice fat check and get everyone on board
together? That's not so easy either. The lawyer for the Siegels and Shusters, Marc Toberoff, is aggressively pursuing an appeal to establish who owns what, while WB/DC is suing him, claiming that he has destroyed the relationship between the company and the families (the dealings between Warner Bros. and Toberoff have the makings of a legal thriller on their own, according to a separate article at the Hollywood Reporter).
So unless this gets sorted out somehow, Man of Steel could be the last "true" Superman movie we ever see. Sequels may or may not be able to feature Kal-El in his trademark costume, while a separate set of movies could introduce a costumed Superman in 1938, unable to fly, battling whatever criminals Siegel and Shuster created before DC starting cutting their paychecks.
Both possibilities sound, frankly, like cinematic Kryptonite to us. What do you think should happen?