By Jennifer Harman
In my last post, I mentioned the creation of the world’s first superhero: Superman. Dreamt up by teenagers Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the Man of Steel’s super powers include superstrength, flight, x-ray vision and making money.
In 1966, DC sold almost 720,000 comic books about the Kryptonian hero. With the advance of technology, comic book sales have declined drastically, but Superman is still providing DC (a division of Time Warner) with plenty of the green stuff (and I don’t mean Kryptonite).
Superman Returns, which hit the big screen in 2006, netted nearly 53 million dollars in its opening weekend.
Warner Bros. is also responsible for Smallville, a CW television series that started in 2001 and tracks Superman’s teenage life. CW, by the way, is a joint venture between Warner Bros. and CBS. CBS is owned by one of Time Warner’s major competitors: Viacom.
And that’s just the beginning. Superman’s company is capable of amazing synergy. In 2009, they partnered with Adidas to produce the Superman shoe. DC also partnered with the New Era cap company to create Superman hats.
That’s just a sampling of the sort of synergy and collaboration tied to the Man of Steel. There is a wide variety of Superman merchandise available, all of which has to give DC a share of the profit.
Looking at all the ways Superman has been commodified, it could be argued that DC’s superpower is the power of copyright law. Unfortunately for the company, Jerry Siegel’s heirs are equally empowered. It’s been determined that DC has only 50 percent control of the Superman copyright and DC is likely to lose it all in the next few years.
With another rumored Superman movie already in the works, it’ll be interesting to watch DC scramble to rake in some more profit before it has to hand over the reins.