Check that bought Superman rights for $130 sells for $160,000

Mon Apr 16, 2012 10:08pm EDT
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By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Decades after two young cartoonists from Cleveland sold the rights to Superman for $130, their 1938 paycheck fetched $160,000 on Monday in an online auction.

The winning bid landed the check that Detective Comics, later known as DC Comics, wrote to Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster for the comic-book character with the "S" emblazoned on his chest.

"The concept of the superhero was born with Superman," said Vincent Zurzolo, co-owner of New York-based ComicConnect, which held the online auction.

"That $130 check essentially created a billion-dollar industry," he said, listing the super heroes who followed in the Man of Steel's footsteps, including Batman, Spider-Man and X-Men.

Like Superman, all of them today have their own blockbuster movie series and merchandise empires.

The check for the rights to the American icon who stands for truth, justice and the American way is "the holy grail" for comic book fans and collectors, Zurzolo said.

"Think about a world without Superman," Zurzolo said. "Without this check being written, we'd never have a Superman, we'd never have a comic-book industry."

Siegel and Shuster's agreement in 1938 to sell the rights for such a paltry sum came to haunt them and, later, their heirs, who sued DC Comics and its parent company Warner Bros.   Continued...

A check from DC Comics for $130 issued on March 1, 1938 for the rights to a comic character named Superman is seen in this undated handout image. REUTERS/ComicConnect/Handout