| NEW YORK, April 16
NEW YORK, April 16 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
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
"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
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.
Sons of Jewish immigrants, Siegel and Shuster were childhood
friends from Cleveland. After creating Superman as young men in
their 20s, they offered the character around before finally
making the sale to DC Comics.
ComicConnect said that when the first Superman movie came
out in 1978, Shuster was so broke he was working as an aging
To add insult to injury, the $130 payment was included in a
$402 check that incorrectly spelled the names of Siegel and
Shuster, forcing them to endorse it both ways in order to get
paid. Shuster died in 1992 and Siegel in 1996.
The check was sold on behalf of the heirs of a DC Comics
employee, who stashed it for decades in a dresser drawer, the
firm said. Zurzolo declined to reveal the identity of the buyer.
The auction of the check comes months after a record $2.16
million was paid in December for a first issue of Action Comics,
the comic book that unveiled Superman to the world. It cost 10
cents when it was published in 1938.
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Eric Walsh and David