Look, up in the sky — It’s the Siegel and Shuster Society and a lesson in intellectual property

While Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster both died in the 1990s, credit for their popular creation Superman is alive and seeing the light after anonymity for many years.

The story is an old one in the entertainment world and elsewhere when a budding talent creates The Next Big Thing — and the young, naive person falls victim to unscrupulous profit-takers.

Siegel and Shuster were offered a $130 check and a limited contract. The Glenville High School classmates, seeing that this was about $2,200 in today’s money, quickly signed the check and turned over their rights to the character.

During the long legal battle over the ownership of the copyright, Siegel and Shuster and later their estates did receive some compensation but eventually lost their claim to Superman.

But outside of the legal battles, the recognition efforts won. This month’s Uniquely Cleveland describes the work of the Siegel and Shuster Society, which was formed some years ago to perpetuate the Superman story and its origins in Cleveland.

Mike Olszewski, the president of the society, says there was a lot of talk over the years to start recognizing Siegel and Shuster with an organization, but it wasn’t until 2007 when the interest and the resources — new faces, new support and new commitments — made the project happen.

Nothing kills inspiration than to be doing the same thing over and over again, a CEO recently told me. Once the effort started that had supporters who tried to make every step forward an exciting one — restoring the Siegel house, a commemorative fence at the Shuster residence site, a Cleveland Hopkins International Airport display — the inspiration grew.

That same CEO told me that he often walks down the retail aisles where his products are for sale. “The key to it is not looking at what is there; it’s looking at what is not there. And if you can fill that need, your odds of a successful product or project are much, much greater.”

And that was the case with the Siegel and Shuster Society. It was a super dream that found a way to become reality.

Dennis Seeds is editor-at-large for Smart Business magazines. Contact him at [email protected]