DC Comics Refuses To Let Superman Logo Adorn The Headstone Of A Young Child Who Was Starved To Death [Updated]

from the copyright-as-kryptonite dept

Please see update at the bottom

Superheroes: they’re awesome. While they are often conflicted, they stand for truth and justice, protecting the fictional masses from unseen evils without so much as a paycheck. You know, like Edward Snowden, but with masks and bikini briefs and whatnot. Children, in particular, love superheroes, because they’re still young enough to not yet have had their view of humanity deflated through the experience of living. Still, even for those reading the most tragic of stories, there is an important lesson to be learned: superheroes are awesome, but the people who own them aren’t.

You can’t meet Jeffrey Baldwin of Ottawa, because at five years old he was the victim of his own grandparents, who starved him to death. But if you could meet Jeffrey, he’d probably tell you all about Superman. See, Jeffrey loved the Man of Steel so much that members of his community that had never even met him were moved to provide for a memorial statue in his name, with the Kryptonian “S” on the boy’s chest. Todd Boyce, who had been taken with Jeffrey’s death and the testimony in his trial, tried to do the right thing and contacted DC Comics to get their blessing.

The request to the comic books publisher had been made by Todd Boyce, an Ottawa father who did not know the Baldwin family. Boyce was so moved by the testimony at the coroner’s inquest into Jeffrey’s death last year that he started an online fundraising campaign for the monument.

You already know what comes next, don’t you? DC Comics wrote a polite but still utterly infuriating reply that essentially said, “Nope!” This reply cited a “variety of legal reasons” that likely boils down to copyright and trademark rights. And, from DC’s standpoint, I’m sure they also considered the sudden flood of requests they’d get from people who would also like to have Superman’s logo on their headstones, family crests, and all the rest. But, seriously, we really couldn’t have figured out a way to get a little Superman on Jeffrey’s memorial statue? Superman was created over eighty years ago, but we’re still at a place where we can’t let a child have his hero moment, even in death?

For Boyce, it was a huge blow, as he felt the Superman aspect was a crucial part of the bronze monument, which will include a bench. The coroner’s inquest heard from Jeffrey’s father that his son loved to dress up as Superman.

“I’m sort of empathetic to (DC’s) point of view on this, but I feel very strongly that the image of Jeffrey is so powerful,” said Boyce. “It’s the image of a vulnerable boy dressed up as the most invulnerable character in the universe. So I just feel like there’s something lost if we change it.” Boyce said he understood DC’s stance, in that he felt they didn’t want the Superman character associated with child abuse.

That’s very understanding of Boyce, but what!?!? If DC’s legal reasons for this refusal have anything to do with not wanting the logo to be associated with child abuse, then we have some lawyers on our hands that are serious candidates for lobotomies. This is a child victim we’re talking about, the kind of person the fictional Superman would damn well have stood up for. It’s too bad Superman’s real-life owners don’t share those same convictions.

Update: And… as is often the case following public shamings, DC has now relented and will allow the use of the logo.

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Companies: dc comics

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Comments on “DC Comics Refuses To Let Superman Logo Adorn The Headstone Of A Young Child Who Was Starved To Death [Updated]”

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scotts13 (profile) says:

I can visualize the thought process

“If we allow it once, everyone will want to use our licensed properties for memorials; the requests will never end. If we refuse ANY, it will seem like preferential treatment. Better to take the hit now, get it over with, and move on.”

Remember these are MBA’s, accountants and lawyers making these decisions. Compassion is bad for business.

John Cressman (profile) says:

Do it!

Just DO IT! Because I would absolutely LOVE to see DC try to “gracefully” get it removed…


No, there would be so much public backlash… especially since they have a new movie coming out… that they would be forced to do it.

Sad… when it would take the potential loss of income from a new movie to make them do the right thing.

Rekrul says:

Re: Do it!

Just DO IT! Because I would absolutely LOVE to see DC try to “gracefully” get it removed…

That was my first thought as well, but the article says that the city wouldn’t agree to put up the monument unless they had a guarantee that there wouldn’t be any copyright issues. 🙁

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Do it!

That was my first thought as well, but the article says that the city wouldn’t agree to put up the monument unless they had a guarantee that there wouldn’t be any copyright issues. 🙁

WTF DC, there is a huge monument/statue of Superman in Metropolis, Illinois. I’ve been there…I’ve got the damn pictures to prove it. It isn’t like they’ve never allowed this before.

I’d just make the picture of the kid the statue and then they have absolutely no copyright/trademark issues to stand on.

ChrisB (profile) says:

Why ask for permission

I’m not sure why they can’t just keep the tombstone and then just say DC is not affiliated or connected to it.

There is a difference between Superman the product and Superman in culture. I own my history, my memories, my experiences, not some damn company. It was a real fact this kid would dress as Superman. If that fact is turned into art, too f*cking back for DC (or any other company for that matter).

We can destroy this copyright dictatorship, one download at a time. When the big media companies collapse, perhaps the ones that replace them will be a bit more humble.

Anonymous Coward says:

The kid is dead, he doesn’t get a hero moment with or without the logo. Such displays are made for the benefit of the living. Ya DC are being dicks, but not to the kid. They’re being dicks to people who didn’t care about the kid until it turned into news story. I can’t find sympathy for either side. Donate to a fund which goes to help kids instead of wasting cash on a statue… if you REALLY want to make a difference.

se7ensamurai says:

Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Jul 9th, 2014 @ 7:10am

I kind of age with you here. I really think the villain of the story is Catholic Children’s Aid Society for taking these kids away from their family and letting them be abused and starved to death. Did the Christians ever come back to check up on them, or just pat themselves in the back and walk away?

Candid Cameron says:

Re: Re: Re:

“I really hate idiots that try to tell other people what to do with their own money.”

You tell him, Rich! If people want to help burn victims, for example, by throwing all of their money into a bonfire instead of giving it to a cause that might actually help them, it’s entirely their choice and nobody is allowed to point out the futility of that choice! /duh

Stephen (profile) says:

DC isn't wrong in this case.

Think about it. When someone who doesn’t know anything about Jeffery Baldwin sees the statue, what do you think they’ll see? What do you think they’ll always call it?

“That’s the Jeffery Baldwin memorial”, says nobody ever.

Most people are going to say, “That’s the Superboy statue.”

That’s the confusion it’ll cause. It will no long be a memorial to the tragically short life of a little boy. It’s going to forever be remembered as a Superboy statue by everyone who’ll forget about the details of his life and death in the future.

The Gutters had a great commentary about this. http://www.the-gutters.com/the-truth-amongst-the-outrage/

DocGerbil100 (profile) says:

The truth of it.

This is so sad. A child is murdered through wilful neglect and DC Comics can find not one ounce of basic human decency, not the tiniest shred of compassion for the community that wants to remember that child appropriately.

I hate to get on my usual hobby-horse here, I feel very, very uncomfortable about it, but I also feel this is the only right time and place.

Next time anyone working for Big Business – whether it’s a comics company, or a film studio, or TV or music or games or books – next time they start telling you how business is hurting, or how much artists are suffering and starving because of piracy, or second hand sales, or whatever else they’re complaining about today, make sure you remember this moment.

You remember how a community wanted to honour a dead child and Big Business responded with absolute, cold contempt.

His name was Jeffrey Baldwin.

He deserved better than the scum who work for DC Comics.

DocGerbil100 (profile) says:

Re: The truth of it.

… and now they’ve changed their minds, but only after being publically excoriated for their initial decision.

On the one hand, I applaud the fact that they have listened to criticism and changed their policy, if only in this one instance. They are, presumably, not a completely lost cause.

On the other hand, there’s no other hint that those who made that first decision are any less heartless, soulless and callous than they were yesterday – or inclined to give the slightest second thought to their decision if bad PR hadn’t forced the issue.

Time will tell if they have learned anything, if they intend to be better people than they have been, or if the reconsideration is as forced and begrudged as I suspect. For now, my contempt is lessened a little.

The dead child will get his memorial, his community will have a permanent reminder not to turn their eyes away from abuse and neglect – and perhaps, with luck and vigilance, fewer children will suffer and die, thanks to that reminder.

Thanks to DC for finally allowing it.

RIP, Jeffrey Baldwin.

Anonymous Coward says:

The time to do things for children like Jeffrey is when they’re alive. I agree with the poster above that people should consider donating money or time to organizations working to prevent more crimes against children like this. This is misplaced sentimentality – Jeffery needed help when he was alive and didn’t get it, that’s what needs fixing.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That is the major benefit of the memorial. It’s not a global fix, but a statue of a little boy that died from neglect in the center of a small town is certainly going to resonate there and in the surrounding communities.

You are correct, you cannot help Jeffery, but a reminder to help the boy down the street is certainly a good thing they can do. Making Jeffery the subject of that memorial and turning him into Superman by having the memory of what happened to him help other children is a very honorable thing to do.

SolkeshNaranek (profile) says:

Letl DC Comics know what you think

DC Comics can be contacted here:


You can fill out their short form, then there is a space to let them know your thoughts about this type of behavior.

I sent them a nice little note (along with a link to this article) asking if perhaps their legal department could stop being such a herd of jackasses and perhaps show a little humanity and compassion.

(I know, I know… humanity and compassion from a bunch of corporate lawyers).

I also let them know I would be posting this article to Reddit as I think it needs the widest possible amount of coverage.

Maybe some public scrutiny will cause them to act more like humans.

Anonymous Coward says:

but it would mean a loss of control as well as revenue for DC Comics and we cant have that, can we. what better example of how the various governments have allowed copyright and trademarks, particularly for the entertainment industries, take over our lives just so ‘fat cat bosses’ who haven’t done hardly a thing to earn it can keep pulling in mega bucks from other peoples natural ability as well as their pain!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Updated

Perhaps, but the whole thing confirms that the Content Industry is run by and for lawyers and accountants. A polite response would have been “Of course. We’ll issue you a license to use our trademarked logo at no charge to you. Would you object to a small and inconspicuous plaque on the back of the statue mentioning the trademark and our sorrow at the boy’s death? We will cover all costs for it.”

THAT’s the way to respond to something like this. It’s not enough to defend a trademark, you have to defend your reputation.

Digger says:

This proves a point.

Corporations are NOT people.

They have NO soul.
They have NO compassion.
They have NO feelings – that means no guilt, no remorse, no sadness when they do horrific things.

Corporations aren’t people, the only reason the decision was reversed – their bottom line, period.

Not a single executive @ DC cares one whit about anything but making more money.

Magical Mimi says:

There may be a bit more to this than meets the eye. After all, within the last decade or so, DC has lost the right to use the name ‘Superboy’ for a bit after a judge sided with the family of one of Supermans creators when they tried to get that copyright/trademark back from DC (which some fans will claim is why DC killed off the Superboy they had at the time, until they had a way to use the tgerm ‘Superboy’ again, thus they brought him back from the dead). And on top of that, there was a separate court case as the creators family tried to get the name ‘Superman’ back from DC (the family lost, thus DC still has that trademark/copyright).

So DC might be afraid of possible backlash should they loose those copyright/trademarks down the road, and the ‘new’ owners of the copyright/trademarks try to cash in on existing things.

Of course in this case, as I see it, this probably just is DC being an ass and trying to do everything they can to make money in the short term. **** the statue to a little kid.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

In my mind I can see this being the fault of the lawyers.
It is far better to appear to be heartless dicks by turning down everyone, than to try and sift through the massive pile of requests they might get. They might approve the wrong one, or turn down one and there will be a media firestorm.

Like just happened.

DC survives on goodwill from the public, it seems that perhaps they lost touch with that fact. Sometimes it is worth the effort to have the lawyers vette something as worthy, instead of running around trying to crush someones drawing or fanfic.

KJ (profile) says:

The Gutters did a blog post on this story before I read it here, and they had a completely different angle to it.

If there was a small statue erected of a little boy with a Superman outfit on, most people who saw it would think “look at that statue of Superboy.” That doesn’t pay tribute to Jeffrey. That makes the story about something it’s not and for that reason alone, I can understand the decision that was made by DC Entertainment.

Even the artist and the gentleman who commissioned the statue, Ottawa resident Todd Boyce, seem to understand this, commenting “To be fair to DC, I don’t think they wanted to say no. I think they gave it serious thought.”

But what I see all over the internet, especially in the comics “media,” are stories and click-bait headlines that vilify DC with only a paragraph’s mention of Jeffrey.

I think that’s a fair point.

MatBastardson (profile) says:

unintended consequences

So, little Billy is dragged off to the funeral of some relative he barely knows, sees the Superman logo on a tombstone, and breaks into tears, asking mommy and daddy when Superman died? Then as they try to bundle him away from the gravesite, he sees dozens of other tombstones with the Superman logo, and his little mind is shattered, like if the contractors putting in a pool in his backyard uncovered a mass grave of Santa Clauses murdered by some psycho mall-santa killer. DC gets sued out of existance, and Superman dies for real this time, taking Batman with him.

Won’t somebody think of the children?

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