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Superman attorney accuses Warner Bros. of ‘a smear campaign’

by  in Comic News Comment

Marc Toberoff, the attorney representing the heirs of Superman’s co-creators, has responded to a lawsuit filed against him on Friday by DC Comics, calling it “baseless” and “clearly vindictive.”

The 56-page complaint, designed to discredit Warner Bros.’ legal nemesis, alleges that Toberoff “orchestrated a web of collusive agreements” with the heirs of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, leading them to reject “mutually beneficial” longtime deals with DC Comics and seek to recapture the Superman copyright.

Further, the lawsuit charges that Toberoff’s “scheme” is designed to secure for him “a majority and controlling financial stake” in the Superman rights and “preclude the heirs from freely entering into new agreements with DC Comics for the continued exploitation of Superman.”

In a press release issued Friday evening, Toberoff accuses Warner Bros. and DC of resorting to “a smear campaign disguised as a lawsuit.”

“Even before filing their new lawsuit, Warner Bros.’ press machine embarked on a well-coordinated campaign to assassinate Mr. Toberoff’s character,” the statement reads. “The baseless lawsuit and press campaign are clearly vindictive, given that Mr. Toberoff has handled a string of successful rights claims against Warner, including securing a preliminary injunction barring Warner’s infringing The Dukes of Hazzard movie in 2005.”

Toberoff dismisses claims that he has a “financial stake” in the Superman and Superboy lawsuits, and insists his only interest is “a proper contingent legal fee.”

“Warner and [new outside counsel Daniel] Petrocelli are aware that the frivolous allegations in their complaint do not add up and will never pass muster in the federal courts,” Toberoff continues. “However, that’s not the point of their lawsuit. Warner and Petrocelli’s objective is to ‘muddy the waters’ by attacking Mr. Toberoff, potentially conflict him out of the case, and thereby strong-arm the Siegels and Shusters into selling at a cut-rate price the copyrights they have legitimately recaptured. Such unethical tactics are nothing short of deplorable.”

The lawsuit relies heavily on a seven-page cover letter — the “Superman-Marc Toberoff Timeline is attached to the complaint — sent anonymously to Warner Bros. in December 2008 along with confidential documents that Toberoff claims were “brazenly stolen” from his office. According to the Los Angeles Times, a court ruled the documents were privileged, and within 24 hours the studio turned them over to a court officer. However, the cover letter was not deemed privileged. Toberoff characterizes it as a defamatory, inadmissible “hyperbolic rant.”