This is the ninety-first in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous ninety. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: DC gave Superman new powers to aid them in a legal struggle.
In the late 90s, DC had a storyline where Superman gains new electric powers.
At the same time, DC was (and still is) involved in a legal dispute with the heirs of Jerry Siegel, co-creator of Superman, over the copyright to Superman.
Therefore, the timing of the events led some people to believe that perhaps there was something tying the two events together.
At the official Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed Suggestion Thread on the Comics Should Be Good forum, reader Stressfactor states:
1) I remember hearing someone claim that at least *one* reason behind the "Electric Blue" Superman of the 1990's was an attempt by DC to circumnavigate a lawsuit by the family of either Seigel or Schuster. That, at the time, one of the family were trying to get the rights to the character back and DC changed Superman's powers and looks in an attempt to either A) Establish something new and thereby keep fans just in case they lost the rights to the "old" Superman or B) Try to establish a preceident that Seigel and Schuster's creation was not "unique" and "distinctive" and to prove it DC was going to change Superman and prove to the courts that even a drastically changed character with the same name would still sell just as well.
I figured I would go straight to the source, specifically the man who came up with the idea to give Superman new powers, former Superman scribe Karl Kesel.
Here is what Karl had to say:
I was the one who put the "give Superman new powers" idea on the table, and it had nothing to do with any legal maneuverings whatsoever. The only thing I had in mind was creating a situation where for the first time (in a long, long time, at least) we would see Superman uncertain of his own limitations and abilities, and watch him learn how to use his powers and become a hero all over again. Nothing more conspiratorial or devious than that.
Well, that explains that.