Reconsidering its decision, DC Entertainment will allow Superman's iconic S emblem on a statue memorializing a 5-year-old Toronto boy who died in 2002 following years of abuse by his grandparents.
"We are honored by the relationship that our fans have with our characters, and fully understand the magnitude of their passion," a company spokesperson said in a statement released this morning. "We take each request seriously and our heartfelt thoughts go out to the victims, the family and those affected. DC Entertainment uses a flexible set of criteria when we receive worthy requests such as this, and at times have reconsidered our initial stance. After verifying the support of appropriate family members, DC Entertainment will be allowing the Jeffrey Baldwin Memorial Statue to feature the Superman S Shield."
Todd Boyce, who spearheaded the $36,000 Indiegogo campaign to fund the statue, tweeted, "Great news! DC honours both Jeffrey’s family and its fans! After further review - Jeffrey will don the S shield!"
Jeffrey’s teenage parents lost custody of the boy and his three siblings, who were placed into the care of their maternal grandparents, Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman. While two of the children were treated relatively well, Jeffrey and one of his sisters were locked in a dark room for 14 hours a day, deprived of food, verbally and mentally abused and left to live in their own waste. Jeffrey died Nov. 30, 2002, of septic shock and starvation. Bottineau and Kidman were convicted in 2006 of second-degree murder.
While the case was already well known across Canada, it drew renewed attention last fall with a coroner’s inquest, during which Jeffrey’s father Richard Baldwin testified of the boy’s love of Superman. “He wanted to fly,” he said. “He tried jumping off the chair. We had to make him stop. He dressed up [as Superman] for Halloween one year. He was so excited. I have that picture at home hanging on my wall. He was our little man of steel.”
That struck a chord with Boyce, an Ottawa father of four who began the push for a statue depicting Jeffrey in his Superman costume. But when he contacted DC for permission to use the trademarked Superman logo, his request was denied. The story quickly attracted international headlines, the kind no company wants.
Although Boyce told the Toronto Star that he empathized with the publisher's position -- he thought DC didn't want Superman to be associated with child abuse -- he said, "I feel very strongly that the image of Jeffrey is so powerful,” he said. “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.”
It seemed his only option was to have the shield engraved with a "J" for Jeffrey, to avoid any legal troubles. But now, with DC's reconsideration, Boyce will be able to proceed as he originally planned.
The statue, sculpted by Ontario artist Ruth Abernethy, is expected to be complete by the end of summer. It will be unveiled this fall in Toronto's Greenwood Park.