Another BEAT-response. I just can't seem to stop wasting my time there. Heavy sigh.
Well, I agree that Siegel and Shuster made their own bed for the most part. Going largely by the Gerard Jones account, they weren't exactly starving when they made the Superman deal. The Larry Tye book says they consulted a lawyer before they signed, but it musta been some punk kind of shyster! Surely by then any lawyer worth his salt would have known how much merchandising proceeding from cartoon characters like Popeye and Betty Boop.
Now one might fairly loathe DC for later crimes, like swiping the Superboy concept and eventually muscling Siegel and Shuster out of the operation. But I don't think you can blame the DC editors for trying to make the best deal they could for their company.
I can't agree that the "hostage situation" hurts original independent creators, though. If anything the loss of Superman warns artists not to sign away anything they believe in. If the company wants to own everything you create, don't give them "John Byrne's Next Men," give them "John Byrne's 'Spinnerette!'"
What I've seen companies doing for the last 20 years is not confining all work "in-house," but attempting to spin off properties created during the Bad Old Days. The failures (thus far) of attempts to claim characters created during those days, like Howard, Blade and Ghost Rider, makes them a good bet for development. And of course the Big Two have published work that is strictly owned by the artist, but they haven't succeeded in creating a lasting imprint dedicated to such work, so the policy remains marginal in effect.
Small point in the Gerber piece: Jerry Siegel claimed he created hits for Ziff-Davis. What were these "hits?" LARS FROM MARS, maybe? Or LITTLE AL OF THE FBI??