Johnny Bullet
Cult Favorite
What Would Superman Do? Not This!
By Philip Schweier

July 8, 2014 - 21:49

In 2002, 5-year-old Jeffrey Baldwin, a Toronto Superman fan, tragically died from child abuse. He and his siblings were placed in the care of his maternal grandparents, who abused the boy and his sister to the point of starvation and septic shock. The grandparents were convicted of second degree murder in 2006.

In the course of the trial, Jeffrey’s father Richard Baldwin spoke of his son’s admiration of Superman. Todd Boyce of Ottawa was so moved by the story that he raised more than $36,000 through crowd funding to commission a memorial of Jeffrey depicting him in his treasured Superman costume. However, DC Entertainment made the challenging decision not to permit the use of the copyrighted S shield.

Currently, there is a movement on Facebook launched by Comic Book Fans United in support of the memorial to Jeffrey, Fans are encouraged to change their profile image to the Superman S shield. Sadly, many view this as a case of the big, bad greedy corporation vs. an innocent child.

The Toronto Star reported that Boyce received an email from DC’s senior vice president of business and legal affairs, Amy Genkins, who stated, “For a variety of legal reasons, we are not able to accede to the request, nor many other incredibly worthy projects that come to our attention.”

In response to the email, Boyce commented, “To be fair to DC, I don’t think they wanted to say no. I think they gave it serious thought.”

Looking at the matter from DC Entertainment’s point of view, saying yes would take the company and its millions of fans down a legal rabbit hole from which there could be no escape. Any fan could then solicit the company for approval of having copyrighted images associated with a variety of worthy causes, thereby implying endorsement and support. But what happens when such causes – which may seem benign on the surface – are in fact a means for a given group to capitalize on the company’s properties?

From a corporate viewpoint, it is more practical to support recognized charities through charitable giving and other forms of assistance. This has less to do with corporate greed and more to do with the responsibility the company has to its shareholders and employees to safeguard its assets.

Looking at the matter with more sympathy to Jeffrey Baldwin, I have to wonder if martyrdom is a viable avenue for honoring his memory. I have no desire to belittle his tragedy, but associating him with the Man of Steel may do precisely that. Superman is far more recognizable by millions of people than Jeffrey, thus the depiction of a child in a Superman costume may very well overshadow the battle against child abuse.

If you think that wouldn’t happen, bear in mind the story has already polarized comic book fans. It’s no longer about the Jeffrey’s tragic death; it’s about the shortcomings of DC Entertainment’s PR office.

For many, Superman is a moral compass, and from time to time, fans may find themselves asking, “What would Superman do?” Would he lend his name to a single occurrence of one of society’s many ills? Not likely. I seem to recall stories in which he learned that it’s impossible for even him to battle all evils everywhere. Nor should he try. Sometimes, super powers merely provide a short cut to a temporary solution. Often, issues are most effectively handled by those with no super powers.

Instead, Superman might look at “the big picture,” seeking to challenge the problem in broad strokes. Part of this strategy might include leading by example. Because super powers or no, that's what our heroes do, often without anyone realizing it. From Joan of Arc to Abraham Lincoln to Michael Jordan, our heroes point us toward a better path. Often, that’s all they can do; it’s our responsibility to walk it.

I feel confident that Superman would not wish for his fans to involve themselves in a meaningless conflict with an equally meaningless corporate entity. If you really wish to show DC how you feel, hit ‘em where it hurts – their revenues.

If you really wish to honor the memory of Jeffrey Baldwin, and avoid more tragedy, love the children in your life. Read to your nephew. Help your daughter with her homework. Shoot the hoops with the neighbor kid. Become the Superman or Superwoman in their life.

Earn the right to have that S shield on your Facebook page.

© Copyright 2002-2019 by Toon Doctor Inc. - All rights Reserved. All other texts, images, characters and trademarks are copyright their respective owners. Use of material in this document (including reproduction, modification, distribution, electronic transmission or republication) without prior written permission is strictly prohibited.