Numerous other blogs are binging on bytes in their coverage of the seismic Superman ruling of earlier this week. For a more naïve and way shorter view, here are four overly simplistic lists. They are rather quickly done, though, so I welcome your knowledge via comments in making them more accurate and more complete.
How DC Comics (primarily earlier, differently-named incarnations) went wrong
* They condescended to Jerry and Joe when they asked for more money, starting from early on. Even though Jerry and Joe were lacking in some ways, they were wonderfully insightful in others, and regardless, management was unscrupulous to take advantage of their hunger for storytelling.
* They rejected Jerry's pitch for a Superboy character but then began publishing a character by that name after Jerry was drafted and without his involvement.
* They removed Jerry and Joe's bylines after the first lawsuit in 1947. Yes, litigation is miserable, but firing Jerry and Joe and retaining rights to Superman should have been enough for DC. Taking away credit was done solely to steal identity and crush spirit, and that is cruel.
* They knew Jerry and Joe were struggling in subsequent years and did not help more consistently. This may seem incompatible with firing and removing bylines, but I believe DC executives never privately denied Jerry and Joe's significance. Management did allegedly pay for eye surgery for Joe at one point, and possibly took other action I'm not privy to, but a little more on their part could have gone a long way to alleviate the suffering of the two men who made their company.
How DC Comics went right
* They paid Jerry and Joe a good salary for the period, and I believe also gave them bonuses (albeit small) and perks along the way.
* They agreed to a settlement in 1975. Even though it took much pushing and even though it also served as slick PR, it was still moral.
* From the 1980s on, DC treated Jerry and Joe with public (though guarded) respect. Jerry and Joe contributed to the 45th anniversary issue of Action Comics and possibly other comics I'm not well-versed enough to cite. This is small consolation in practical terms, but they ran full-page commemorations when each man died (and possibly some kind of memorial service?):
How Jerry and Joe went wrong
* They sold all rights to Superman. Many other Golden Age creators did the same with their own do-gooders, but not all. So it was a mistake, but an understandable one. The Depression intensified short-term thinking. Expectations were different then.
* I don't know this as fact, but it seems safe to infer that they did not smartly manage the considerable amount of money they were making in the early 1940s.
* Jerry was a persistent noodge. That is not to say he didn't have the right to voice his displeasure to DC, but he sometimes struck a grating tone in his letters to them.
How Jerry and Joe went right
* They created Superman, on their own, and hustled for more than three years trying to get the idea published. They were not afraid to have unchecked enthusiasm for what they felt was an exceptional idea.
* They had the backbone to sue their employer over what they genuinely felt was unfair treatment.
* Jerry decided against another lawsuit in the 1970s and shrewdly went to the media instead, hoping to get the public on his and Joe's side.
* Even when they had been offered a financial settlement, they held out for creator acknowledgement. Money is finite. Credit is forever.
Few of us are the villains in our own story, yet sometimes there is no hero.