Update: DC Entertainment has reversed its earlier decision, and will now allow Superman's shield to appear on a memorial statue of murdered 5-year-old Jeffrey Baldwin, the Toronto Star reports. The original story is below.
Superman's "S" is one of the most valuable trademarks DC Comics owns, so the company certainly isn't going to let it appear in a memorial for any old 5-year-old who was abused and starved to death by his grandparents. That's just bad business.
Jeffrey Baldwin and his three siblings were sent to live with their grandparents in Toronto to give their "young and problematic" mom and dad a break, the Toronto Star reported. They were reportedly beaten, locked in cold rooms, and forced to drink out of a toilet. When Jeffrey died in 2002, at age 5, he weighed just 21 pounds.
The grandparents were convicted of murder in 2006, and the case prompted a long list of recommendations for Ontario's child welfare services to "help ensure that no other child suffers and dies like Jeffrey did."
Todd Boyce, a local father who wanted to honor Jeffrey's memory, commissioned a bronze sculpture of the murdered boy as his favorite superhero, Superman, to be displayed in Toronto's Greenwood Park.
Jeffrey's father spoke of the boy's love of Superman at the inquest into his death.
"He wanted to fly," Richard Baldwin said, "He tried jumping off the chair. We had to make him stop. He dressed up [as Superman] for Halloween. …I have that picture at home hanging on my wall. He was our little man of steel."
But being a little man of steel is a violation of DC Entertainment's trademark. When Boyce wrote to the company (at the City of Toronto's request) to ask for permission to depict Jeffrey with an "S" on his chest, DC said no.
DC's senior vice president of business and legal affairs, Amy Genkins, replied that "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."
If you let one murdered little boy be Superman, you'll have to let all of them do it. It's a slippery slope.
"I'm sort of empathetic to their point of view on this, but I feel very strongly that the image of Jeffrey is so powerful," Boyce told the Star. "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."
But they will have to change it. The bronze version of Jeffrey, by sculptor Ruth Abernethy, will wear a "J" instead. It's due to be unveiled this fall.