DC Entertainment is refusing to allow the Superman logo to adorn a memorial statue of a Toronto boy who loved the superhero during his short life before his grandparents starved him to death.
A coroner’s inquest last winter into the death of five-year-old Jeffrey Baldwin caught the attention of an Ottawa man, who was moved by Jeffrey’s plight and wanted to pay tribute to the boy.
Todd Boyce raised money for a statue of Jeffrey and recruited Ontario artist Ruth Abernethy – known for a Glenn Gould bronze statue on a bench on Front Street in Toronto and a bronze of Oscar Peterson outside the National Arts Centre in Ottawa – to design it.
Boyce wanted to see Jeffrey depicted in a Superman costume, harkening back to inquest testimony from Jeffrey’s father.
Before his teenage parents lost custody of Jeffrey to his maternal grandparents the little boy was very energetic and loved the superhero, Richard Baldwin testified.
“He wanted to fly,” Baldwin 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.”
But DC Entertainment – home to the comic-book superhero co-created by Toronto-born artist Joe Shuster – will not grant Boyce permission to use the Superman logo on the statue.
“It was important for me because I really felt I wanted to capture the photograph of Jeffrey wearing his Superman costume and have it as close to that as possible,” Boyce said.
“Basically they didn’t want to have the character of Superman associated with child abuse. They weren’t comfortable with that.”
Boyce said he was angry and emotional when he first learned of their refusal, but after subsequent conversations with people at the company and their lawyers, he softened his stance.
“[I] realized that the most important thing is to have a fitting monument for Jeffrey, that it’s about him,” Boyce said. “To be fair to DC I don’t think they wanted to say no. I think they gave it serious thought.”
DC Entertainment would not comment.
Boyce said the design will be changed to have a “J” on the chest rather than the “S” of the Superman logo. The model of the statue is complete – except for the letter change – and is just now waiting for it to be cast in bronze. Boyce is hoping for a September unveiling and dedication.
One of Jeffrey’s sisters has chosen a poem to be engraved on a bench that will be part of the memorial, Boyce said. It begins with the line “I wish heaven had a phone so I could hear your voice again.”
She requested a Hot Wheels car also be incorporated and Boyce said the foundry will bronze a little car and mount it above the poem.
Jeffrey wasted away to the weight of a baby, locked in his cold, urine- and feces-stained bedroom in the Toronto home of his grandmother, his Catholic Children’s Aid Society-approved guardian.
He died on Nov. 30, 2002, weeks shy of his sixth birthday, and during the coroner’s inquest that concluded earlier this year, Jeffrey’s plight caught the attention of Boyce, a father of four and government IT worker. He raised money for the project online.
Jeffrey’s grandparents – who were convicted of second-degree murder in 2006 – had custody of Jeffrey and his three siblings. Two of them were treated relatively well, the inquest heard, but one of his sisters was subjected to the same conditions. The difference between Jeffrey and his sister was that she was allowed to go to school – the daily snack she received there likely saved her life, the inquest heard.