Jeffrey Baldwin statue: Superman logo will be allowed on memorial

DC Entertainment has reversed its decision disallowing the use of the Superman logo on a memorial statue planned for a Toronto boy who was starved to death.

DC Entertainment initially nixed idea of putting superhero's logo on statue honouring Toronto boy

Jeffrey Baldwin is shown in a Halloween costume in this undated handout photo released at the inquest into his death. (Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario/Canadian Press)

DC Entertainment has reversed its decision disallowing the use of the Superman logo on a memorial statue planned for a Toronto boy who was starved to death.

Jeffrey Baldwin was just shy of his sixth birthday when he died after wasting away to just over 20 pounds. He had been locked in his cold and dirty bedroom in his grandmother's home in November 2002.

A coroner's inquest in 2013 caught the attention of Ottawa resident Todd Boyce, who was so moved by the tragedy that he created a campaign to have a statue of Jeffrey in a Superman costume — based on a widely circulated image of the boy — erected in an east-end park.

The statue by artist Ruth Abernethy has been in the works but is not yet completed. 

DC Entertainment initially wouldn't grant permission to use the logo on the statue, citing legal reasons.

"I was angry. My first thought was to burn every DC comic book I ever had, but after talking with them, I sort of came around to see their perspective on it more," Boyce told CBC Metro Morning’s Matt Galloway on Tuesday. "They weren't comfortable associating the character of Superman with child abuse."

Company cites 'worthy requests' 

On Wednesday, DC released a statement saying that after verifying the support of appropriate family members, it is allowing the statue to feature the "S" logo.

"We are honoured by the relationship that our fans have with our characters, and fully understand the magnitude of their passion," the company said in its statement.

"We take each request seriously and our heartfelt thoughts go out to the victims, the family and those affected. DC Entertainment uses a flexible set of criteria when we receive worthy requests such as this, and at times have reconsidered our initial stance."

It’s been a “roller-coaster” for Boyce. 

“They called me… and they basically made a decision to reverse the original decision and they are now going to allow the Superman logo,” Boyce told CBC News on Wednesday.

Boyce wanted Jeffrey, whose short life was full of isolation, to be honoured and remembered, so came up with the idea of the statue.

The foundry where the bronze casting will be completed had just removed the "S" when Boyce learned late Tuesday afternoon that there was a possibility DC might be reconsidering the original decision. 

The statue's artist, 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 — told him it won't be too much trouble to restore the logo, Boyce said.

Gaps in the system 

Jeffrey's grandparents are now serving life sentences for second-degree murder after locking him for long stretches in a cold room, fetid with his own waste, and so severely starving him that when he died just shy of his sixth birthday, his weight was that of a 10-month-old infant.

The jury in the coroner's inquest into his death issued a broad slate of 103 recommendations, aimed at closing various gaps in the system so no other child meet's Jeffrey's fate.

The most glaring oversight in Jeffrey's case was the failure of the Catholic Children's Aid Society to check out Jeffrey's
grandparents before giving them custody of the boy and his siblings.

Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman had both previously been convicted of abusing children but when Bottineau came forward to the CCAS and offered to care for her grandchildren, she seemed well-meaning and workers didn't look deeper, the CCAS has acknowledged.

Standards surrounding so-called kinship care have changed since Jeffrey's death in 2002, but the jury's recommendations suggest there is much more to be done.

The jury was clearly moved by Jeffrey's sad tale. They wrote at the end of their recommendations that they were "hopeful" a permanent memorial could be established for Jeffrey, to "provide the important ongoing public safety message that the protection of vulnerable children in Ontario is every citizen's responsibility."

With files from The Canadian Press