I'm sure they didn't feel 'screwed' when they cashed that check.
I'm all for protecting the 'little guy' from big business taking advantage over people... but, from what I know these guys willingly created and sold a character to DC. Hindsight is 20/20 and yeah, looking back I'm sure they'd love to have negotiated a better deal - but, chances are that if they would've held out, Superman might not have been heard of or be the icon he is today.
It's that way for a lot of the artists and writers of that era. Jack Kirby didn't get as good a deal in the end as he thought he was but that's how the industry worked then and why creator owned companies are so popular now. They'll publish you and take their cut but they let you keep ownership. That came out of situations like these guys went through and paved the way for a better comic industry.
How the industry worked??? It still works that way. If you go into business with any studio, prepare to be screwed. See, the worst part about this is - let's just say Jerry and Joe had shown Superman to DC - pitched who he was and what he was about then DC offers them 150 bucks for the character and J&J say - well, we'd like to be included on profits if the character takes off - they would have been told to go dive and in a lake and the deal may have gone south. I promise you within a year, DC would have taken what was pitched and come up with another character - different name, costume, but to Jerry and Joe obvious who it was and now they end up with nothing. It still happens all the time. Look at how DC handeled Captain Marvel (Shazam). The character once outsold Superman by a mile, so DC sued Fawcett over and over, forcing them to use so much money they eventually went out of business and DC swooped in and scooped up their characters and stuck them in a vault. DC took all of the ideas from the pages of Fawcett and gave them to their characters - Mary Marvel became Supergirl, Captain Marvel jr became Superboy - DC still won't release a lot of the older Captain Marvel books because people will see just how much was transplanted.
Just because you can't emotionally accept the way things turned out doesn't mean your perspective is right, either.
Siegel and Shuster were among the best-paid comic creators in the 1940s. They were paid on the order of $100,000 each per year back then. That's equivalent to more than a million dollars per year today.
(Of course, they didn't keep the money for long. They didn't invest their money well and had a staff of other artists they had to pay. On top of that, Siegel was juggling two wives and a kid... Their personal lives were a mess!)
Until their first lawsuit with DC in the late 1940s, Siegel and Shuster were also among the very few comic creators who continued to be credited for their creation amongst multiple comic books AND films irregardless of who actually drew or wrote the Superman comics. Usually after the original creators left the characters they created, their credits were dropped from the continuing comics. The Fleischer Superman cartoons also acknowledge them as the creators of Superman. Siegel and Shuster's bylines were dropped from Superman comics (and future films post-1946) AFTER they left DC and filed their 1940s lawsuit.
Yes, the duo ultimately lost out on licensing, but that was standard practice back then (and still is today) like it or not, and they were not the only creators who left jobs or changed companies. You have to have serious clout within a company, be a dying creator whose story is being screamed out before the movie of their character is released, or own your own publishing house to get royalties on character merchandising... and guess what, most people who create characters for other companies are NOT taking the financial risks in publishing and marketing -- the companies are! That's work-for-hire.
Joe Simon and Jack Kirby -- the most successful comics creators of the 1940s and 1950s -- left Timely (now Marvel) for DC Comics because of disputes over royalties owed by their boss, Martin Goodman. on Captain America. The difference between Siegel and Shuster and the latter pair was that the latter pair of creators were able to successfully create marketable/lasting characters that made money AFTER their first huge hit (Captain America). Siegel and Shuster -- separately or as a team -- were never able to create newer characters that had 1/100th the impact of Superman.
Schuster ended up so broke he drew pix of S&M, rape, bondage, torture, etc., for an under-the-counter rag called Nights of Horror that eventually was banned by the Supreme Court. Many of the men looked liked Supes and the women well-endowed Lois Lanes. That guy could draw serious knockers!
I remember a quote where it was either Joe or Jerry who said they remember walking down the street in New York and seeing that Superman the movie was playing at the corner theater and he didn't have enough money to see it.