THE YEAR: 2005
THE CONTROVERSY: The fifth album from indie-folkie Sufjan Stevens, Illinois (not Illinoise, as the album text would suggest) was reportedly the second in a series of of 50 albums, each celebrating a different state in our union. The album’s 22 tracks reference the best and worst of the Prairie State (including Carl Sandburg, serial killer John Wayne Gacy and the Cubs), and the album cover does the same: Divya Srinivasan’s illustration includes likenesses of Al Capone, the Hancock Tower, and — strangely enough — a flying Superman.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTERWARDS: It was widely reported that DC Comics — the holders of the copyright to the Man of Steel — sent a cease-and-desist letter to Stevens’ label, Asthmatic Kitty. In fact, the label’s own lawyers, when alerted to this infringement, contacted DC on their own and worked out a deal that allowed them to sell existing inventory and remove Superman in subsequent pressings. (Sadly, Stevens’ later admitted his 50-state project was just a gag.)VIDEO: The Top 10 Albums of 2011