As the year of Superman’s 75th Birthday draws to a close, my final Three Random dedicated to Kal-El will be about the creators of the greatest super hero ever, the amazing and spectacular writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster.
Jerry’s Early Life!
Jerome “Jerry” Seigel was born on October 17th 1914. The Cleveland resident, whose childhood home is now enshrined as a museum, tried for years and years to start a career as a science fiction and comic strip writer. Rejection came often, even after he teamed up with a fellow sci-fi geek in high school, a certain Joe Shuster. One night Jerry could not sleep and kept coming up with ideas for a Super being. Right away he and Joe created the early concepts for Superman, which after many rejections and reworkings, they finally sell the idea to what is now DC Comics. Fame and fortune quickly followed.
Jerry’s Troubled Decades!!
Unfortunately, ten years after the success of Superman catapulted Jerry and Joe and DC to stardom, the duo was fired from the company after a dispute over compensation, among other things. This contentious issue, which divides fandom even to this day, flared up multiple times throughout the rest of Jerry’s life. The money became not just a question of respect for his creative endeavours, but a necessity of life since Jerry and his family were poor. Things were mostly dire until the Superman came out in 1978.
Jerry’s Final Years!!!
That is when comics legend artist Neal Adams saw an early cut of that movie and became angry at the exclusion of the creators from the credits. His campaign, aided and abetted by a legion of creative folks, caused DC’s corporate masters to not only added them to the credits, but to finally give them proper monetary compensation. For the next two decades, things were much better for the man and his family. Jerry “Jerome” Seigel passed away on January 28th 1996, aged 82.
Joe’s Early Life!
Joseph “Joe” Shuster was born on July 10th 1914. The Toronto native grew up poor and he made some money by being a newspaper boy for the Toronto Daily Star. In order to draw, his lifelong passion, Joe would find scraps of paper and even wallpaper from local business, all to practice his craft. Eventually the family moved to Cleveland and a few years later, while attending high school, he meets Jerry, and the two start up a sci-fi fanzine called Science Fiction. After many attempts of trying to sell their own creations, resulting in much frustration for Joe including a tantrum where he ripped up alot of his artwork, they finally hit gold with the future Kal-El. Fortune and fame quickly followed.
Joe’s Troubled Decades!!
A decade after the spark of greatness of Superman made his life wonderful, Joe was dumped off the book by DC because of the legal fight over the Man of Steel. This, coupled by Joe’s bad eyesight becoming worse, even after surgery, was quite a blow for the man who also suffered from terrible shyness. Over the next several decades Joe wandered from job to job, at one point, according to some stories, he was a delivery man sent to DC to drop off something. A higher up realized who he was and called Joe’s employer, telling them to never send him again. This continued until 1978 when the Superman movie came out.
Joe’s Final Years!!!
With Neal Adams crusade, recognition and compensation finally arrived. His name was put onto the about to be released movie and was again added back to the comics. Financial terms were never fully disclosed, but the money tap was opened with a lump sum followed by monthly payments, which DC voluntarily increased over the years. This helped Joe out for the next decade and abit, but he still lived frugally as he had grown used to. Joseph “Joe” Shuster passed away on July 30th 1992, aged 78.
Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster may have lived troubled lives sometimes, but their adventure together delivered onto us a character and mythos of universal significance.
Thank you Jerry and Joe for giving us all the gift of Superman.
…is currently reading The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.
P.S. This post is one of several I hope to do this year to celebrate the 75th Birthday of Superman. Happy Birthday Kal-El! Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
P.P.S. Superman Man Of Steel opened Friday, June 14th 2013 and is now on dvd. For an indepth look at the creation of this landmark movie, check out Jeffrey Taylor’s columns.
P.P.P.S. For another blog doing an indepth look at Superman on his 75th (and all the other times as well in the life of Kal-El) is Michael Bailey’s Fortress of Baileytude. Lots of history, old and new, on display here.
P.P.P.P.S. For a far more comprehensive history of Seigel and Shuster, and of the comics industry in general, check out Gerald Jones fantastic book Men of Tomorrow.