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Superman from the 30s to the 50s - DC Comics Message Boards
Author Topic:   Superman from the 30s to the 50s
India Ink
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posted May 13, 2002 01:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Adapting the title of one of the best Superman reprint collections (Superman from the 30s to the 70s, edited by E. Nelson Bridwell) I thought I would initiate a thread for the first three decades of Superman's history, as almost all the other decades have their own thread ("Superman in the Sixties," "Superman in the 70s," "80s Superman," and "Superman in the 90s).

It's also been my observation that the person who starts the topic can never control what will happen as other posters contribute to its growth. This is actually my hope for this thread, since there's a lot that I don't know, and I would be just as content to read other people's posts on this important phase of Superman's history.

But to impose some shape upon this topic, at least to begin with, I would say there are three periods we have to consider here. It breaks down like this...

pre-1938--the Creation of Superman by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

1938-1948--the Development of Superman by Siegel and Shuster.

1948-1958--the Transition (or "Flux"), after the departure of Siegel and Shuster, as new ideas grew and changed, leading eventually to what we call the Weisinger Era (that era that is the prime concern of "Superman in the Sixties").

Getting things started, I've copied this synopsis of the Superman creation from the "Superman throught the Ages" web-site:


quote:

The Original Superman
1933-1938

Superman is the brainchild of writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster. "Joe and I were high school classmates in Cleveland," Siegel recalls. "Like me, he was a science fiction fan; we published a fanzine called Science Fiction, with Joe as art director and myself as editor." In the January 1933 issue, Siegel's The Reign of the Superman, illustrated by Shuster, saw print. In this tale, the "Superman" becomes a villain after being granted super-powers by a mad scientist who is very much like the later arch-villain, Lex Luthor.

Later in 1933, when Siegel saw Detective Dan, one of the first comic books, "it occurred to me that a Superman who was a hero might make a great comic character," and wrote a comic book story that Shuster drew: The Superman.
After it was rejected by Dan's publisher, a dejected Shuster destroyed all of the original art - only the cover survived.


Pulp publisher Street & Smith's advertisement for Doc Savage's launch in 1933 bears similarities to Siegel and Shuster's alternate cover rough for The Superman.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"We had a great character," Siegel remembers, "and were determined it would be published." They set out to recreate Superman as a comic strip. One summer night in 1934, Siegel came up with almost all of the Superman legend as we know it, wrote weeks of comic strips by morning, and had Shuster drawing it all the next day - including the creation of Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and Superman's distinctive red, yellow, and blue costume.

"I suggested to Joe he put an 'S' in a triangle," Siegel says. Shuster added the cape to help give the effect of motion to Superman. Together they chose primary colors for his costume because they were, Shuster recounts, "the brightest colors we could think of."


Over the next three years, their Superman strip was turned down by every comic syndicate editor in the country. Esquire Features suggested, "pay a little attention to actual drawing. Yours seems crude and hurried."



But Sheldon Mayer, an editor at the McClure syndicate "went nuts! It was the thing we were all looking for!" He couldn't convince his boss, M.C. Gaines, to publish it - but when DC Comics publisher Harry Donenfeld called Gaines looking for material for his new title, Action Comics, Gaines sent him Superman.

Donenfeld showed it to his editor, Vince Sullivan, who bought it, saying, "it looks good... it's different... and there's a lot of action! This is what kids want!"

In order to meet the first issue's deadline, Shuster cut, pasted, and redrew Superman's daily strips into 13 comic book sized pages. The cover was based on an interior panel; according to Mayer, "Donenfeld felt that nobody would believe it!"



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Ink's links:

for Book of Oa--
http://www.glcorps.org/

for DC golden age sites--
http://www.best.com/~blaklion/dc_links.html

for DC indexes (Earths 1&2)--
http://www.dcindexes.com/indexes

for Superman in the Sixties--
http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/files/Forum30/HTML/007889.html

for Superman in the 70s--
http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/files/Forum30/HTML/004040.html

for 80s Superman--
http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/files/Forum30/HTML/006883.html

for Wonder Woman--
www.hometown.aol.com/linastrick/dpindex1.html

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India Ink
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posted May 13, 2002 01:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
That should be "Superman through the Ages"...

http://theages.superman.nu/

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Aldous
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posted May 13, 2002 04:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Aldous
This will be a great thread.

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Aldous
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posted May 13, 2002 04:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Aldous
quote:
Posted by India Ink:
pre-1938--the Creation of Superman by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

I hope we will also see some discussion of the many great creators and writers who helped inspire the creation of Superman. Superman wasn't created in a vacuum, and the possible inspiration taken from the Doc Savage ad (I have a copy of that somewhere...) has already been mentioned in your quote.

A favourite novel of mine is Gladiator, and I believe that without this book, first published in 1930, there would be no Superman (as we know him) today. Its importance to Siegel & Shuster can't be overlooked.

India, I hope it isn't outside the bounds of what you intended, to include such great writers as Philip Wylie when discussing the pre-1938 development of the Man of Steel.

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garythebari
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posted May 13, 2002 05:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for garythebari   Click Here to Email garythebari
This really could be terrific, the era that birthed a legend. But how many of us on these boards have any experience with it? Does anyone here actually have any of these old golden age comics?

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India Ink
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posted May 13, 2002 06:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Although I've long wanted to have this discussion, what got me thinking about the ROOTS was my decision to start reading the entire Mars series again (essentially because I want to lend the books to my nephew--but feel I have to read them again first myself). Which Mars series? Why the John Carter series of course!

Since I'm pressed for time at this moment I can't much elaborate, but it strikes me that Carter along with some other creations of Edgar Rice Burroughs must have had some influence on Jerry and Joe (and of course the whole comics medium).

Many mention Gladiator and Clark "Doc" Savage (the Man of Bronze), but ERB's Carter has been overlooked in any discussions I've read recently about the influences on Siegel and Shuster (although I remember Steranko mentioning JC in his History of Comics).

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garythebari
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posted May 13, 2002 07:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for garythebari   Click Here to Email garythebari
When did The Phantom (Lee Falk) come out? Was he a product of, or forerunner of Superman?

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India Ink
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posted May 13, 2002 09:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Your question about The Phantom is a bit more complex than it would seem.

Lee Falk actually created Mandrake the Magician before The Phantom. Mandrake would be quite infuential in comics--since these books started out reprinting comic strips and only turned to new material when there wasn't enough supply of strips to reprint. Mandrake being a favourit strip, every comic book needed to have a magician in its stable. This led to the creation of characters like Dr. Occult and Zatara the Magician.

A google search provides the needed info on both Mandrake and The Phantom...

quote:

The Mandrake daily strip premiered on June 11, 1934, a matter of months after Falk celebrated his 23rd birthday. The central character was inspired by the great stage magicians of the era, such as Thurston, and by popular fictional detectives like Arsene Lupin and Sherlock Holmes. As a child, Falk avidly read the stories of Marco Polo, Richard Halliburton and other adventurers, as well as fairy tales, epics and legends from Europe and other parts of the world.

The name "Mandrake" was inspired by a poem written by the famous 17th-century poet, John Donne: "Goe, and catche a falling starre ... Get with child a mandrake root." Falk learned that mandrake was a herb (Mandragora officianarum), commonly used in ancient (and modern) naturapathy. He thought it was an interesting yet simple word which admitted of just one pronuncitation, the perfect name for his comic strip magician. The new strip proved very popular and in February 1935, a Sunday page was added. With this increased work-load, Davis hired an assistant named Ray Moore to help with some of the inking.

Despite the successes of the Mandrake strip, Falk did not "put all his eggs in the one basket." He spent three or four years writing copy for a St.Louis advertising agency of which he later became vice president. It was in this job that Falk received inspiration for the name of a new character in the Mandrake strip. While mulling over a pile of trade papers on his desk, he came across one from the National Association of Retail Druggists (NARD), and simply added an 'a' to the end which made Narda. Falk also directed radio shows and proudly recalls that experience: "Radio was a brand new business at the time, and I had the enormous studios of KMOX to work with. I did two or three shows a day over there, some using big orchestras, and it was like working with a stock company."


The Phantom
Soon after Mandrake began to appear in the newspapers, Falk thought of an idea for another strip ... The Phantom. He planned out the basic structure for the first few months of the story, and drew up the first two weeks himself. King Features Syndicate liked the concept and were quick to buy it. The Phantom daily strip commenced in American newspapers on February 17, 1936, a little before Falk's 25th birthday. While the costumed hero was by no means original in 1936, it was certainly new for one to be featured in the comic pages of newspapers. Masked adventurers such as The Phantom Detective had appeared in pulp magazines since 1933 and the idea of a masked avenger predates even Zorro.
The artistic duties for Falk's second strip were shared with Ray Moore, who was moved over from Mandrake. Falk continued to work on the layouts whenever possible, but his heavy workload with scripting daily and Sunday Mandrake strips, plus the new Phantom daily strip, combined with his commitments to radio shows proved too much. The artwork on The Phantom was soon left entirely to Ray Moore. A man named Eddie Walcher did the lettering on both Mandrake and The Phantom strips for many years.

The Phantom underwent some major changes during his first adventure. Falk explains "For the first few months, The Phantom was intended to be Jimmy Wells, a wealthy playboy who fought crime by night in a mask and costume. This was, of course, several years before Batman and Superman appeared on the comics scene. I never came out and actually revealed that the playboy was really The Phantom and in the midst of the first story I suddenly got the other idea. I moved The Phantom into the jungle and decided to keep him there. Gradually the whole concept of The Phantom developed; the generations behind him, the Skull Cave, his wolf Devil and horse Hero and the Bandar pygmies." Falk was a great fan of Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book, and paid it homage by calling the Phantom's pygmy friends "the Bandar", which comes from the monkey tribe who were friends with Mowgli.

It took some time before Falk warmed up to the title he had selected for his new strip. "I tried to think up a more original title. There was already The Phantom of the Opera, the phantom of this and the phantom of that. For a while I considered calling him The Gray Ghost but I let it ride because I really couldn't come up with a title I liked better than The Phantom."

"The Phantom comes out of my great interest as a kid in hero stories, the great myths and legends - Greek, Roman, Scandinavian, the Songs of Roland, El Cid in Spain, King Arthur and others. There's a heroic thing about him, he's sort of a legendary character. He started out fairly simple and gradually I've added more and more legendary things about him till he has a whole folklore around him. The Jungle Book of Kipling's and Tarzan of the Apes influenced me, as you can imagine. Apparently this legendary quality seems to be the most popular feature of The Phantom with readers."


So The Phantom (and Mandrake for that matter) comes after Jerry and Joe first created their hero, yet before their creation saw publication. No doubt the success of both Mandrake and The Phantom encouraged the Cleveland duo in their endeavours to sell Superman to the newspaper syndicates.

Although I think there are few of us who actually have original copies of the old Superman comics--but thankfully there are some folks who have reasonable facsimiles like archives. And there's always good ol' google helping us to search the dim corridors of time.

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India Ink
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posted May 13, 2002 10:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
I have to confess that I've never read Gladiator, I only know of its contents from having read the Steranko History of Comics, so Brother Aldous will have to enlighten us on just how strong the connections are to Superman.

But since I have a bit more time, I'll advance my hypothesis a bit further concerning John Carter and Superman.

The other side of the cover page on my old Ballantine Books (1975) edition of Edgar Rice Burroughs' "A Princess of Mars" tells me that

quote:

A Princess of Mars was originally published under the title Under the Moon of Mars by Norman Bean (pseudonym) in All-Story Magazine as a six-part serial, February through July, 1912.

The "Princess of Mars" in question is actually Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, lady love of Earthman John Carter. The first thing to note here is that she's Princess of Helium. Helium, of course, for all those who know their periodic tables, is one of the inert gases. Another inert gas is krypton. In Burroughs day, I'm sure "helium" was not all that commonly known, so the word still had some mystery and appealed to the wordsmith. In Jerry and Joe's day, "krypton" probably was obscure enough to be used as the name of their planet. Heck, even today it's kind of obscure--I have no idea what the properties of krypton are.

Siegel and Shuster's Krypton seems to have actually been in our solar system, according to the early stories. The boys probably thought of it as being somewhere between Mars and Jupiter, in the area of the asteroid belt. The theory that the belt was composed of debris from an exploded planet has had some popular credence, and may have inspired Jerry and Joe.

Whereas Carter is a man from Earth transported to Mars, Superman is a man from a tenth planet transported to Earth. Gravity being lighter on Mars, John Carter can leap great distances at a single bound, and has incredible strength. But whereas Superman was transported as a babe by rocket ship to his new home, Carter leaves his body on Earth and mysticly transports himself to Mars--or Barsoom as the locals call it. In this regard, John Carter of Mars is much more like Adam Strange of Rann.

Superman's origins as a fish out of water are actually similar to another Burroughs creation--Tarzan of the Apes. Born from parents of a noble line, Tarzan grows up in a place far distant from the English civilization of his parents. The contrast of the primitive and the advanced in Burroughs is given a slightly different twist in Siegel and Shuster. And whereas Tarzan is actually born in Africa, Superman is born first on Krypton before being transported to Earth.

=>

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Aldous
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posted May 14, 2002 01:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Aldous
From what you say of John Carter (yes, he certainly comes across as an Adam Strange predecessor), the influence on Siegel and Shuster is possible. They were both well-read SF fans. I'm sure they published an SF fanzine together.

Krypton is an inert gas. I think it's one of the "noble" gasses -- it won't mix with or react with anything else under normal circumstances. (Headache from trying to remember high school chemistry lessons.) The word itself has a fundamental relationship with cryptic, meaning hidden, unknown, or mysterious. I don't know when Krypton the element was discovered, but I'd lay odds the boys knew what it was. They were well-educated, intelligent, and well-read. I don't think they would've just seen the name somewhere and said, "Oh, that will do."

I have hundreds of Lee Falk-written Phantom comic books in my collection. I loved them as a boy. Ray Moore was the early artist, whose work I like, then came Wilson McCoy whose work I adore, and later the great Sy Barry. I loved the true (ie. Lee Falk) Phantom as a kid.

If you take Superman from the early Action/Superman issues, remove the Clark Kent identity (sort of), and remove the outer space origin, you have Hugo Danner, the character from Gladiator. The powers of Superman are taken directly and completely from the novel. I haven't read the novel for many years. I will re-read it when I can, so as to contribute more to this thread.

Remember those early panels from Superman, drawn by Shuster, explaining Superman's strength by comparing him to ants and grasshoppers? That's taken directly from the novel, almost word-for-word. Danner's parents advised him to keep his abilities hidden from ordinary people, a direct forerunner of Superman and his parents -- I remember his father giving him a Pa Kent-like speech, about keeping the powers secret till one day he can use them for "good". Danner resembled Superman closely -- muscular-athletic build, black hair, handsome...

Rather than being from outer space, the hero of Gladiator was the product of a scientific experiment inflicted on his pregnant mother, while he was still in the womb (I'll have to check that when I can re-read the book -- but I'm fairly sure that's the way it went).

I read the novel a few years ago in Australia (it was an old library book, and @#$% hard to find), and I remember it was riveting. I read it in one day.

Tarzan -- I have the first Tarzan novel, which I quite like, although I haven't read any of the sequels. I also have two or three paperbacks of the Pellucidar series. Any way you look at it, E.R.B. was a highly imaginative writer.

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India Ink
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posted May 14, 2002 01:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
I consider Tarzan of the Apes to be one of the finest novels from the 20th century. It was both a blessing and a curse that ERB went on to write so many more Tarzan novels, since the first one could easily stand on its own as a literary statement. And that statement is blurred once we have sequel after sequel--much as I love those sequels. Still, The Return of Tarzan is almost as fine a novel (and these first two novels complete each other, really needing no more sequels), with Jungle Tales of Tarzan being a beautiful short story collection containing terrific insights into all our humanity. But obviously those sequels were quite a blessing to Burroughs and the Burroughs family, taking them from poverty to fabulous wealth.

It does seem that Jerry and Joe used a lot directly from Gladiator, but I take exception when some folks allege that therefore Superman is not an original creation--downplaying Siegel & Shuster's leaps of brilliance, and possibly setting up an argument for DC ripping them off.

Sure, if you just take the powers alone and the description of them there isn't much difference between Clark Kent and Hugo Danner. But John Carter displayed many such abilities before either character existed.

Then there are characters like the Scarlet Pimpernel which must have influenced this kind of pulp action hero. Add in bits of The Phantom, Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers, even Popeye, and Superman becomes simply an amalgam of characters that already existed. Reducing Siegel and Shuster to cut and paste masters. Which simply isn't true.

The business of creation is really a business of synthesizing what already exists into something else. There are no writers that can claim to have come up with their ideas in a void. All ideas foster other ideas.

But it is true that Jerry and Joe put out their own sci-fi fanzine, and thus they probably knew about all these characters.

And just to give some more dates...Buck Rogers (in the 25th Century) first appeared in "Armageddon 2419 A.D." by Philip Francis Nowlan, in Amazing Stories, August 1928. The Buck Rogers comicstrip first appeared on Jan. 7, 1929. On Jan. 7, 1934, the comic strip "Flash Gordon" by Alex Raymond made its debut.

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Aldous
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posted May 14, 2002 03:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Aldous
India,

I totally agree with you regarding Superman's originality. I totally agree with you regarding the brilliance of Siegel & Shuster.

quote:
All ideas foster other ideas.

Yes.

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India Ink
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posted May 15, 2002 02:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Continuing to google search for interesting sites on the early days of Superman.

This one provides an overview, of some of the subjects we've already mentioned here...
http://www.nashville.com/~al.schroeder/siegel.htm

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India Ink
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posted May 15, 2002 03:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Editing down the article from that site--here's some of it:

quote:

SIEGAL AND SHUSTER'S SUPERMAN :
PART I: THE ORIGIN

In 1934, one evening, a young lad named Jerry Siegel in Cleveland was having trouble sleeping in the hot summer heat. Then he started to conceive a hero...who would become one of the most famous heroes of all time. The next day he went to see his good friend, Joe Shuster, who also went to Glenville High School, and his talented artist friend drew the first picture of...Superman.

Superman had many roots. Perhaps his most direct predecessor was Hugo Danner, the protagonist of GLADIATOR. Like their later creation, Hugo DAnner (an experiment of his biologist father) was bulletproof, able to leap immense distances, bend steel, run faster than a train. But unlike Hugo Danner, Superman found an outlet for his powers, whereas Hugo's lack of any release for his powers, caused him to die in despair. Other influences on the Superman-to-be were Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, especially Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon, where we can see prototypes of the famous suit. Yet another influence wasDoc Savage, "The Man of Bronze", who went around righting wrongs and had abilities at the limit of human potential...and whose real name was CLARK Savage Jr. Interestingly, another pulp hero (one with a double identity, The Shadow, had an alter ego whose real name was KENT Allard, although he often posed as LamonT Cranston.)

However, Siegel himself said the name of their most famous character was derived from two movie stars...CLARK Gable (who was also the source for Doc Savage's first name) and KENT Taylor. Superman was physically modelled on Douglas Fairbanks Sr., by the Canadian-born Shuster. Lois Lane's first name was modelled after Lois Amster, a girl whom many boys at Glenville had a crush on...and it seems Joe Shuster was among them. Interestingly, a woman who had served as a model for Shuster for Lois Lane, Joanne Carter, would later marry Jerry Siegel.

For four long years they tried to sell the idea (which had been conceived as a newspaper strip, a la FLASH GORDON or BUCK ROGERS) and got nowhere. In the interim, they did some work on the new comic books, including the rough-and-tumble detective Slam Bradley, who would run for years in DETECTIVE COMICS (which would later be home to BATMAN) and DR. OCCULT, a "ghost detective" with occasional mystical powers, a precursor for the later Dr. Fate, Dr. Strange, and other mystical comic heroes. But beaten down by years of rejection, they sold the first 13 pages of Superman, along with a customary release form relinquishing all rights to the character, in return for a mere $130, which they split between them.

At first, Superman was rarely cover-featured...he was cover-featured in his first appearance in ACTION#1, but after that he was kept off the cover, until the publishers realized kids were asking for "that comic with Superman in it". In 1939, a comic devoted JUST to Superman was released...Superman #1. Superman soon had a host of imitators, in the original Human Torch, Sub-Mariner, Captain Marvel, and in his own company, competition from Batman, Flash, Green Lantern.

Their publisher, Harry Donefield, allowed them to do a strip for the McClure Syndicate, if they would agree to work exclusively for Donefield for the next ten years at $35 a page. Siegel and Shuster are estimated to have earned approximately $400,000 from Superman between 1938 and 1947 (worth roughly three or four times that in today's dollars) nevertheless it was a paltry sum compared to what the comic book company was making. In 1940-41 Superman made in the neighborhood of $1.5 million, while Siegel and Shuster split maybe $150,000 between themselves and a staff of five artists working out of a one-room office in Cleveland. (Shuster's eyesight was deteriorating, although he continued to do all the FACES of Superman himself, no matter who else drew the actual stories.)



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India Ink
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posted May 15, 2002 03:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
While these pages, and others linked to them, attempt an intriguing fusion of Gladiator and Superman...
http://www.novanotes.com/specul/parents.htm http://www.novanotes.com/specul/landing.htm

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India Ink
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posted May 15, 2002 03:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
There are a lot of sites to be found with biographies of Siegel and Shuster. Here's one that does a good overview, although I'm not sure about its accuracy...
http://www.zapcartoons.com/bios/superman.html

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India Ink
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posted May 15, 2002 03:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Here's the contents of that bio, for those who can't get the link...

quote:

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster


Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster are two of the most important figures in the development and creation of costumed comic heroes. As co-creators of one of the most famous of these mythical beings, the immortal Superman, they propelled the superhero into the public consciousness, injecting popular American culture with one of the most enduring icons of the twentieth century.

Joseph Shuster was born in 1914 in Toronto, Canada. Jerome Siegel was born in Cleveland, Ohio on October 17, 1914. An avid reader with a great interest in science fiction & fantasy, he published his own fanzine in 1929 called Cosmic Stories, a "hectographic" booklet with stories written by himself. It is recognized as the first sci-fi fanzine, and it was just a prelude to future accomplishments. He published several other booklets over the next few years.

In 1931 he met and befriended Joe Shuster, whose family had moved to Cleveland from Canada. They became fast friends, in part due to Joe's interest in science fiction novels and also because Joe was a competent artist and Jerry loved his work.
In 1932, the pair put out another fanzine called Science Fiction. Filled with fantastic stories, later day fan celebrity Forrest Ackerman wrote for it. In the third issue a story entitled "Reign of the Superman" appeared, with a villainous super-being. Later the character was converted to a hero and the seminal creation of the most popular comic character in history.


Inspired in part by Philip Wylie's novel "Gladiator", and in part by the Samson & Hercules legends, the redesigned "Superman" was put together in comic strip form as early as 1932, and then as a comic book in 1933. Unfortunately, when the comic book was rejected, Shuster destroyed the artwork. Fortunately, Siegel had rescued the cover art.


In 1935, the pair tried again to sell Superman to several comic book publishers, including DC. Once more their idea was rejected, but they did secure work at DC comics doing another feature they created, Dr. Occult, who made his first appearance in New Fun #6 cover dated October 1935.


They continued to do Dr. Occult and some other DC characters through the next couple of years, all the while working on the Superman feature that they wanted to sell so bad. Finally the big break came. In 1938, as they tried to peddle the character to DC again they wound up in the office of Max Gaines, the publisher of the All American label. Max wasn't interested in Superman, but Sheldon Mayer was starting a new title at sister company DC and needed a cover feature, so he sent the pair over to the office with their hero tucked under their arms and Sheldon decided to take a shot with the Superman, giving him the cover of the first issue of Action Comics dated June 1938.

Superman was a smash hit with issues of Action selling out at the newsstands every month. Other companies, trying to cash in on the craze created by Superman tried to emulate the character to varying degrees. Some were successful, some were not. Some companies were even sued by DC for copying the Superman, even while DC itself copied the character without remuneration to Siegel & Shuster. But by 1941, the Saturday Evening Post reported the pair as making upwards of $75,000 each per year. They had certainly hit the bigtime.


But by 1946 it was not enough. DC was making millions of dollars on the character the two created, but they were still only making near one hundred thousand each. They sued DC over right to the character, to whom they had signed off all rights in 1938. Represented by attorney Albert Zugsmith (who later went to Hollywood to produce 50's B-movies), they would remain involved in a protracted legal battle with DC that would also keep them from being employed by the company, and that would also drain their finances until finally in 1948, they decided to take a settlement from DC of around two hundred thousand dollars, and only for royalties to the Superboy character that DC had created on it's own, without the duo. In addition, the creative team that was largely responsible for the proliferation of comic book culture had to sign away any further claim to Superman, or any character created there from.
It would also signal the virtual end of their mutual careers. Shuster would leave comics while Siegel continued to write scripts for different publishers and become the comic art director for the Ziff-Davis company in the 1950's.


From then on however the pair's byline was removed from DC's Superman logo. The team would receive screen credit for creating Superman only in film versions of the character and on the TV show. But they had essentially become two forgotten creators, outside of the small circle of people who collected comic books.
Siegel moved to Los Angeles and became a recluse. With the advent of comic collecting becoming a national hobby, and the proliferation of comic conventions starting in 1968, Siegel & Shuster again regained the public eye and in 1975, the two once again sued DC for royalties to Superman. Though they courts deemed that DC was not bound to any remuneration toward the pair, DC did decide (with prodding from publisher/editor Carmine Infantino) to give them $35,000 each a year for the rest of their lives. Though in some ways generous, it seems a paltry sum compared to the tens of millions (maybe hundreds of millions) made by DC since 1938.


Jerry Siegel passed away this past January 28 in Los Angeles. Joe Shuster died of heart failure on July 30, 1992.

Joe Shuster

Jerry Siegel

Site design by Sharkfire


This bio has S&S creating Superman in 1932. In Ron Goulart's Great Comics History (I think that's the title), they Cleveland boys created a "superman" villain for a story in their fan publication--but in this bio, our version of Superman seems to have already been created in 1932. In other bios, Superman seems to have been created as late as 1934.

An excellent site for early Joe Shuster art can be found at this link:
http://members.ttlc.net/~bobhughes/JOE_SHUSTER.htm

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India Ink
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posted May 15, 2002 03:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
One of the nice things I've discovered from these bios is that Carmine Infantino, my hero, fought for the rights of these two gentlemen. It's nice to know that even as an executive in the cut-throat world of publishing, Carmine was still a stand-up guy.

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India Ink
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posted May 15, 2002 03:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
As you will see on that JOE SHUSTER link, the "Reign of the Superman" appeared in the January, 1933 issue of Siegel & Shuster's Science Fiction fanzine--featuring a Luthor like villain with extraordinary power.

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BuddyBlank
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posted May 15, 2002 06:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for BuddyBlank
quote:
Originally posted by India Ink:
As you will see on that JOE SHUSTER link, the "Reign of the Superman" appeared in the January, 1933 issue of Siegel & Shuster's Science Fiction fanzine--featuring a Luthor like villain with extraordinary power.

I've actually read the original 1933 "Reign of the Superman" - and it's almost a direct re-telling of Wylie's Gladiator. So although Siegel and Shuster deny any connection between Superman and Gladiator, I'm convinced there is one.

I've also got an old interview (print interview) with Siegel and Shuster, where they address this very topic - how they were influenced by John Carter, etc, and some of their other heroes. I'll try to look it up and see what I can find...

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Aldous
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posted May 16, 2002 12:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Aldous
quote:
Originally posted by BuddyBlank:
I've actually read the original 1933 "Reign of the Superman" - and it's almost a direct re-telling of Wylie's Gladiator. So although Siegel and Shuster deny any connection between Superman and Gladiator, I'm convinced there is one

There is more than a mere "connection", of course.

Buddy, did you read my post back there, of 14 may, 1:42am?

Your mention of it is the first time I've heard of Siegel & Shuster disputing a connection between Gladiator and Superman. That's extraordinary. Who were they trying to kid? It does a great disservice to Philip Wylie. As I said in my post, Hugo Danner is Superman without the costume and the outer-space origin. A great many things were lifted directly from Wylie's novel by Siegel & Shuster. No point in anyone arguing about it. Anybody can just read the novel and see for themselves.

So, although I love Superman, and applaud his creators, it's also very important to acknowledge the huge debt Siegel & Shuster owe Philip Wylie.

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Aldous
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posted May 16, 2002 12:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Aldous
I have a facsimile edition of Action #1 somewhere, which I will have to dig out. It re-presents the comic book exactly as it first appeared, including all the original advertisements, back-up features, etc.

What I would also hope we can do is have some discussion of the actual character of Superman from the late 30s. From what I've seen of the actual comics, and also from articles I've read over the years (and hopefully someone has the Archives), I understand Superman, then, was very different in character to what he is now. The current version is a hand-wringing, self-pitying sissy-boy. But the early Superman was more a rough and tumble character, physically tough on thugs, and quite brutal if the occasion demanded it. He wasn't above using threats of violence, or simply giving some thug a smack around the ear just-because.

I would be really interested to hear your opinions on this side of his character.

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India Ink
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posted May 17, 2002 04:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
I have most but not all of the Superman and Action archives, and a copy of the Superman Sundays (vol. 1), but I've yet to get very far through any of these (or most of my archives for that matter--I'm a very slow reader). I did subscribe to the Menomonee Falls Gazette back in the seventies (in my teens) and that reprinted the early Superman strips (dailies) and indeed Superman was a very raw sort of fellow back then.

But before getting around to talking about the actual early comics and strips (or for that matter the radio show and cartoons), I still want to lay the groundwork, to discuss everything that preceded that, all the contributing factors. But I trust in time we'll get round to the actual comics themselves (and this'll buy me time to get on with some reading).

I'm at disadvantage, too, since I haven't read Gladiator or Reign of the Supermen (or even Doc Savage), so I can't make a comparison. But I'll take all of your words for it that Reign and Gladiator are almost the same, and that Action no. 1 is derivative while not being entirely a copy (how could it be a copy when you have the secret identity element which accounts for about one third of Superman's charm?), but this all makes perfect sense...

Check out the fanfiction on these boards or in other fan sites and zines--you'll see a lot of guys ripping off their favourite writer without so much as a by your leave. Heck, check the wonderful Big Bang Comics--the writers (and artists) therein steal from the greats. So the teenage Jerry and Joe's zine, Science Fiction[i], was like all fan publications. But that's how aspiring writers and artists get started, they copy and copy to get down the basics, and then (hopefully) create something original.

It makes sense, therefore, that [i]Reign is unoriginal, while the early Superman is a combination of derivation and originality. Look at where Superman went from there, and I expect you'll find that rather than continuing to copy from the source(s) it actually started to create new pathways.

The same can be said of Captain Marvel. I'm fully convinced that the publishers wanted to rip off Superman. But creative people can never quite copy a thing exactly much as they might try (Alex Raymond was thoroughly unsuccessful in copying Buck Rogers, despite the urging from his bosses that he should do just that), and so Capt. Marvel begins to go down a completely different path from Superman.

It's not where you start from, it's where you end up.

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India Ink
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posted May 17, 2002 04:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Forgive my mistakes on the italics...

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India Ink
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posted May 17, 2002 05:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
An important character to be mentioned as another influence is Doc Savage. This character first appeared in the story "The Man Of Bronze" by Lester Dent, in March of 1933, in the first issue of the Doc Savage Magazine. This sets the stage for over 180 adventures that would follow.

Doc and his five extraordinary assistants are confronted with the sudden death of Clark Savage, Sr., Doc's father. The elder Savage died under mysterious circumstances in the jungles of Central America from "The Red Death", but not before dispatching an epistle eluding to the unusual legacy that awaits Doc there, in the Republic of Hidalgo. Attempts on Doc's own life by red-fingered Mayans only serve to strengthen his resolve in discovering what in truth happened to Clark Savage, Sr., as Doc claims his father's legacy.

Not only was Doc called the "Man of Bronze" in this and other stories, he was also described as a "Superman."

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