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Siegel (continued): But we did various other strips.  We also did a strip about two pals who own some sort of mechanism which enables them to peer anywhere in the world, through walls or anything, and listen in on what gangsters are saying, and then get busy scotching the villainy.  In a way, that was a forerunner of Superman's super-vision and X-ray vision, only done with a mechanism.  I don't remember the title—Ralph something.

Another early strip that Joe and I did was called Snoopy and Smiley.  It was a comedy strip a la Laurel and Hardy or Charlie Chaplin or Lord knows what.  It didn't sell.  Around this time I contacted J. Allen St. John, who had done all the illustrations for the Tarzan books; and I worked up with him in my script something called Rex Carson of the Ether Patrol.  His drawings were very nice.  It was submitted around, nothing happened to it, and eventually it just got lost over the years.  But then right around this time, Joe and I started our fanzine Science Fiction, where I did the first Superman story ever wrote, and Joe did the first Superman illustration that he ever did.

Joe Shuster: It (the magazine) was subtitled "The Advance Guard of Future Civilization."

Jerry Siegel: In the third issue of our fanzine I wrote a story called "The Reign of the Superman."  I wrote it under the pseudonym of Herbert S. Fine which was a combination of the names of one of my cousins and my mother's maiden name.  Joe did the illustrations for it.

Shuster: I did all the illustrations for the magazine, and also for all the other stories.

Siegel: I recall that we did a one-panel cartoon feature in the magazine; it was a sort of "Believe It or Not" of the future called Queeriosities.

Shuster: In the magazine we had letters to the editor; we had invited readers to write in -

Siegel: And one of (those readers) was Julius Schwartz, who is currently the editor of Superman.  And he wrote in, saying some nice things, including the fact that he liked Joe's work.  Forrest Ackerman was a contributor -

Joanne Siegel: Of stories?

Shuster: I believe so—I haven't seen the stuff in years.  Also, Mort Weisinger and Julius Schwartz I believe collaborated on a sort of science-fiction gossip column which ran in the fanzine; they may have done it under a pseudonym.

How did you come up with the idea for "The Reign of the Superman"?

Siegel: Well, as a science-fiction fan, I knew of the various themes in the field.  The superman theme has been one of the themes ever since Samson and Hercules; and I just sat down and wrote a story of that type—only in this story, the Superman was a villain.

Had you read any stories featuring supermen as villains?

Siegel: If they existed, I didn't know about them.  After all, there were tons of things published.

The bald-domed, menacing Superman in "The Reign" looks a lot like Lex Luthor, the villain in later Superman stories.  Did you consciously base Luthor on the early character?

Shuster: The evil Superman was just my idea of a villain—I suppose he looks a lot like Telly Savalas.

Did you intend a switch on the traditional Superman theme by making him a villain?

Siegel: No, it wasn't a switch at all: that's just the way I thought that I'd play it.  I was just a young kid, and my thoughts didn't go in those directions; that was just the story that occurred to me.  That was published in the January 1933 issue of Science Fiction.

A couple of months after I published this story, The Superman, artwork by Joe Shuster it occurred to me that a Superman as a hero rather than a villain might make a great comic strip character in the vein of Tarzan, only more super and sensational than that great character.  Joe and I drew it up as a comic book—this was in early 1933.  We interested a publisher in putting it out, but then he changed his mind, and that was the end of that particular version of Superman—called The Superman.  Practically all of it was torn up, by the way.  Joe got very upset and tore up and threw away most of it.

Does any of it stil1 exist?

Shuster: We saved the cover.  The rest of the drawings were a crude version of Superman.  It wasn't really Superman: that was before he evolved into a costumed figure.  He was simply wearing a T-shirt and pants; he was more like Slam Bradley (another Siegel & Shuster collaboration) than anything else—just a man of action.  But we called him The Superman.  That was the second time we used the name, but the first time it was used for a character of goodwill.  I'm a perfectionist, and I think the fact that the drawings had been turned down made me want to tear them up.   I simply destroyed them.  I said, "If we ever do it again, I'm going to redo it properly."  It was a very low period for us.

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Originally from NEMO: The Classic Comics Library, issue #2, August 1983, pages 6-19

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Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
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