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How did this art compare with the drawings for "The Superman" which you tore up?

Joe Shuster: Those early sketches looked too cartoony; I really wanted to do detailed drawings—I was taking anatomy classes—but unfortunately I wasn't able to do it because of the time element.  We had to turn the stuff out like a factory.  Sometimes I wanted to sit down and spend an hour or two on one drawing, but it wasn't possible.  I had to produce a complete page—or two or three—in one day.  I took a lot of pride in my work, and I hated to do a mediocre job.  Evidently, some of the writers enjoyed my work best of all for that very reason.  I think Jules Feiffer called it crude.  At the same time, he said it came to life.  It was not polished.  Some of the early drawings were very well drawn, and in great detail, because I had plenty of time to work on each panel.  Later I was able to capture the action scenes very well, but I just didn't have time to put in all details, the polishing.

Jules Feiffer also mentioned something which no one has never mentioned before: He said that one reason the kids loved my Superman artwork so much was the fact that it was almost like something they would draw.  They could identify with that kind of drawing.  I won't say that it was childlike, but I took Feiffer's remark as a compliment.  He didn't denigrate my work.

Were there any editorial restrictions placed on the early Superman comic strips?

Joe Shuster: In the beginning, we had a great deal of freedom, and Jerry wrote completely out of his imagination—very, very freely.  We even had no editorial supervision to speak of, because they were in such a rush to get the thing in before deadline.  But later on we were restricted.

How much of the Superman art did you do?

Shuster: I did all the work at the beginning up until the point where I couldn't handle the increasingly heavy art production burden alone.  I needed, and got, assistance.

Who was the first artist you hired?

Shuster: So much time has passed that it would be difficult for us to accurately answer that question.  At that time, the strip was sold to the McClure Syndicate.  As time went on, I had quite a production staff, but I was already involved in the drawing.  Not all of the aspects of it, but I was involved in the initial layouts, the pencilling; and I did all the faces of Superman, every one of them—which was very tedious, because Jerry insisted (and I agreed with him) that there was nobody else that could really catch the spirit, the feeling, of Superman.  I did all the figures, too, as a matter or fact.  My staff did mainly the backgrounds and the inking, the polishing up of the pencilling—because a lot of my pencils were quite rough.  But they were very spontaneous.  What I did was get the initial action of the figure, and they would go on from there.  The one thing they did not ink was Superman's face.  For about an eight- or l0-year period, I did every face of Superman.

What was your and Jerry's method of working before Superman required a production staff?

Shuster: We worked very closely.  At the beginning, he would sit down next to me at the drawing board.  We would sit side by side: it was a real collaboration.  He would have his script, and he would describe the scene to me.  First he would read the scene to me, and I would absorb it and visualize it.  And he'd say, "That's just what I had in mind" or "Let's make a few changes here."  He would even describe the positions of Superman he wanted and how the character would act; it was almost like a movie scenario.  He did almost everything except draw it—he really visualized everything for me, and I picked it up.

Jerry was one of the first I can remember—at least in the comic books—who really used the style of a screen writer.  He would describe each scene, and the shot used—long shot, medium, close-up, overhead shot.  It was marvelous.  I guess he evolved the technique for himself, because we were both movie buffs.  He would study the techniques of the movie serials, but he never saw a written screenplay.

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

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