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Jerry Siegel


A rare interview with the creators of Superman:
Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster
Joe Shuster

Surely one of cartooning's most familiar icons is the Man of Steel.  Not only have his costume, person, and trappings entered our cultural consciousness, but the very concept—once revolutionary and now cliched, which if nothing else is the ultimate compliment—is a common element of 20th century fiction.

Disagreement exists among scholars concerning the absolute originality of the Superman ethos.  The other precursors are plentiful (Philip Wylie's Gladiator, for one); many have even argued a perhaps-subconscious borrowing from the Christian phenomenology.  So whether the two young friends from Cleveland created Superman in a vacuum is open to question.

But ultimately the question is silly.  What Siegel and Shuster wrought, after heartbreaking trials and rejections, succeeded where nobody else had, to a degree nobody else had with many other themes.  The empire that has been built on the foundation of the Superman character—the merchandising, the licensing, the books, movies, radio, Broadway, TV shows, the spinoffs—began with two young friends dreaming up a story for the most amateurish of efforts, a primitive fanzine.  But the limitations they endured were ignored in favor of the universe they mastered when creating.  And whether it was for a few friends via a Mimeograph machine or for the whole world courtesy of a big New York publisher, their dream world persisted—and triumphed.  They always knew it would.

Such a tale—recounted in the remarkable interview that follows—should give inspiration to creators everywhere.  The creative obsession of Siegel and Shuster, if not their business acumen, is part of the American Dream.

Almost as famous as elements of the Siegel and Shuster saga, and the Superman oeuvre itself, is the legendary reticence of the two creators to grant interviews.  We are fortunate to have historian Tom Andrae's history-making, and history-breaking, transcript of conversations with Siegel and Shuster.  Here they reveal previously unknown or obscured facts about their unique story.

And, shattering all conventional wisdom—every origin story about the Origin—we present a complete reprint of Siegel and Shuster's very first incarnation of the Superman character, from their 1933 fanzine.  That he was a bald villain must henceforth be noted in the histories, and not just with an asterisk.

The interview with Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, and Siegel's wife Joanne was conducted by Tom Andrae, Geoffry Blum, and Gary Coddington.  Special thanks to Bob Beerbohm for his assistance.

-Rick Marschall

On to the interview!
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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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