“Since I was running into a little trouble in getting other people to go along with my desires and publish my stuff, I began publishing it myself….In the third issue of our fanzine I wrote a story called “The Reign of the Superman.”
Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel
O.K., we all know that Superman was born on the planet Krypton and raised on a farm in Kansas, but did you know he was actually created in Cleveland, Ohio—by a couple of high school students?
Writer Jerry Siegel (1914-1996) and artist Joe Shuster (1914-1992) came up with the concept for the concept of Superman while students at Glenville High School. The biggest change in Superman as we know him now from was when he was first created is he was bald and on the side of evil.
“A couple of months after I published this story, 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…Obviously, having him a hero would be infinitely more commercial than having him a villain. I understand that the comic strip Dr. Fu Manchu ran into all sorts of difficulties because the main character was a villain. And with the example before us of Tarzan and other action heroes of fiction who were very successful, mainly because people admired them and looked up to them, it seemed the sensible thing to do to make The Superman a hero. The first piece was a short story, and that’s one thing; but creating a successful comic strip with a character you’ll hope will continue for many years, it would definitely be going in the wrong direction to make him a villain.”
It took a few more years before Superman would fully evolve and have his dual-identity of Clark Kent.
“That occurred to me in late 1934, when I decided that I’d like to do Superman as a newspaper strip. I approached Joe about it, and he was enthusiastic about the possibility. I was up late one night, and more and more ideas kept coming to me, and I kept writing out several weeks of syndicate scripts for the proposed newspaper strip. When morning came, I had written several weeks of material, and I dashed over to Joe’s place and showed it to him. (This was the story that appeared in Action Comics 01, June, 1938, the first published appearance of Superman.) Of course, Joe had worked on that earlier version of Superman, and when I came to him with this new version of it, he was immediately sold. And when I saw the drawings that were emerging from his pencil I almost flipped. I knew he had matured a great deal since he had done The Superman, and I thought he was doing a great job on the new art.”
If two teenage students growing up in the Midwest during the depression who create one of the great superheroes doesn’t inspire you to write stories wherever you live I’m not sure what will.
P.S. All of the above quotes came from a 1983 interview with Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Tony-winning playwright Willie Gilbert (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying) was a student at Glenville High School, as was playwright Jerome Lawrence (Inherit the Wind). They all worked on the school newspaper together.
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