So I guess Superman was close to a Star Trek crossover, but it didn’t happen. Read more over at the always entertaining Comic Book Legends Revealed. That being said, there are a lot of Jerry Siegel characters on this cover. The Legion of Super-Heroes was a rarity by the time it was introduced in 1958 — it was an original concept: teenagers in the future, representing different worlds, are inspired by the old histories of Superman to fight for good. Not bad, right? But as Rich Johnston reports, it was just cancelled again. Jerry Siegel did a ton of anonymous work on the early Legion and really defined the characters. He also did something that revolutionized superhero narrative. You may like him for it — or really not so much.
UPDATE: “Superman” IS in the new Trek movie! Saw it last night. So this wasn’t just opportunity blogging. Go see it — really enjoyed it.
A newly-rediscovered photo of Jerry and Joe has surfaced courtesy of The Cincinnati Enquirer. According to Jeff Suess:
Siegel and Shuster appeared in Cincinnati on Jan. 31, 1942, for the local premiere of the first Max Fleischer “Superman” cartoon at the Palace Theatre at 14 E. 6th St. The Enquirer reported that kids, thinking Superman’s creators shared his super powers, would poke them with pins. They even appealed to fans: “Please don’t bring firearms or other weapons to test their physical prowess.”
I think the cover image of Action Comics #1 (he’s lifting the car, etc.) was crucial to the character’s initial surge of popularity. One thing I really wanted to identify was the central image of the automobile. I’m car guy but not really car guy so I enlisted some help — mostly my Dad and other relatives like my Uncle Don (definite car guy). Family values in Cleveland, man. At one point, my Dad was carrying around an Action #1 reprint just to ask people for me. That was the extent of my use of “research assistants.” It worked.
A lot of people have written about the cover — my favorite is Grant Morrison’s explication in his Supergods, which is a history/self-help/alien abduction memoir about his experience and thoughts about the superheroes he writes.
Huge fan of Morrison’s work, ever since I read the monthly Invisibles in grad school and added “Time Machine Go” to my everyday vocabulary. His Superman work is self-evident, especially All-Star and his tremendous run on JLA. His New X-men is also must-read, especially if you’re a teacher (or remember being a student). But enough gush — maybe my favorite Morrison Superman is a weirder one: the one-shot Final Crisis: Superman Beyond issue that is partly in 3-D (it comes with “4-D Vision Upgrade” glasses) and treats Superman as a multiversal/metatextual being across different storylines, corporations, and imaginations.
One of the myths I hope to dispel is that Jerry and Joe just worked on their Superman idea and that was it. In fact, they were producing comics for a variety of clients with a very high frequency (and at decent rates) well before Superman was sold. I was able to track some of these projects down, but certainly not all of them since they were for some pretty esoteric publications (a golf magazine, for one). Still, I came across many “is it or isn’t it?” candidates. I could find no record of Joe having produced the above drawing for The Cleveland Shopping News, but the style and his other work for the tabloid made it….possible? I left it out for a number of reasons. Still…
One of my favorite comics characters, all-time, is the Spectre. The character was created by Jerry Siegel and artist Bernard Baily, debuting in More Fun Comics #52 in 1940.
Being a huge fan, I spent a lot of time on this weird character, and got to talk to some people who could answer who actually created him.
Jim Corrigan was a detective who was killed by the Mob. But he was resurrected by, well, God really, to become a divine spirit of retribution with unlimited powers. He could grow, shrink, turn people to skeletons — he was way more powerful than Superman, which was kind of the point. He operated in “Cliffland.”
To top it off, it had a real noir feel to it.
Corrigan’s secret identity is further complicated because he is technically no longer alive.
And, of course, since Jerry Siegel was the author, he wrote from his own life.
You’ll meet this man on the left, too. And no, he’s not Bernard Baily.
He’s the Spectre.
The chances that I’ll ever write Superman are less than getting bit by a radioactive spider on the moon while being bombarded by cosmic rays and getting powers, but I let myself write the Spectre, just a little bit, sorta, in the book — yeah I could say it was for dramatic effect and to draw in the reader, but it’s more like I just couldn’t resist. Sue me…oh wait, forget I said that.
Below: detail from one of my favorite Spectre pages, from Madame Xanadu with art from Amy Reeder Hadley.