You haven’t seen this. So today is the anniversary of Jerry Siegel’s death in 1996, of the same malady his father died of. Jerry’s ashes are interred at the famous Hollywood Forever Cemetery in California. Jerry’s urn (on the right), which he designed, is very telling of how he wanted to be remembered. His wife’s ashes have now been placed with him.
I don’t post this out of any cult of personality or morbid curiosity. But I think it tells us a lot about this man’s insistence on what his life meant and should mean to others. So I’m posting it in case you can’t get out to see it or don’t feel you need or want to. Like most memorials, I think it is best understood by spending some time just looking at it and coming to your own conclusions. Note: this is not my photo; I have never been here.
I met cool biographer Wil Haygood this week. He wrote The Butler, In Black and White, and many others. Great guy. He said that he picked subjects who were generally “good guys” but that “no one was perfect.” He said that one of the values in writing about someone’s life is not (just) to celebrate it, but to learn from it. And that when you do it right, you “shut the door” on it, to borrow the jazz phrase. I really like that. Though it’s also worth noting that, for their families, these doors are much harder to close.
Ricca’s research portrays Siegel and Shuster not as individual geniuses who birthed Superman straight from their collective heads, but rather as diligent, ambitious young men who studied what sold in their chosen profession and worked until they themselves achieved success in it.
There is a footnote in the book somewhere that has nothing to do with Superman, but it’s such a good story that I had to put it in. It’s a Glenville story, so it’s okay. So a couple of years ago, some Glenville High students were going through some school stuff marked for disposal — for an art project (making robots) — and they found tape of a long-lost speech that MLK made when he visited Glenville High on April 26, 1967. King’s visit occurred between the 1966 Hough riots and Glenville’s own violence in 1968.
To read the story of the speech’s discovery, click here.The speech was then put into digital format by my pal Jared Bendis, who is the Creative New Media Officer at my school. Download and listen to the speech here. There is a transcript here, but it’s King, so listen.
My nerd stuff only occupies a few corners — and stuff is just stuff; it occupies space and doesn’t move. The good stuff moves. But it does help (me, at least) for inspiration. Always has. Especially when other things weren’t moving that much.
Read the post here. And no, my $10 Spidey
painting complicated emotional masterpiece is not for sale.
From Anthony Letizia at Geek Pittsburgh:
The gods and goddesses of Ancient Greek and Roman mythology may have sprouted from the darkened corners of mankind’s collective consciousness, but the mythology of their contemporary equivalents evolved from the imaginations of two twentysomethings from Cleveland and was influenced by the darkened days of the Great Depression and the 1930s. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster may never have reaped the financial bounty their creation spawned over the decades that followed but they are modern day Homers nonetheless—and the story of Superman is The Iliad and The Odyssey for the Twentieth Century and beyond.
One of my favorite books last year was Look Straight Ahead, the debut graphic novel from Elaine Will. Fantastic, important stuff — but not forced and preachy like most things we usually call “important stuff” are. This story is so real you can almost reach out and touch it — comics don’t do that a lot. You can buy a copy here.
Elaine was nice enough to do a Superman sketch for me:
Pretty great, huh? Check out Elaine’s Tumblr here.
“My goal was to work for DC Comics as a comic book artist,” he recalled. “So I did some caricatures of wrestlers and sent them into a local TV station that was airing Memphis wrestling; they showed some of my drawings on TV and some of the wrestlers saw them. They invited me over and that was the first time I got to meet professional wrestlers in person; of course that’s when my interest went in that direction.”
Read the whole interview over at the WWE site. I’m sure that in some garage wrestling league sometime over the last seventy years some guy performed as “Superman” or “Super Wrestler Grappler Alien Immigrant Hombre” — but I could never find it. The cross-appeal makes a lot of sense, though. I always thought The New Breed was really from Rimbor.
“I was so happy that they made another Superman movie! I’m really reluctant to be critical of it in any way. But I thought the glossing over of the figuring out a secret identity and why he felt he needed one was a huge missed opportunity for that character, and one of the most interesting things about Superman is the whole secret identity. So to me it was too much action/violence and not enough character study.”
– Jerry Seinfeld, addressing director Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel in a Reddit AMA
Over at The Comics Journal, R.C. Harvey tries to sift through all of the various books and accounts to figure out who was the first to “discover” Superman. His account is very comprehensive. This is the toughest part of the story to decipher, I think.
Why? This is where personal narratives overcome the facts the most. There are letters and documents, but it is (at best) an impressionistic picture. Like almost every part of the Superman creation story, there are a lot of voices saying “Me, me, me.” It’s Superman.
Harvey claims it was The Major, who was definitely interested in publishing Superman. He definitely saw how the character would work. But he put it off a lot and Jerry and Joe didn’t trust his money. He was their mentor in comics, but his appreciation of Superman may have worked against him as it gave them confidence to keep trying elsewhere. They wanted Superman in newspapers, not comic books. That was where the money was. I don’t know if I would say that The Major discovered Superman, but he definitely discovered Jerry and Joe. No question.
I think it was Gaines who set the publication of Superman in motion. Taking into account the timeline, as well this key bit of evidence below — that Gaines urged Jerry to submit to Detective — really made me wonder if he wasn’t the mastermind. By sending Superman as a tryout to Detective first so that Donenfeld himself could make the syndicate sale — that made them both rich. And this shows that Gaines and Donenfeld were in that office together with the Superman proposal literally on the table. Whether by intention or not, the results were the same. The deal was made and Jerry and Joe were left out in the cold.
The “discovery” of Superman is a tough question because so many different people — writers, artists, publishers, and readers — are part of that bigger equation. But it’s one we constantly ask because we want to know where he came from.