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Who made the Man of Steel?

AP
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A new book telling the story of Superman’s creation is mostly about the friendship between Siegel and Shuster – two boys dreaming of “fame, riches and girls” in a time of economic hardship

The tough, blue-collar roots of Superman’s creators are getting a fresh look on the superhero’s 75th anniversary.

Brad Ricca, a professor of Case Western Reserve University, is bringing out a book titled “Super Boys” on the story of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two friends who created the character of Superman. Siegel and Shuster lived in Cleveland and laboured on their creation for years before selling Superman to a publisher.

Making their own niche

The Man of Steel became a Depression-era bootstrap strategy for the Siegel/Shuster team, according to Ricca.“They really just saw it as a way out,” he said.

Ricca says the story of Superman’s creation is mostly about their friendship- two boys dreaming of “fame, riches and girls” in a time when such dreams are all the easier to imagine because of the crushing economic misery.

“The Depression is all about, you know, if nobody is going to give you a job, you make your own, you find your own niche and we find that’s what they are doing,” Ricca said.

Superman’s first appearance, in Action Comics No. 1, was April 18, 1938. The first and greatest superhero has gone on to appear in nearly 1,000 Action Comics and has evolved with the times. Pop culture expert Charles Coletta at Bowling Green State University said Superman ranks globally with George Washington and the Super Bowl as American icons.

Today, Siegel’s home is easy to pick out on a street with a mix of renovated and dilapidated homes- a stylized red Superman “S” adorns the fence and a sign identifies the home as “the house where Superman was born.”

Shuster’s home has been demolished and replaced by another, but the fence has oversized Superman comic book pages displayed. The nearby commercial strip has a state historic marker detailing Superman’s Cleveland roots.

Celebrations planned

Last year the $412 check that DC Comics wrote in 1938 to acquire Superman and other creative works by Shuster and Siegel sold for $160,000 in an online auction.

Fans hope Thursday’s 75th anniversary, including lighting city hall with Superman’s colors, will raise the Siegel – Shuster profile. The city is making a start with a Superman day proclaimed by the mayor and giving out birthday cake at the airport’s Superman display.

The June release of Hollywood’s latest Superman tale, “Man of Steel,” should renew fan interest. The film offers a fresh start for the kid from Krypton, with Henry Cavill as the boy who falls to Earth and becomes its protector.

Ricca said the image of Superman arriving from a distant planet and getting raised in America mirrors the Cleveland background of his creators. The parents of Siegel and Shuster fled Europe for a new life “and they end up on this alien world, which is Cleveland,” Ricca said.AP

School encouraged Siegel

Laura Siegel Larson said Cleveland’s public library, comic pages and high school mentors all nurtured her father’s creativity.

“The encouragement that he received from his English teachers and the editors at the Glenville High School newspaper and the literary magazine gave my dad a real confidence in his talents,” she said by phone from Los Angeles.

The school even allowed Siegel to mimeograph the science-fiction magazine he wrote and sold by mail subscription, she said. A mimeograph is a low cost printing machine that prints by forcing ink through stencils.

The tale of Superman’s first moments begins in Siegel’s bedroom. He once recalled coming up with the idea while looking up at the stars and imaging a powerful hero who looked out for those in distress.


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