Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Super story

Brad Ricca grew up in Cleveland and, as a boy, found it incredible that Superman originated right there in the same city. Years later he dug deep into Superman's origins and wrote a super book, Super Boys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster -- the Creators of Superman.

Siegel, the writer, and Shuster, the artist, were ambitious teenagers, still students at Glenville High School, when they got the bug to develop a newspaper comic strip. After several failed attempts, they hit upon the idea for Superman. Even then, no syndicate showed any interest in it, but a new comic book publisher, Action Comics, saw the potential and offered $130 for the rights to Superman. Foolishly, Siegel and Shuster signed the contract. The publisher made millions, while the two creators    had to settle for small incomes for actually producing the stories and drawings, which soon expanded to include the newspaper comic strip they had wanted all along, except that now they weren't paid for it. Eventually the two friends lost their jobs producing Superman and found themselves struggling just to survive. Legal battles to restore the rights to Superman have continued even after the deaths of both Siegel and Shuster.

Ricca finds numerous autobiographical references planted by Siegel in the Superman stories he wrote, such as the names of people he knew (Lois Lane was named for Lois Amster, a girl he admired in high school) and allusions to the death of his father in a robbery at his clothing store.

Not until relatively late in life did the two men win recognition as Superman's creators, even if it never made them rich.

There are ironies in Ricca's story. The two kids who invented the greatest of the superheroes were themselves bullied by publishers and lawyers for their entire lives. Superman is dedicated to bringing justice to the oppressed, yet in the real Superman story, it is the oppressors who win.

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