A few posts back I was looking at Action Comics #544. In addition to the comic strips there are several text pages. Jerry Siegel reminisces about the circumstances surrounding the creation of Superman and the difficulty he and Joe Shuster faced in getting published at all. It’s well known that the very first Superman story had been written and drawn several years before it finally saw the light of day in Action Comics #1 (June 1938). After much struggle and rejection, DC editor Sheldon Mayer convinced Action editor Vin Sullivan that the nutty super-character might just have something. Luckily, Siegel and Shuster were already working regularly for DC on strips such as Slam Bradley and Doctor Occult, so they were easy to get hold of. Sullivan and Mayer clearly thought highly of the new character as he was, amazingly, given the cover! The rest is history.
Joe Shuster also contributes a short piece (see below), although it’s clearly just a note sent to editor Julie Schwartz in response to a request for a drawing for the anniversary issue. That drawing appears alongside as a full page pin-up.
It’s quite poignant. Shuster had been suffering failing eyesight for many years. In fact, it was this health issue that at least partly resulted in his withdrawal from comics in the early 1950s. The next couple of decades were extremely difficult for him. It wouldn’t be until the mid-1970s and the actions of Neal Adams and others that finally convinced DC management to give Siegel and Shuster pensions and health care. That a big budget Superman movie was on the way, and the powers that be couldn’t afford a controversy to affect ticket sales, only helped matters. If this was indeed Joe Shuster’s very last drawing of Superman, it was a fine way to bow out.
So that was the 45th anniversary of the Man of Steel. Recently, we’ve just passed the seventy-fifth—it’s incredible to think. The legacy of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster lives on.
Images ©2013 DC Comics