Thursday, January 31, 2008

Episode #3: Honoring Jerry Siegel: His 1960's Superman Stories: Parts I & II

First of all, thanks to the website, Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics at It was a valuable resource to narrow the search for Jerry Siegel's writing credits.

This week was a sad anniversary in Superman history. Monday, January 28 marked the 12th anniversary of Jerry Siegel's passing, in 1996, at his California home. He was 81. Joe Shuster had passed away four years earlier, on July 30, 1992, of heart failure.

Jerry Siegel's and Joe Shuster's earlier DC creations:

Henri Duval of France, Famed Soldier of Fortune and Doctor Occult, The Ghost Detective, both for New Fun Comics #6, October 1935. This was their first professional sale, to Maj. Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, publisher of National Allied Publishing, the first of the companies that eventuall merged to become DC Comics as we know it.

Federal Men, in New Comics #2, January 1936. This feature had a fan club, the "Junior Federal Men's Club", a precursor to the "Supermen of America Club" which was a product of the original 1940's Superman craze.

Slam Bradley, in Detective Comics #1, March 1937. He was a global adventurer.

Other Jerry Siegel superhero creations done with other artists, and the title and issue they first appeared:

Red, White and Blue, in All-American Comics #1, April 1939. The artist for this feature was William Smith. These three characters were not "long underwear types", as costumed super heroes were called by those who created them. They were members of different branches of the U. S. military. Each wore their corresponding military uniform.

The Spectre, drawn by Bernard Bailey, in More Fun Comics #52, February 1940. This character was revived in the Silver Age and is a part of DC Comics today.

The Star Spangled Kid, in Star Spangled Comics #1, October 1940. He was drawn by Al Sherman.

Robotman, drawn by Paul Cassidy, in Star Spangled Comics #7, April 1942. This Robotman was not the same Robotman from the Doom Patrol, but a different character using the same name.

The last character Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created together was Funnyman, for Magazine Enterprises, starting in January 1948. They published this character after being fired by DC Comics for the copyright lawsuit they filed against Superman's publisher. Funnyman was a prankster against criminals, but only lasted six issues. Siegel and Shuster never worked together again.

Jerry Siegel's post-Superman career:

From 1950-1953 he was the art director for Ziff Davis' comic book line. Back in 1928 they were pulp magazine publishers. In August of that year they published the first issue of Amazing Stories, a science fiction magazine that made SF fans of not only Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, but also future DC Comics editors Mort Weisinger and Julius Schwartz. In the early '50's they tried to publish a line of comic books, with no success.

In the 1960's Siegel wrote for a variety of comic book publishers. He worked for Charlton and Marvel, where he scripted Human Torch stories, as well as back-up stories with Angel of the X-Men. He also worked on Archie Comics brief revival of their super hero line. For Western Publishing he wrote Junior Woodchuck stories along with Carl Barks. Jerry Siegel also wrote for some international comic book publishers. He wrote The Spider for England's Lion comics magazine and Topolino for the Italian Disney licenscee Mondadori Editore.

Jerry Siegel retuned to DC Comics in 1959, with help from his wife Joanne. Until the settlement with DC Comics in the 1970's before the release of the Superman movie, the Siegels and Joe Shuster struggled financially. Joanne, citing the bad publicity of one of the Superman crators in poverty would bring to DC, convinced Jack Liebowitz to rehire her husband. Mort Weisinger began assigning Jerry stories.

Firsts of Jerry Siegel's 1960's DC writing careeer:

How Perry White Hired Clark Kent, drawn by Al Plastino and Superman Joins the Army, pencilled by Wayne Boring and inked by Stan Kaye, in Superman #133, November 1959.

The Super Pranks of Krypto, in Adventure Comics #266, November 1959, drawn by George Papp.

Prisoner of the Super-Heroes in Adventure Comics #267, December 1959, also drawn by George Papp.

The Revenge of Luthor in Action Comics #259, December 1959, drawn by Al Plastino.

Jimmy Olsen's Private Monster in Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #43, March 1960, pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by John Forte.

Supergirl's Super Pet in Action Comics #261, February 1960, drawn by Jim Mooney. This story was the origin of Streaky the Super Cat.

The Curse of Lena Thorul in Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #23, February 1961, drawn by Kurt Schaffenberger.

Jerry Siegel also wrote stories for Strange Adventures and Mystery In Space, two science fiction titles for DC Comics edited by future Superman editor Julius Schwartz.

Jerry Siegel's last scripts for DC Comics:

The New Lives of Superman in Superman #182, January 1966, pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by George Klein. This was his last script for the Superman comic book.

Prince Rama's Super Stand-In in Superboy #130, drawn by George Papp, and The Villain Who Married Supergirl, in Action Comics #338, drawn by Jim Mooney, both cover dated June, 1966, were Jerry Siegel's last scripts for DC Comics.

Two things led to Jerry Siegel's leaving DC Comics for the second, and last, time. The first was working for Mort Weisinger. He abused the talent working for him, and it wore Jerry Siegel down. The other was that Jerry Siegel once again sued DC Comics over the copyright to Superman. Once he filed that lawsuit, that ended his involvement with his creation for the final time.

In the 1970's, due to the pressure of comic book professionals and the public, DC Comics agreed to pay Siegel and Shuster, and their heirs, a pension, with medical benefits. It was adjusted upward several times during their final years.

After Jerry died, his widow sued for half the copyright to Superman. She waited until his passing because he didn't want to upset his renewed relationship with DC, and he may have been tired of the years of legal struggles. Under a new management, DC did not begrudge her this , seeming to accept it as her legal right.

The heirs have also sued DC over the copyright to Superboy. In the early 1940's Seigel had written a script introducing the character. DC editors vetoed the script. Siegel had written him as a mischievous character, and the editors felt this contrasted too much with Superman's wholesome reputation. It would not be the only Siegel script the DC management voetoed.

Jerry Siegel had written a script about "K-metal" around 1940. It was the first version of krypotonite. A k-metal metor caused a mine shaft to collapse, trapping Clark and Lois underground. While it was not close enough to threaten Clark Kent/Superman, Lois would not survive unless Clark revealed his secret identity. In the script that is exactly what he does. After overcoming her shock, Lois is angry with Clark for not trusting her with his secret. She agrees to keep his secret, and work with him for the good of humanity. DC editors vetoed this idea. They were not comfortable with a weakness threatening Superman, and they felt the Clark-Lois-Superman triangle was an essential element of the plot of Superman stories.

The Superman radio show introduced the idea of kryptonite as a way of giving Superman's voice, Bud Collyer, a vacation, in 1943. Kryptonite would not appear in Superman comic books until 1949.

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