Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Episode # 17: The Artists of Jerry Siegel's and Joe Shuster's Cleveland Studio

Thanks go to and web sites for help in researching this episode.
Since Action Comics and Superman were 64 pages each, Jerry and Joe quickly needed help to fill that many pages every month. The addition of a daily comic strip added to the work load. They set up a Cleveland studio led by Joe to produce the art. Generally, Joe Shuster would begin the rough art, one or two assistants would finish the pencils and another would usually ink. The inker was usually Ed Dobrotka. Joe Shuster himself would finish and ink the heads of Superman and Lois Lane.
The main artists of the Cleveland studio were:
Paul Cassidy
Leo Nowak
John Sikela
Wayne Boring
Don Komisarow
Ed Dobrotka
Paul Cassiudy (October 11, 1910 - May 15, 2005) was the first ghost artist on the Superman comic books. He began by doing inking and detail work and eventually did solo stories. He brought a bolder, fluid line to Shuster's art. His notable addition was the "S" symbol to Superman's cape. He moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he continued to do freelance work. He passed away there at the age of 94.
Leo Nowak (1907 - January 6, 2001) was also a musician and painter. He joined the studio in September 1940 after Paul Cassidy moved to Wisconsin. Nowak remained with the studio until he was drafted in 1943. His first work appeared in Superman #10. He drew bold, stocky figures and close-ups, with wide shoulders drawn diagonally across the panel. During WWII he was a batallion artist. He eventually moved to southern California and worked for 25 years in advertising. He also did political cartoons for The Daily Independent in Ridgecrest for twelve years.
John Sikela (1907 - 1998) was one of the longest lasting Superman ghost artists. He also joined the studio in 1940. He also was known for dynamic panels and aerial views. He is credited as the artist of the first Mxyztplk story in Superman #30, 1944 in The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told, 1987 (attributed at and to Joe Shuster or Ira Yarborough). Sikela also drew sotries to the Superboy spin-off. Hist first solo story was Luthor and the Great Animals of Baracoda in Superman #12. He drew Superman flying as if he was grabbing the air. Joe Sikela also served in the armed forces during WWII and returned to the studio in late 1946. He worked until the studio closed after Siegel and Shuster lost their lawsuit against DC Comics over the rights to Superman.
Ed Dobrotka (1917 - 1977) began as an inker for the other artists. He also did pencils but inked exclusively after 1945. Ed inked Sikela on Superboy until 1950. He also worked on the early Lois Lane solo stories. Dobrotka also inked stories for All-Star Comics and Quality Comics. Ed Dobrotka is also credited as co-creator, with writer Don Cameron, of the Superman villain Toyman in Action Comics#64.
Hi Mankin (1926 - 1978) worked at the Cleveland studio for only a month at the age of 15. He stayed with Jerry's family while he attended a Cleveland high school, and would ink Superman at night. He would go on to draw the characters Johnnhy Quick and Gangbusters for DC, the Roy Rogers comic strip, and the titles Crimebusters and Daredevil for publisher Lev Gleason.
World War II brought changes to Superman. The publisher would begin to weild tighter control on the character as Jerry Siegel and some of the artists served in the armed forces. Joe Shuster was classified 4-F because of his poor eyesight, and was thus exempt from military service.
Jach Burnley (1911 - ?) was the first Superman artist directly employed by DC Comics. His first job was to produce advertising art that would appear in the issues. His first comic book art was for World's Fair Comics #2, then Action Comics 28 - 34, September 1940 - April 1941. He then worked on the daily comic strip. Some Superman fans consider him the best of the early Superman artists. He drew Superman covers beginning with Superman #19. Mankin also created Starman for Adventure Comics in April 1941. From 1944 - 1946 he pencilled the Batman Sunday comic strip, and briefly pencilled the Superman strip in 1944. In 1947 he left DC Comics to return to sports cartooning.
Fred Ray (1922 - ?) pencilled Superman covers beginning with Superman' s Christmas Adventure in 1940, and first appeared in the regular titles with Superman #9 (Fall 1940). His most famous cover was for Superman #14, the iconic image of Superman standing in front of a triangular stars and stripes shield as an eagle perched on one arm. His only interior art was the story for Superman #25, Sustain the Winds, written by Mort Weisinger for the War Department. Ray is also known for his particular "S" design. He also worked on the character of Congo Bill, Tomahawk and various westerns.
Pete Riss (1906? - 1962?) drew five Superman stories in 1943. He drew Meet the Squiffles, written by Jerry Siegel, about an imp from another dimension named Ixnayalpay who meets Adolph Hitler. Riss drew Superman flying with one knee kicked up so high it obscured the "S" on his chest. Riss would go on to work for various publishers in characters such as Kid Eternity, Millie the Model and Hopalong Cassidy.
George Roussos (1920 - 2000) began his career as a "ghost" artist on Batman. He began inking Superman during WWII and continued after the war ended. He also inked Superboy.
Ira Yarbrough (1911 - 1983) had a comical style. He is one of the artists credited as penciller and/or inker on the first Mxyztplk story in Superman #30. He drew Superman flying with his arms flexed above his head.
Sam Citron drew Superman form 1943 - 1946. America's Secret Weapon in Superman#23 (July 1943) was done for the War Department. After 1946 he drew Mr. District Attorney and other DC comics. He would later work for American Comics Group drawing horror and mystery comics.
Dick Sprang, artist on Batman from the late 1940's into the early 1960's is credited as drawing at least one superman story during the Cleveland studio years. He would draw Three Super Musketeers for World's Finest Comics #82 (May-June 1956).
John Small (d. 1966) was born in England. He drew at least one Superman story, The Laughing Stock of Metropolis in Action Comics #95 or False Paradise for Felons in World's Finest Comics #18 (Summer 1945)
Wayne Boring (1916 - 1987) was the definitive Superman artist of the 1950's. Along with John Sikela, he is probably the longest tenured artist of the Cleveland studio. He drew Superman flying as if he was walking on air or sliding. He was one of the earliest artists of the Superman strip, and drew the strip exclusively after 1942. He did nost of the covers after 1944. Wayne Boring drew Superman with a barrel chest, and Superman and Clark Kent often had brooding expressions. He drew the emotional stories The Girl From Superman's Past in Superman #129, March 1959, and The Origin of Superman in Superman #53 (1948) He was also known for drawing Kryptonian and other alien cityscapes. Boring returned to the Superman comic strip in the 1960's, and did some Superman stories in 1966 and 1967. He left DC to work for Marvel, drawing among other characters Captain Marvel. After his comic book career Wayne Boring worked as a security guard.

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