Thursday, July 10, 2008

Episode #27: Happy Birthday, Joe Shuster!

An excellent resouce to learn about the life of Joe Shuster is the book Men of Tomorrow:Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book, by Gerard Jones. the book has been published in a new paperback edition with some updated material.
Joe Shuster (July 10, 1914 - July 30, 1992) was born in Toronto, Ontario Canada, the son of Jewish immigrants. His father Julius came from Rotterdam, South Holland The Netherlands, and his mother Ida was from Kiev, Ukraine. As a youth he worked as a newspaperboy with the Toronto Star. When he was ten years old the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio. At Glenville High School Joe met and became friends with Jerry Siegel. As teens they published a science fiction fanzine which contained a story whose main character was a villain, The Reign of the Superman. Afterward they reworked the character. A Superman comic book was planned to be published by Consolidated Book Publishers. They only published one issue of the comic book Detective Dan and backed out of the Superman deal, and out of the comic book field.
Jerry and Joe had their first success with Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson's National Allied Publications, one of the comic book publishers that eventually merged to form DC Comics as we know it today. His New Fun Comics was the first comic book to contain original stories in place of comic strip reprints. Thier first sales were the musketeer swashbuckler Henri Duval and Dr. Occult in issue #6, October 1935. Later successes were Slam Bradley, Federal Men, Calling All Cars (Radio Squad) and Bart Regan, Spy.
The Toronto Star newspaper and building was the inspiration for the Daily Star, the original name of the newspaper that Clark Kent got a job at. Because of the many newspapers called the Star, the name of the Metropolis newspaper was changed to the Daily Planet. Shuster's memories of the Toronto skyline also served as a model for the Metropolis cityscape.
There were several inspirations for Clark Kent: Shuster himself, Harold Lloyd and Walter Dennis, a journalist and science fiction fan who sent Jerry Siegel a picture of himself.
Joe Shuster always had weak eyesight, and during his time on Superman his vision got worse. Joe was classified 4-F, physically unable to serve in the armed forces because of his vision.
After Jerry and Joe lost their 1948 lawsuit, their last creation together was Funnyman, a mischevious clown crime fighter. Unfortunately it was an immediate flop. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster never worked professionally together again.
It is thought that Joe did some work for Charlton comics, but there is no firm proof. He lived with his brother in Forest Hills. After the settlement in the 1970's Joe moved to an apartment in Southern California, near his old partner. Joe's last newspaper interview was with the Toronto Star in April 1992, three months before his death.
In 2005 the Canadian Comic Book Creators Award Association established the Joe Shuster awards, to honor achievements in comic books by Canadian creators, publishers and retailers.
The Toronto Star building that inspired Joe Shuster was built in 1929. It was 22 stories tall and was torn down in 1971 afterToronto Star's new building was completed, having 25 stories. On the site of the old Toronto Star building now stands First Canadian Place, Canada's tallest skyscraper at 72 stories. It is home to the Toronto headquarters of the Bank of Montreal.

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