Superman is one of the most renowned DC Superheroes of all time. Since his introduction in 1938, his blue uniform, red cape and the prominent “S” logo on his chest have been the symbol of hope, truth, justice. However, not all people know that his real-life origin is a story on its own. The Man of Steel is a character built out of friendship and persistence before becoming the first ever American superhero and an iconic figure to all.
Creators of Superman
Jerry Siegel, Writer
Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two friends from Cleveland, Ohio gave birth to the character Superman. In the mid-1930s, they attended Glenville High School and worked for the school newspaper. Jerry wrote the stories; Joe drew cartoons. Both collaborated all for their dream of becoming famous one day.
Jerry and Joe finally made their way to the comics scene in 1934. A published, Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, acknowledged their innovative ideas and sheer talent, giving them their first break. Wheeler-Nicholson commissioned them to produce adventures and spy stories for his “Detective Comics” and “New Fun” magazines.
From ‘Bad Guy’ to ‘Good Guy’
However, Jerry and Joe were silently creating something else, a character named “Superman”, which is a bald villain with incredible mental powers. The two self-published his story in the pamphlet “Science Fiction”, but only lasted five issues.
‘The Reign of Superman’ where the character was still a villain.
While they didn’t reap much from the attempt, both liked the name “Superman” and never stopped working on it. This time, making man “Superman” a character for a good cause. Joe transformed him into a fighter figure, dressed him in trunks, added a cape, provided him with fast-running abilities and a muscular body.
When they deemed “Superman” was ready, the duo pitched them to every published and newspaper syndicate available. To no avail, they were declined and the rejection lasted for a few more years. However, Jerry and Joe never gave up.
The Birth of ‘Superman’ An Accident
In 1938, National Allied Publications (which is now known as DC Comics) was searching for a feature for their adventure series. Due to a short deadline, however, they lacked the time to create a new figure. Luckily, they saw the rejected ‘Superman’ comics strips and bought the first Superman story from Jerry and Joe – plus all the rights therein – for a mere US$130.
Action Comics #1, the comic that featured Superman.
So, on April 18, 1938, Superman first grazed the comics industry through the first issue of Action Comics, with a picture of the Man of Steel lifting a car over his head. Soon enough, Superman became one of the most renowned superheroes in the world.
The Success of Superman
Superman stories gained extreme popularity and flew seamlessly off the shelves. One of the key factors for its early success is how Jerry made the story relatable to people by tackling issues that affect the everyday life of the people. For instance, it included a story connecting to the mine accident in Athens, Ohio on November 5, 1930.
Through time, it dealt with more serious stories like Superman combatting with anti-Semitic invidiuals. Jerry and Joe were hit by Hitler’s oppression in Europe, his anti-Semitic language and his negative idealization about the Jewish people. The duo made Superman the champion of the oppressed, whose physical prowess help defend the weak. Superman became a guiding light, and just the superhero the world hoped to see as World War II started. Jerry and Joe continued to produce stories that would bring smiles to people’s faces and help them see the silver linings, even if things looked so dim.
Another famous store of Superman is when he confronted Hilter, showing horrifying truth about the Nazi’s oppression on the Jewish People. This alerted the Nazi regime and argued that Superman only sown hate, evil, laziness, and suspicion among the readers. But, it was the opposite for Jewish artists as this inspired them to produce their own stories on saving the persecuted.
After World War II, Superman comics continued to feature stories saving the stories and sharing opinions on social issues and the state of the world.
Jerry and Joe’s Attempt To Get Superman Back
Superman became a surefire hit. This made Jerry and Joe feel that they had been swindled or tricked into selling their rights to ‘Superman’. They regretted their actions, as they saw millions flying away from their hands. The duo attempted to get ‘Superman’ back from National Allied Publications, however, they were told that they could lose their job. The publisher’s offer was simple, keep writing stories and drawing comics for the character they had invested everything to, or let someone take over their beloved ‘Superman’. So, the two decided to continue working on the Superman comics for the next decade, even if they would never be rich off Superman. Then, for the rest of their lives, they continued to file lawsuits to get the character they originally created. Their attempts continued to be fruitless, but, the credit for being the creator of Superman will forever be theirs.
While Superman itself has a story to tell, the origin of his character is a drama on its own. Now, it’s not only about a renowned comics book and superhero who has heat vision, incredible strength, and can flY but also about bringing hope to the world, not letting personal tragedy impede your goals, and using art to promote a more just and safe community.