Given how extraordinary the character of Superman was, his creators opted to make his human face as ordinary as possible. Clark Kent would be like them: shy, shortsighted, bumbling, working class, and socially inept. His look and character was modelled after another movie hero — bespectacled silent comedian Harold Lloyd — while his name came from Clark Gable, a big star in the mid-Thirties.
Kent Allard note the surname of his sidekick, Margo Lane. Nonetheless, it was the perfect shell within which to hide a superhero. Although the police report suggested gunshots were fired, sixty-year-old Mitchell Siegel actually died of a heart attack.
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Meltzer was amazed to discover a letter published in the 3 June edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper — the day after the death of Mitchell Siegel — calling for vigilante action against increasing crime. Because a little boy named Jerry Siegel heard his father was murdered and, in grief, created a bulletproof man. Although Jewish, the boys were appealing to the widest audience, and that meant Christian America.
They needed to invent a witness or disciple for Superman, someone who could observe and comment upon him from a purely human perspective, providing a point of view for the reader. The result was Lois Lane, ace reporter on the Daily Star it would be another two years before it became the more familiar Daily Planet. It also had the added advantage that the newspaper setting could be a useful driver of stories.
It gave Clark Kent, and so Superman, a vantage point to observe humanity. While the character of Lois Lane had ambition, independence, and courage, she would be much criticized as a fantasy figure created by an adolescent male. The question often arises: how could Lois not tell that Clark Kent and Superman were one and the same? How could she spend her time wistfully dreaming of a relationship with one Superman , while dismissing the other Clark? It was a topic various interpretations of the Superman mythos would tackle over many years.
The simplicity of the concept allowed for endless reinvention and elaboration, yet at his core Superman always remained the ultimate immigrant, and Lois would be his human connection. As Superman had been rejected several times, Shuster blamed his art even though Siegel was also rethinking and reinventing the core concepts of who their Superman was.
His advertisement for a figure model in the Cleveland Plain Dealer brought Carter to his door. She had no modelling experience, and he was barely an adolescent, but the pair hit it off. Shuster told Carter all about Superman, so by the time she met Siegel she was already enthusing about the ideas the youthful pair had for their potential comic strip. Both Siegel and Shuster were keen moviegoers, so saw many of the films and film series of the Thirties, possibly including the ongoing Torchy Blane newspaper-set comedy-dramas.
Glenda Farrell initially starred as the fast-talking reporter Torchy Blane, always finding herself in trouble in pursuit of the big story. Warner Bros. Playing with Dynamite Despite their burst of invention, Siegel and Shuster had no luck in selling Superman. In desperation, Siegel had sent their latest sample material to the reprint-only Famous Funnies but the package was rapidly returned to them unopened.
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Finally, the pair had some much-needed success in the world of comics in , but not with Superman. Wheeler-Nicholson was a forty-five-year-old pulp writer, the son of a suffragette, who was now pioneering the new American comic book form.
The son of a journalist father and magazine His work for the pulps had a strong military background and was packed with incidents of derring-do and adventure, many supposedly drawn from his own possibly exaggerated exploits. Having established National Allied Publications hereafter referred to as National to produce a comic book rival to Famous Funnies, he had to create original material as all the well-known strips were tied up with major publishers. Wheeler-Nicholson saw the potential in Siegel and Shuster. He had little investment behind his business, so was more disposed than most to take a gamble on untested talent.
For their part, Siegel and Shuster were less inclined to offer their long-in-development Superman to a new publisher who might not go the distance — recent history was littered with the remnants of many fly-by-night pulp publishers. That summer they sent sample work to National, and were quickly commissioned to produce a single-page strip entitled Henri Duval of France, Famed Soldier of Fortune. The swashbuckler strip appeared in New Fun 6 October and it was right up. The strip ran for four instalments. That same issue contained another Siegel and Shuster strip, Doctor Occult: The Ghost Detective, published under their pseudonyms of Leger and Reuths they were advised to use other names if they had more than one piece in an issue.
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The first instalment of their supernatural crime-fighter series saw the Sam Spade-like Dr Occult tackle a vampire, assisted by his girlfriend, Rose Psychic. The character would go on to have a chequered history, but he is still occasionally used in the wider DC Comics Universe. Having achieved these two successes, Siegel and Shuster decided to offer Superman to Wheeler-Nicholson and National, keen for it to finally see publication. The publisher was impressed with Superman, but felt that to do the concept justice it should be published in colour and that each instalment should run across several pages, which New Fun was not doing at the time.
The company was also unstable financially, with Wheeler-Nicholson finding it difficult to sell comics built around original — so unknown — characters. This strip — featuring government agent Steve Carson, based upon the then-new FBI — became the central strip in New Comics, with the comic book changing its name several times first to New Adventure Comics from 12 , then simply to Adventure Comics from These crime strips allowed Siegel and Shuster to Late in , Siegel and Shuster used the Dr Occult strip to try out some of their unused ideas for Superman, giving the character super-strength, the ability to fly, and a blue costume with a red cape.
Facing financial ruin, Wheeler-Nicholson took one last gamble and launched a third comic book called Detective Comics early in later the home of Batman from , after Wheeler-Nicholson sold his interest in publishing company Detective Comics, Inc. A fourth title — Action Comics — was added to the National roster, with former magazine distributors Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz now running the company. In they had formed publisher and distributor Independent News from the ruins of a couple of indebted companies.
Wheeler-Nicholson distributed his titles through them, a decision he would come to regret. The Major had fallen heavily into debt, which led to him owing Independent News a Donenfeld had reputedly been a bootlegger during Prohibition, with strong connections to gangster Frank Costello — it was said he had moved alcohol across the border alongside legitimate shipments of Canadian pulp paper used in his print enterprises.
Through his underworld connections, Donenfeld had secured a lucrative contract to print millions of subscription leaflets for the Hearst magazine empire, including titles Good Housekeeping and Cosmopolitan. He also had a hand in the publishing of pornography, with a series of racy pulps with titillating titles like Pep, Bedtime Stories, and Spicy Detective.
His regular run-ins with the censors saw him on the lookout for a new publishing field: the world of four-colour comic books seemed tempting. Despite their chalk and cheese personalities, Donenfeld, the would-be gangster and playboy, and Liebowitz, the dull accountant, were complementary in business.
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In launching Detective Comics during , Wheeler-Nicholson had been forced to take Donenfeld and Liebowitz on as partners in lieu of settling his debts. Donenfeld and Liebowitz now owned a growing comic book publisher with significant potential, if they could find the right people to manage it.
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For a while Siegel and Shuster had tried to sell their idea as a newspaper strip with some interest from the United Features Syndicate in Now Vin Sullivan was offering them the thirteen-page lead strip in Action Comics, so they rapidly reformatted the intended daily Superman strips into a form suitable for the by-now standardized comic book page. Although asked for a For over five years, Siegel and Shuster had been refining their concept of Superman, from bald-headed telepathic villain to red-caped superhero from space, defender of mankind.
Comic books were never more popular as mass entertainment than during this period although it is arguable that the comic book-inspired superhero movies of the early twenty-first century are even more popular than the original comic books. The archetype of the superhero was defined and refined, with many of the best-known and longest-lasting heroes making their debuts, including the non-super-powered vigilante Batman, the wartime patriotic figure Captain America, the feminist icon Wonder Woman, and the adolescent fantasy figure. Comic books became a major industry with a host of talented writers and artists dedicating themselves to exploring the artistic and story-telling possibilities of the colourful new medium.
Each page would move along this production line, added to and developing closer to the finished item at each stage. From the early days of the comic book shop system many of the creative talents — writers, artists, editors, and managers — would emerge who gave birth to the superheroes that would dominate the medium.
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For Siegel and Shuster, in the immediate aftermath of the publication of Action Comics 1 little had changed from the days before Superman existed in the public arena. They assigned the rights to Superman to DC Comics in It was an agreement that would lay the foundations for a series of bitter legal disputes over ownership that continue to this day.
Almost immediately, the character had escaped the bounds of the comic book, leaping directly into the public imagination. He also ran a variety of different characters on the cover. It soon became clear that Superman was driving sales, and from 11 onwards he was the only character featured on the front. Action Comics was selling almost half a million copies, and within another month that figure almost doubled.
Superman was flying off newsstand shelves. There had been little attempt to promote Superman: for the publishers the decision to print the strip was a happy accident. Although Superman was from another world, The origin story fills less than a single comic book page. In the second panel, a passing motorist discovers the alien baby crash-landed on Earth. The baby is put in an orphanage.
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The rest of the first Superman strip depicted him going about the business of righting wrongs and helping people out, including saving a wrongly convicted innocent woman about to be executed by turning in the true perpetrator of the crime, saving another woman from her abusive husband, and rescuing his Daily Star co-worker Lois Lane from a gangster who abducted her the incident depicted on the cover , and provoking a corrupt Washington Senator to confess. The strip also showed Clark Kent hiding his Superman costume under his regular clothes, an impractical arrangement given the cape, but part of the fantasy that would become iconic.
Ironically, the widest exposure of Superman was through the nationally syndicated newspaper strip from January By the end of , the Superman newspaper strip would feature in more than sixty publications, with it eventually featuring in around After the success of Action Comics, Siegel and Shuster had a chance to reinvent the origin story of their hero through their original dream of a daily newspaper strip. Kal-L, later Kal-El. A prototype ship is built, but further earthquakes and eruptions lead Jor-L to fear the end has come.
He and Lora put Kal-L into the prototype it can hold only one and launch their baby son to planet Earth, the nearest world Jor-L has found that can support life. It was an origin story that would become familiar worldwide through various retellings and reinterpretations in comic books, radio serials, television shows, and movies across many decades.