cartoonist (b at Toronto, 10 July 1914; d at Los Angeles, Calif, 30 June 1992),
who in 1933 with writer Jerry Siegel created the Superman comic book character. In the original version Superman’s mild-mannered alter ego, Clark Kent, worked for the Daily Star, which was patterned after the Toronto Star. The newspaper’s name in the strip was changed later to The Daily Planet.
Shuster, first cousin of comedian Frank Shuster (see WAYNE AND SHUSTER), moved to Cleveland, Ohio, with his family when he was nine years old. He studied art at John Huntington Polytechnical Institute and the Cleveland School of Art, where he met his collaborator, Siegel. The pair began publishing science fiction magazines and in 1936 broke into the comic book business by drawing lackluster adventure tales. Shuster’s illustrations were rudimentary but well conceived.
In 1938 the duo sold Superman for $130 to Action Comics, but failed to copyright the character. They were paid to draw the series as staffers until 1947 when the Man of Steel became the most famous hero in comic book history. When they sued for a more equitable percentage of royalties, they were fired and Shuster stopped drawing completely. By the mid-1970s he was blind and living in a an apartment in Queens, NY. When the first Superman movie, starring Christopher Reeve, made $82.5 million, Siegel sued, and DC comics restored their creators’ credits and agreed to pay each of them $20 000 a year for life.
(17 October 1914 – 28 January 1996, USA)
Jerry Siegel is the father of Superman – the superhero that made comics great and inspired a whole new generation of supernaturally endowed characters. Siegel created Superman in 1933 with his childhood friend Joe Shuster, who did the artwork. Initially, they wanted to sell Superman as a newspaper strip, but since no one was interested it was not until 1938 that Superman was published for the first time, in a comic magazine. His appearance boosted the ailing comic business into a popularity that might not have occurred, had the newspapers taken the initiative in printing this highly successful character.
Most of Superman’s contemporaries are human beings who are transformed into superheroes – the thing that sets Superman apart is that he has a secret identity. On one hand, he is mild-mannered journalist Clark Kent, who repeatedly fails to show up at the right moment; on the other, he is the last son of Krypton, always in time to save the world. Comic philosophers have mused that it is this psychological twist that accounts for Superman’s great success.
Unfortunately for Superman’s creators, their story was less glorious. Jerry Siegel entered into a long and nasty legal fight with National over the rights to his character. Disillusioned, Shuster retreated from the comic scene completely. None of Siegel’s other creations, such as ‘Funnyman’, ‘Reggie van Twerp’, ‘Ken Winston’ and ‘Tallulah’, was ever successful in the long run, which he claimed to be due to his being black-balled from the comic industry. Eventually in 1977, after getting a lot of publicity for his case, Siegel got DC Comics, the successor to National, to award him and Shuster a lifetime annuity. During the 1970s, Siegel wrote several stories for the Italian Disney magazine Topolino. He lived quietly in Los Angeles, until his death in 1996.