Monday, May 21, 2012

The story behind the story

From the June 21, 1941, issue of The Saturday Evening Post, we learn that Jerry Siegel once answered his door every to find a group of boys inquiring about Superman. Siegel told them that Superman did live there, but that he was out stopping criminals at that moment. To bolster his claim, he would show the kids one of Superman's spare outfits. He and Joe Shuster "have assumed a solemn obligation to instill faith, whenever possible, in the physical reality of Superman."

Interesting stuff. The article has what has to be one of the earliest printed versions of Siegel's tale of when he came up with the character, on a sleepless and hot summer night:

I am lying in bed counting sheep when all of a sudden it hits me. I conceive a character like Samson, Hercules and all the strong men I ever heard tell of rolled into one. Only more so. I hop right out of bed and write this down, and then go back and think some more for about two hours and get up again and write that down. This goes on all night at two hour intervals, until in the morning I have a complete script.

He then runs to Joe Shuster's house and they work on the character together. In this version, it happened in 1932. I've usually seen the date as 1933. The Steranko History of Comics covers this, too.

Good stuff.

There are lots of other versions of this story told these days.There's an illustrated book called Boys of Steel by Mark Tyler Nobleman.
This seems to be the promotional image for The History of Invulnerability.
There's a stage play called The History of Invulnerability. I haven't seen it. Anybody know if it's any good?

A thriller that involves secrets about Superman's creator and Cain. Yes, that Cain.

There's a whole bunch of stuff about it in Brad Meltzer's novel The Book of Lies.

Where are all those people going?

Gerard Jones discusses it a bit in Men of Tomorrow. Also, i want to say that it inspired a lot of Michael Chabon's Kavalier and Klay novel.

There's some contention about what drove Jerry Siegel to create Superman, largely because he only talked about that one night in the early 30's and shied away from any self-psychologizing.  There are a whole bunch of other discussions of it that I'm omitting here. It's becoming a bigger and bigger part of the Superman story, especially as the publicity of the lawsuit over the rights to the character becomes more and more prominent. It seems likely that, if Warner Brothers could tell the story without making themselves look immoral, they'd probably make a feature film out of it.

On a related note: Google image search turns up some weird stuff, doesn't it?

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