In time for the 75th anniversary of the Man of Steel, comes the first comprehensive literary biography of Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, creators of the DC Comics superhero Superman and the inspiration for Michael Chabon's Kavalier and Clay
Drawing on ten years of research in the trenches of Cleveland libraries, boarded-up high schools, and secret, private collections, and a love of comic books, Brad Ricca's Super Boys is the first ever full biography about Superman's creators. Among scores of new discoveries, the book reveals the first stories and pictures ever published by the two, where the first Superman story really came from, the real inspiration for Lois Lane, the template for Superman's costume, and much, much more. Super Boys also tracks the boys' unknown, often mysterious lives after they left Superman, including Siegel's secret work during World War II and never-before-seen work from Shuster.
Super Boys explains, finally, what exactly happened with the infamous check for $130 that pulled Superman away from his creators—and gave control of the character to the publisher. Ricca also uncovers the true nature of Jerry's father's death, a crime that has always remained a mystery. Super Boys is the story of a long friendship between boys who grew to be men and the standard that would be impossible for both of them to live up to.
English professor Ricca nimbly narrates the adventures of two creative Cleveland, Ohio, teenagers who, in the 1930s, combined their youthful passions to create the story of the world's greatest superhero. Siegel spent his early years reading pulp magazines and writing his own fantastical imitations; Shuster learned to draw by tracing funnies in the paper. When Shuster moved into Siegel's neighborhood, they discovered a common love of comics, detective fiction, science fiction, and fantasy, and started working together on various projects. After high school, Siegel launched his own local magazine, Science Fiction. In an unassuming 1932 story, the pair featured a depression-hardened character who discovers he has "strange mental powers" like telepathy and acute vision after ingesting a "fragment of a meteor." Ricca's compulsively readable tale reveals the real-life model for Lois Lane, the elements on which Superman's costume are based, and the model for Superman himself (Johnny Weissmuller, who played Tarzan). At the center of the story, of course, is Siegel and Shuster's decision to sell the Superman rights to Action Comics for a pittance a choice they lamented the rest of their lives. The pair endured poverty, bad marriages, bad health, and a lack of recognition for their work. Ricca's comprehensive biography reveals the turmoil and creative genius that led to our most enduring superhero, the Man of Steel.