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Origins of The Superman Comic Strip

Besides networking on June 7, we also went to the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage for a program about the origins of the Superman comic strip conducted by Dr. Sean Martin, Associate Curator for Jewish History at the Western Reserve Historical Society

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As we know, Superman was developed by Mr. Jerome Siegel, a young writer, and Mr. Joseph, a young visual artist, who met at Glenville High School around 1930 when they were in their mid-teens. They started working on the Superman concept around 1933 and in 1938 the first Superman comic book was published. The character of Lois Lane was based on a young woman Mr. Shuster had dated in high school and who would later marry Mr. Siegel.

Accordingly, he spoke of the evolution of Superman from the 1930's to the 1970's, and how Mr. Siegel and Mr. Shuster had to struggle to obtain the artistic recognition and financial compensation they deserved.

What Dr. Martin wanted to emphasize was the role that the Jewish culture in Cleveland had as an early influence on these two young men and their attitudes. He thus shared with us his research on what it was like being Jewish in Cleveland in the 1920's and 1930's.

Dr. Martin also believed that another strong influence was the fact that the parents of both Mr. Siegel and Mr. Shuster were immigrants from Europe. Mr. Siegel was born in Cleveland in 1914 to parents who immigrated to the United States from Lithuania in 1900, while Mr. Shuster was born in Toronto in 1914 to a father from Rotterdam and a mother from Kiev; they all moved to Cleveland in 1924.

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Therefore, the young Mr. Siegel and Mr. Shuster knew what they were doing when they created Superman because, like their families, he too was an immigrant, even though he didn't come from another country; he came from another planet.

Everyone at the lecture was delighted by the presence of Ms. Marlene Goodman who is the niece of Mr. Jerome Siegel. She brought with her some lovely family photos as well as a photo of a drawing of Superman in the beginning stages of his conception. Of course, she had several fascinating stories to tell about her uncle and his works, which beautifully complemented what Dr. Martin had to say.

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison

Margaret W. Wong & Associates LLC