The Creation of Superman

Jerry Sigel and Joe Shuster by Martin Sheridan (1942)

     Artist Joseph Shuster was born on July 10, 1914, in Toronto, Canada. His parents, Julius and Ida Shuster, left Europe in 1912 to escape anti-Semitic violence. Joe took an early interest to art and began drawing at the age of four. At nine, Joe started his first job hawking newspapers for the Toronto Daily Star while attending Ryerson Public School. Joe was ambidextrous and he would switch hands when one tired from drawing. He often used a breadboard as a drawing surface unless his mother needed it to bake the challah for Shabbat. His eyesight began to deteriorate at an early age. Impoverished and unable to afford drawing paper, he salvaged any scraps that were available. While living in Toronto, Joe discovered some discarded rolls of wallpaper that he would use over the next ten years.

      Joe Shuster was inspired by the comic strips and science-fantasy pulps of the era. His childhood favorites included Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay and pulp-cover illustrations by Frank R. Paul. As a teenager, Joe idolized Flash Gordon creator Alex Raymond, Tarzan artist Burne Hogarth, and Prince Valiant creator Hal Foster. Shuster would often incorporate contemporary Art Deco and Streamline Moderne styles similar to Raymond in cityscape scenes.

Joe Shuster - World in Future - 1980 - May 2, 1931

     In August 1924, the Shuster family relocated to the Cleveland, Ohio, area. Joe worked as a staff artist for The Hamilton Federalist, the school newspaper of Alexander Hamilton Junior High. His first comic strip printed was about a grasshopper named "Jerry the Journalist." The stories were written by Jerry Fine, editor of the paper and a cousin of Jerome Siegel.

     Writer Jerome Siegel was born in Cleveland on October 17, 1914. The Siegel family immigrated from Lithuania in 1900 to escape Jewish persecution. Jerry's father Michel Siegel owned Michael's Men's Furnishings, a second-hand clothing store on Central Avenue in Cleveland. One day, his older brother Harry brought home an issue of Amazing Stories that would forever change his life.

     Jerry first saw his own words in print at age 12 in the Plain Dealer Sunday Magazine when he reached out for someone to correspond with him. In an unpublished draft of the autobiography Creation of a Superhero, Siegel recalls his earliest science fiction work being printed in the kids' section of the Buffalo Times around 1927. Jerry claimed to have received a piece of fan mail for a short story titled "Monsters of the Moon" printed in serial form. He ordered back issues of the Sunday and evening editions, but was unable to locate any copies of the story.

Jerry Siegel

     Jerry Siegel's early writing style was heavily influenced by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. Jerry would later meet his idol Burroughs while stationed in Hawaii during World War II. Like the Judaic prophet Moses, Tarzan was orphaned as a child in a strange land. John Carter is sent to another planet and fights for an alien race. Carter is endowed with superhuman strength and the ability to leap great distances due to the lighter gravity of Mars. First published in 1913, The Warlord of Mars contains inner monologue from John Carter stating, "I was a superman, and no man could have withstood me then."

The Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs - McClurg, 1919

     A letter from Jerry appeared in the August 1929 issue of Amazing Stories and another was printed in the November issue of Science Wonder Stories. Both magazines were published by Hugo Gernsback, "The Father of Science Fiction". By the time he started attending Glenville High School, Jerry was regularly exchanging mail with the fledgling community of science fiction writers and fans.

     In August 1929, Jerry created The Fantastic Fiction Publication Company and released Cosmic Stories, one the first known science fiction fanzines. Each booklet was typed and hectographed by Jerry under the alias Charles McEvoy, one of many pseudonyms. Jerry enjoyed using pen names as another way to emulate Burroughs, who had first published under the alias Norman Bean. About ten copies of Cosmic Stories were produced. The work was considered to be lost by 1935 and no examples are known to exist. The pamphlet included original stories from science fiction pioneer Clare Winger Harris and Walter L. Dennis, co-founder of the Science Correspondence Club. Dennis worked as a newspaper reporter in Chicago and co-edited the first two issues of The Comet, a fanzine released in May 1930. Jerry exchanged letters with Walter, whose physical appearance and occupation was an early inspiration for Clark Kent.

Walter Dennis - 1930

        Jerry named Clark Kent after movie actors Clark Gable and Kent Taylor. Both Jerry and Joe wore glasses, which Jerry believed gave an "impression of meekness and mildness" similar to actor Harold Lloyd. In the silent films, Lloyd would start off being pushed around and bullied before "turning into a fighting whirlwind." As a teenager, Jerry wrote an unproduced one-act play titled The Fighting Journalist that he credits as the origination of himself and Clark Kent.

     Joe arrived at Glenville High in 1930 and Jerry's cousin arranged an introduction. Both boys shared the same enthusiasm for comics strips, Douglas Fairbanks films, and science fiction pulps. Their first comic collaboration in 1931 was The Interplanetary Police, inspired by Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. The second was Steve Walsh, a "scientific adventure extraordinary" and inventor of the "penetrascope." The machine can see and hear through all substances, an early example of x-ray vision and super-hearing. One of their cartoons appeared in the Glenville Torch on May 7, 1931. "Goober the Mighty" was a racist caricature that combined elements of Tarzan and Popeye the Sailor Man.

Goober the Mighty - Glenville Torch - 05-07-1931

      The Time Traveller was a fanzine released on January 9, 1932, co-edited by future Superman editors Mortimer Weisinger and Julius Schwartz. Jerry was among the first subscribers to what was billed as "Science Fiction's Only Fan Magazine." Jerry submitted short stories to The Time Traveller, but all were rejected.

     In the fall of 1932, Jerry typed and mimeographed copies of The Metal Giants by Edmond Hamilton for the Swanson Book Co. The story originally appeared as the cover feature of Weird Tales in December 1926. The reprinted tale is presented as the first in a series of booklets called "The Fantastic Fiction Library" from The Comet Pub. Co. in Cleveland. The pamphlet is missing paragraphs from the original manuscript. A note from the editorial department promotes The Time Crusaders as a limited edition novel by Jerome Siegel and Bernard J. Kenton. In a 1983 interview, Jerry recalled The Time Crusaders as a comic strip collaboration with an artist through the mail.

     The second release in October 1932 was Guests of the Earth by Hugh Langley, a short story penned by Jerry about an alien invasion hoax. The afterword was provided by science fiction icon Forrest J Ackerman. Jerry showed the pamphlet to his English teacher that disapproved of the genre. The print run for Guests of the Earth is unknown and very few copies have been observed in private collections.

Guests of the Earth by High Langley (Jerry Siegel) - 1932

     On April 21, 1932, a Glenville Torch article announced that a script was being published by Amazing Stories. The story was Miracles on Antares by Bernard J. Kenton. At different times, the Bernard J. Kenton alias may have been Jerry or a person named Bernard Kantor, or both. Kantor later contributed stories as a ghostwriter on early Superman comic book features. Miracles on Antares was never published and editor T. O'Conor Sloane later returned the manuscript to Jerry.

     The March 1932 issue of The Author and Journalist announced the debut of Science Fiction from Morantz Publications. Sam Morantz lived on the same street as Jerry and his father owned a printing company. The magazine was touted as "a new market for the work of science fiction writers." Editors Jerome Siegel and Bernard J. Kenton offered 1/4 to 3 cents per word for "tales in which the interest does not lag." 

Science Fiction - The Author and Journalist, March 1933 Vol 15

     The solicitation sought work similar to P. Schuyler Miller and Francis Flagg. Both authors were prominently featured in the science pulp magazines. Miller had previously collaborated with Walter Dennis for two works published in Wonder Stories. Francis Flagg, a pseudonym of George Henry Weiss, published a short story titled "The Superman of Dr. Jukes" in the November 1931 issue of Wonder Stories. A government scientist named Dr. Jukes injects a Chicago mobster named Killer Mike with an experimental serum giving him superhuman speed, strength, and telepathic powers. Jerry mentioned Flagg in letters sent to the pulp magazines. As a subscriber and contributor to Wonder Stories, Jerry would have read "The Superman of Dr. Jukes".

The Superman of Dr. Jukes by Francis Flagg, Wonder Stories, Nov 1931
     On June 6, 1932, Michel Siegel collapsed and died due to "acute dilation of heart" during a robbery at the clothing store. The three perpetrators were never identified. Jerry continued to compile material for the upcoming magazine. To promote the new "Scientific-fiction novelty," an advertisement was printed in the September 1932 issue of Amazing Stories. The contact address is the Siegel home on Kimberley Avenue.

Amazing Stories v07n06 - September 1932

     The first issues of Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization were mailed to subscribers in October 1932. The 8.5 x 11 inch booklets were compiled, edited, and typed by Jerry Siegel. All five installments of Science Fiction were mimeographed after school hours at Glenville High. Joe Shuster provided the stencil illustrations with contributions from schoolmate Bernie Schmittke and pulp artist Clay Ferguson, Jr. The fanzine was sold by mail order for 15 cents each or $1.50 a year. The total circulation for all five issues was about 200 copies.

Science Fiction - The Advance Guard of Future Civilization

     The first issue contains stories written by Jerry using various pseudonyms. Later contributors included Clare Winger Harris, Dr. David H. Keller, Forrest J Ackerman, Mort Weisinger, and Raymond A. Palmer. A press release for the magazine was printed in the October 6, 1932, issue of Glenville Torch. The author of the article is uncredited.

Science Fiction Ad - Glenville Torch - October 6, 1932

     The next month, Joe won first place in an annual football poster design contest sponsored by the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The winning design was announced on November 15, 1932. "Kick that Goal for Charity" awarded Joe a pair of box seats on the 50-yard line at the annual Charity Game. The game was played on November 26, 1932, at the Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The Cleveland Plain Dealer distributed 5,000 lithographed copies of the red, black, and gray poster throughout Cuyahoga County.
Cleaveland Plain Dealer - 11-26-1932 - Joe Shuster Charity Football Poster
     The third issue of Science Fiction, dated January 1933, contains a short story titled "The Reign of the Superman," the first use of the name by Siegel. "The Superman" was created at the height of the Great Depression, and Jerry began the tale in a breadline. A vagrant named William Dunn is approached by a chemist named Professor Ernest Smalley. Smalley doses Dunn with a drug that grants vast intelligence, telepathic powers, and the ability to "intercept intergalactic messages." Dunn murders Smalley and plans to destroy civilization, but the effects of the drug fade before the source element can be reached.

    The chemical was made of meteor fragments from a "Dark Planet," an early precursor of K-Metal and Kryptonite. The bald villain and mad scientist motifs are evocative of the Golden Age Lex Luthor. Forrest Ackerman appears as an investigating newspaper reporter on assignment from "The Chief". The story is signed as Herbert S. Fine, a combination of Jerry's cousin Herbert Schwartz and his mother's maiden name.

Science Fiction - 3 - The Reign of the Superman - January 1933

            The editorial section promotes The Interplanetary Police, the first comic strip from Jerry and Joe. Jerry reported that the strip had been adapted into an unproduced radio play. The third issue printed letters of praise from Harry Bates, editor of Astounding Stories, and Julius Schwartz. In the "Editor's Televisor," Schwartz writes that he is eager to see more artwork from Shuster. Schwartz later credited The Time Traveller as the inspiration for Siegel to produce Science Fiction, thus leading to the creation of Superman. However, Jerry had previously released the Cosmic Stories fanzine in 1929. According to Jerry, the motivation to self-publish came from constantly being rejected.

     The fourth issue of Science Fiction features a preview of the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago and a fictional review of the RKO feature King Kong, both illustrated and stenciled by Joe. The fourth issue was mailed to subscribers in February 1933, two months before actual release of King Kong.

Science Fiction - 5 - 1933

     The undated fifth issue of Science Fiction contains a full-page editorial with biographies and cartoon portraits of Jerry and Joe. Jerry mentions his earlier publications Cosmic Stories and Guests of the Earth. The profile promoted an upcoming collaboration with an unnamed "artist of great renown [sic]". Jerry later revealed that the artist was J. Allen St. John, illustrator for Burroughs, and the comic strip was Rex Carson of the Ether Patrol. Mort Weisinger contributed a satirical news column under the name Ian Rectez. Pulp artist Clay Ferguson Jr. provided an illustration for "Technocracy" that Joe transposed to stencil.

Science Fiction - 5 - Editorial - 1933Technocracy - Clay Ferguson, Jr. - Science Fiction - 5 - 1933

     A column by Julius Schwartz in the August 1933 issue of Science Fiction Digest reported that Siegel was leaving the Science Fiction staff to work on a "scientificartoon" strip for Rex Carson. Bernard J. Kenton was named as editor and printer with plans to expand Science Fiction into a larger format for 20 cents an issue.

Science Fiction Digest - August 1933

     In a letter to Forrest J Ackerman dated September 7, 1933, author Louis C. Smith expressed disappointment about "Forrie" not receiving the fifth issue of Science Fiction. According to Smith, Aubrey McDermott of The Comet had already disposed of his copy.

Smith letter to Ackerman - September 7, 1933

     Pulp hero Clark Savage Jr., known as Doc Savage, debuted in Doc Savage Magazine, dated March 1933. Jerry wrote that he read Doc Savage "with fascination." From a young age, Doc Savage possessed superhuman strength and superior intellect. The first adventure is titled "The Man of Bronze." By the third story, Doc Savage was referred to as a "superman." Doc Savage retreats to a Fortress of Solitude located in the arctic. The Superman Fortress of Solitude would later by introduced in 1958 by Mort Weisinger.

Doc Savage - 1933

     During the summer of 1933, Jerry reimagined his Superman as a bulletproof brawler. No longer a villain, the strongman was now billed as "A Genius in Intellect, A Hercules in Strength, A Nemesis to Wrong Doers - The Superman!" The hero was not from another planet and there was no dual-identity. Once again, the superpowers were bestowed upon "The Superman" by a scientist.

           Later that summer, Jerry corresponded with artist Leo O'Mealia to collaborate on the strip. "The Superman" was revamped as a scientist from a future of evolved superhumans. Before the destruction of Earth, the scientist travels back to the 1930s in a time machine. The Superman decides to use his abilities to fight crime during the Depression. Frustrated, Joe burned his own pages of "The Superman" and all that remains of the early prototype is a penciled concept and a finished cover. Coincidentally, Leo O'Mealia would later illustrate the cover of Superman #1 (Summer 1939) based on an image by Joe Shuster.

The Superman - Joe Shuster Sketch - 1933 The Superman - Siegel and Shuster - June 1933

     As a senior at Glenville High, Joe served as president of the Art Club and Chief Scenic Artist of Play Production. Joe was interested in bodybuilding and joined the tumbling team. He collected books about weightlifting that were also used as modelling references. Joe would later meet his idol Charles Atlas during "Superman Day" at the New York World's Fair.

Joe Shuster, 1933 Molding a Mighty Chest George F. Jowett, 1930

     Joe won a Thanksgiving art contest for his cartoon "Annual Turkey Feast Arrives" and the panel appeared on the front page of Glenville Torch on November 29, 1933. An article for the cartoon contest was printed the following week. Jerry and Joe were reported to be soliciting a cartoon for national syndication.

Glenville Torch - Joe Shuster Thanksgiving - Nov 29, 1933Glenville Torch - December 7, 1933

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster - Glenville Olympiad - 1934
     By graduation in 1934, Jerry and Joe had created a substantial amount of comic book material for what they originally named "Popular Comics". Some works were published in the Christmas edition of Cleveland Shopping News. The tabloid contracted them for a series of comics and shopping advertisements, but the project was cancelled before fruition. Some of the penciled layouts and finished pages were published 50 years later in issues of Siegel and Shuster: Dateline 1930's from Eclipse Comics.

Joe Shuster - The Game of Life - c. 1932

     Despite the setbacks, Jerry and Joe had earned some recognition in the underground science fiction scene. In the January 1934 issue of The Fantasy Fan, Julius Schwartz listed Guests of the Earth in part five of "How to Collect Fantasy Fiction." The June 1934 issue of Wonder Stories mentioned a cartoon that the pair were planning to contribute to the magazine, later identified by Jerry as Miracles on Antares

     Jerry continued to develop his favorite creation while searching for a more established artist. Siegel typed 15 days worth of newspaper stories for what was now simply titled "Superman". On June 12, 1934, Jerry mailed the updated scripts to Russell Keaton, an illustrator for the Buck Rogers Sunday newspaper comics. Keaton responded to Jerry with nine finished strips. In this version, the last man on Earth transports his son back in time to 1935 before the planet is destroyed. The time machine is found by Sam and Molly Kent. Inside, the three-year old boy is outfitted with a round emblem and laced circus boots. He awakens and begins to display usual superhuman abilities. Sam and Molly decide to adopt the child and name him Clark Kent. As he grew older, Clark could "leap over a ten story building" and "run as fast as an express train". The newspaper syndicates were not interested and Keaton soon departed from the project.

Superman - 2 - Russel Keaton - 1934

     On January 13, 1935, the Cleveland Plain Dealer printed a classified ad from an artist model with no experience. The model was a teenage girl named Jolan Kovacs, also known as Joanne Carter. Joe hired Joanne for $1.50 an hour and she became the visual basis for reporter Lois Lane. Jerry named Lois after his high school crush. The character was inspired by Torchy Blaine, a detective reporter portrayed in films from 1937-1939 by actresses Glenda Farrell, Lola Lane, and Jane Wyman. Joanne and Jerry later married each other in Cleveland on October 14, 1948.

Lois Lane by Joe Shuster - 1935

     Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson began as an adventure pulp writer in 1924. In 1925, Wheeler-Nicholson founded the Nicholson Publishing Company, Inc. as a newspaper syndicate. In the autumn of 1934, the Major launched National Allied Publications, Inc., also known as National Allied Newspaper Syndicate, Inc. On January 11, 1935, National released New Fun #1, one of the first regularly published comic books comprised of all-original material.

     Wheeler-Nicholson reviewed sample sketches from Joe that were submitted on the old wallpaper from Toronto and brown wrapping paper. In a letter dated June 6, 1935, Wheeler-Nicholson offered Siegel and Shuster a feature in New Fun as an audition for the magazine. Joe borrowed money from his parents to purchase proper art paper and the team was paid $20 for two pages. The black and white stories were printed in New Fun #6, dated October 1935.

     The first paid assignment was "Henri Duval of France, Famed Soldier of Fortune". Conceived by Wheeler-Nicholson, Henri Duval is a Douglas Fairbanks inspired swashbuckler in the vein of The Three Musketeers. The three-part story "Rescuing the King" continued over the next two issues renamed More Fun. Jerry and Joe produced all six Henri Duval stories before the series ended. A different character named Henri Duval later commits suicide in a Doctor Occult story by Jerry and Joe in More Fun Comics #24 (September 1937).

     "Doctor Occult, the Ghost Detective" was a new creation from Jerry and Joe about a Sam Spade gumshoe that specializes in supernatural cases. The debut was signed as Leger and Reuths and it depicts the first appearance of a vampire in a comic book. "The Vampire Master" story continued over the next two issues renamed More Fun. Today, Doctor Occult is the earliest recurring DC Comics character that remains in continuity

Henri Duval - New Fun - 6 - February 1935 Doctor Occult - New Fun - 6 - February 1935

     On a "hot summer night" in 1935, Jerry further refined the Superman character into the more recognizable hero of today. The super-powered child was now rocketed away from an unnamed doomed planet. Like John Carter, Superman could leap at great bounds due to his homeworld being larger than Earth. The alter-ego of Clark Kent became a mild-mannered reporter at the Daily Star, a nod to the Toronto newspaper where Joe once worked. Clark is in love with the beautiful reporter Lois Lane. Lois adores Superman, but she despises Clark for being a coward.

     Joe penciled four weeks of newspaper strips for the new character. The first week was inked, lettered, photostatted, and mailed to the syndicates. Joe outfitted this Superman in a colorful circus strongman costume. Jerry suggested the S-symbol and swashbuckler cape. The original chest emblem was a scalloped shield badge. Joe said that he was inspired by silent films starring Douglas Fairbanks, especially Robin Hood. "He always stands with his hands on his hips and feet apart, laughing, as if he doesn’t take anything seriously."
Clark Kent and Superman, one and the same! by Joe Shuster - 1935

     By 1936, the Superman chest emblem had changed from the scalloped shield to an inverted triangle. In his early sketches, Joe depicted Superman in a sleeveless leotard worn by wrestlers and strongmen of the era. Jerry and Joe correctly envisioned Superman becoming a marketing phenomena.

Joe Shuster - Superman - 1936

     Jerry and Joe were given work on additional features at National. "Federal Men" was based on the 1935 film G Men, and "Calling All Cars featuring Sandy Kean and the Radio Squad" was a copy of the popular radio show Calling All Cars. The title later was shortened to "Radio Squad". In a letter dated October 4, 1935, Wheeler-Nicholson made a vague offer to publish Superman in tabloid format, but Jerry and Joe rejected the proposal. National was struggling to pay contributors on time, but Jerry and Joe wanted their hero in newspaper syndication.

     Managers William H. Cook and John Mahone left National and began publishing artists and stories originally contracted by Wheeler-Nicholson. Doctor Occult was renamed "Dr. Mystic: The Occult Detective" for one story printed in The Comics Magazine #1 (May 1936). "Federal Agent" in The Comics Magazine Funny Pages #2 (June 1936) introduces Bart Regan, a spy detective created by Jerry and Joe later published in Detective Comics as "Spy".
    Jerry and Joe would use the early stories at National to experiment with their Superman prototype. The "Dr. Mystic" story published in The Comics Magazine #1 continues in More Fun Comics #14 (October 1936). Doctor Occult and Zator fly through the spiritual world wearing the uniform of "The Seven," a red cape with red boots, blue trunks, and a triangular chest emblem. The sword and uniform resembles the comic strip depictions of John Carter of Mars.

Dr. Occult - More Fun Comics - 14 - October 1936

     New Adventure Comics #12 was released on December 19, 1936. The "Federal Men" story focuses on an agent named Jor-L in the year 3000 A.D. The illustrations contain elements commonly seen in the early science fantasy pulps. The names Jor-L and Lara would later appear in the January 16, 1939, newspaper strip as the biological parents of Superman. The last name appeared in lower case as Jor-el in The Adventures of Superman novel by radio writer and director George Lowther, published on November 2, 1942.

     Major Wheeler-Nicholson planned to launch two more magazines, Detective Comics and Action Comics. In order to finance venture, the Major turned to Harry Donenfeld and his accountant Jack Liebowitz. Donenfeld owned Donny Press, a printing plant, and the newsstand distributor Independent News Co. Donenfeld had gained a negative reputation for publishing "smooshes," also known as "snappy" or "spicy" pulps with sexual content considered to be indecent. Harry Donenfeld was known as a smut-peddler with ties to organized crime figures Frank Costello and Meyer Lansky. During Prohibition, alcohol shipments from Canada were smuggled into America with his magazine pulp paper.

     Detective Comics, Inc., later known as DC Comics, was organized on December 30, 1936, with Wheeler-Nicholson and Liebowitz listed as owners. The first issue of Detective Comics hit newsstands on February 10, 1937. The debut features a 13-page Siegel and Shuster story for "Slam Bradley" and four pages of "Bart Regan, Spy". Major Wheeler-Nicholson first outlined the character concept for Slam Bradley in a letter to Jerry dated May 13, 1936.  The cover feature and Slam Bradley story highlight the prejudices toward Asians during the Yellow Peril and rise of the Nazi party. The early comic books published by National and DC depict ethnic stereotypes that are obscene by modern standards.

Slam Bradley - Detective Comics - 1 - March 1937

      The Daily Star first appeared as a fictional newspaper in a "Spy" feature from Detective Comics #7 (September 1937). The Dr. Occult story "Vampire Venom" in More Fun Comics #28 depicts a winged "Bat-Man" created by Jerry and Joe. The story is credited as Leger and Reuths and the cover date is January 1938. Bob Kane began contributing work to Detective Comics and More Fun Comics in the spring of 1938. The Batman character created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane debuted in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939).

Bat-Man - More Fun Comics 28 (January 1938)

     Harry Donenfeld and Independent News Co. took over distribution for National with Detective Comics #2 (April 1937). On December 4, 1937, Jerry and Joe signed a two year agreement acknowledging that all work done for Detectives Comics would become "sole and exclusive property" of DC. Wheeler-Nicholson produced an ashcan for Action Comics, but he was now in debt to Harry Donenfeld for $63,380. On December 30, 1937, Donenfeld initiated bankruptcy proceedings against Nicholson Publishing in order to buy Wheeler-Nicholson out of National and DC.

     In January 1938, Jerry received a three-way telephone call from Jack Liebowitz at Detective Comics and Max Gaines from the McClure Newspaper Syndicate. Jerry agreed to turn the Superman submission over to DC for the new Action Comics magazine. On February 1, 1938, DC editor Vin Sullivan mailed the Superman sample strips back to Jerry and requested a 13-page story in tabloid format. The unfinished three weeks of penciled stories were inked and lettered by Joe. The strips were cut-up and pasted onto pages of 6-8 panels. Eight days of the original story were omitted and additional panels were added for continuity purposes.

Superman - Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster original panel - 1938

     The first page was redrawn to include an origin story and a "scientific explanation" for the superpowers. An infant is sent by a scientist from an unnamed distant planet "destroyed by old age." Clark Kent could "leap 1/8 of a mile," "raise tremendous weights," and "run faster than an express train."

     In the first adventure, Superman is still unknown to the public. He bursts into the Governor's mansion and demands a pardon for an innocent woman. Back at the Daily Star, Clark receives a tip to stop an armed domestic dispute. He returns to ask Lois Lane out on a date and she reluctantly accepts. That night, Clark is attacked by a gangster named Butch Mason. Clark refuses to fight and Lois leaves in disgust. Mason and his men abduct Lois, but they are quickly stopped by Superman. Superman lifts the car over his head and smashes it into a boulder. Jerry and Joe recommended panel 67 to editor Vin Sullivan for the cover image.

Action Comics no 1 - Panel 67, June 1938

     Superman saves Lois, a theme that is now an essential part of the mythology. She reports back to work, but the unnamed Daily Star editor dismisses her experience as a drunken hallucination. Clark tries to apologize, but Lois is "colder than ever." Clark is given an assignment to investigate a warring South American republic named San Monte. Instead, Clark travels to Washington, D.C. and Superman kidnaps a lobbyist caught bribing a senator. The story continues in Action Comics #2. A final splash panel was added that depicts the first iconic image of Superman breaking chains.

Superman in Action Comics no 1,  June 1938

     The cover art for Action Comics #1 was drawn by an unnamed DC staff member based on panel 67. Vin Sullivan mailed a silverprint of the finished cover to Jerry on February 22, 1938. The costume that appears on the cover contains the scalloped chest emblem from an earlier Superman submission to McClure. Superman first appeared on newsstands in early April of 1938 on black-and-white advertisements for the new Action Comics. The ad was printed on the inside covers of Detective Comics #15, More Fun Comics #31, and New Adventure Comics #26.

New Adventure Comics - 26 - Action Comics Ad - May 1938

     On March 1, 1938, Jack Liebowitz sent Jerry and Joe a check and contract that gave Superman to Detective Comics, Inc. "to have and hold forever." They were paid a total of $130 for the first Superman feature.

Siegel and Shuster Superman check - March 1, 1938

     Action Comics #1 was copyrighted on April 11, 1938. There were 202,000 copies produced and the issue began to arrive on newsstands by the end of April. The cover date is June 1938 and the price for the historical book was 10 cents.

Action Comics no. 1,  June 1938


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