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Joe Shuster
Born Joseph Shuster
July 10, 1914(1914-07-10)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Died July 30, 1992 (aged 78)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Nationality Canadian
Area(s) Penciller
Notable works Superman
Awards Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame, 1992
Joe Shuster Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame, 2005
Action Comics #1 (June 1938), the debut of Superman. Cover art by Shuster.

Joseph "Joe" Shuster (July 10, 1914 - July 30, 1992[1][2]) was a Canadian-American comic book artist best known for co-creating the DC Comics character Superman, with writer Jerry Siegel, first published in Action Comics #1 (June 1938).

Shuster was involved in a number of legal battles concerning the ownership of the Superman character, eventually gaining recognition for his part in its creation. His comic book career after Superman was relatively unsuccessful, and by the mid-1970s Shuster had left the field completely due to partial blindness. In 2005, to recognize the efforts of Canadian comic book creators, the Joe Shuster Awards were introduced, named to honor the Canadian-born artist.

Contents

Biography

Early life and career

Joseph Shuster was born in Toronto, Ontario. His father Julius, an immigrant from Rotterdam, South Holland, the Netherlands, and his mother Ida, who had come from Kiev in Ukraine, were barely able to make ends meet. As a youngster, Shuster worked as a newspaper boy for the Toronto Daily Star and, as a hobby, he liked to sketch. He had one sister, Jean Peavy.[3] One cousin is comedian Frank Shuster of the Canadian comedy team Wayne and Shuster.[4][5] When Joe Shuster was 10, his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio.

In Cleveland, Shuster attended Glenville High School and befriended his later collaborator, writer Jerry Siegel, with whom he began publishing a science fiction fanzine called Science Fiction. Siegel described his friendship with the similarly shy and bespectacled Shuster: "When Joe and I first met, it was like the right chemicals coming together."[2]

The duo broke into comics at Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson's National Allied Publications, the future DC Comics, working on the landmark New Fun — the first comic-book series to consist solely of original material rather than using any reprinted newspaper comic strips — debuting with the musketeer swashbuckler "Henri Duval" and the supernatural crime-fighter strip Doctor Occult, both in New Fun #6 (Oct. 1935).

Creation of Superman

Siegel and Shuster created a bald telepathic villain named "The Superman", bent on dominating the entire world. He appeared in the short story "The Reign of the Super-Man" from Science Fiction #3, a science fiction fanzine that Siegel published in 1933.[6] The character was not successful. Siegel eventually devised the more familiar version of the character, after reading his script, Shuster modeled the hero on Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and his bespectacled alter ego, Clark Kent, on Harold Lloyd.[2][7] Siegel and Shuster then began a six-year quest to find a publisher. Titling it The Superman, Siegel and Shuster offered it to Consolidated Book Publishing, who had published a 48-page black-and-white comic book entitled Detective Dan: Secret Operative No. 48. Although the duo received an encouraging letter, Consolidated never again published comic books. Shuster took this to heart and burned all pages of the story, the cover surviving only because Siegel rescued it from the fire. Siegel and Shuster each compared this character to Slam Bradley, an adventurer the pair had created for Detective Comics #1 (May 1939).[8] In 1938, after that proposal had languished among others at More Fun Comics — published by National Allied Publications, the primary precursor of DC Comics — editor Vin Sullivan chose it as the cover feature for National's Action Comics #1 (June 1938). The following year, Siegel & Shuster initiated the syndicated Superman comic strip.[2]

When Superman first appeared, Superman's alter ego Clark Kent worked for the Daily Star newspaper, named by Shuster after the Toronto Daily Star, his old employer in Toronto. According to an interview he gave a few months before his death, he modeled the cityscape of Superman's home city, Metropolis, on that of his old hometown.[5] When the comic strip received international distribution, the company permanently changed the name to The Daily Planet.

In the same interview, Shuster stated that he modeled the look of Clark Kent after both himself and movie star Harold Lloyd, and that of Superman after Douglas Fairbanks Sr. He modeled Lois Lane after Joanne Carter, the woman who would later marry Jerry Siegel.

Legal issues

Shuster became famous as the co-creator of one of the most well-known and commercially successful fictional characters of the 20th century. National Allied Publications claimed copyright to his and Siegel's work, and when the company refused to compensate them to the degree they believed appropriate, Siegel and Shuster, in 1946, near the end of their 10-year contract to produce Superman stories, sued National over rights to the characters. They ultimately settled the claim for $94,000 after the court ruled against them — but that the rights to Superman had been validly purchased by the publisher when they bought the first Superman story. After the bitter legal wrangling, Shuster and Siegel's byline was dropped by DC comics.[9]

In 1947, the team rejoined editor Sullivan, by now the founder and publisher of the comic-book company Magazine Enterprises where they created the short-lived comical crime-fighter Funnyman. While Siegel continued to write comics for a variety of publishers, Shuster largely dropped out of sight.

Later career

Shuster continued to draw comics after the failure of Funnyman, although exactly what he drew is uncertain. Comic historian Ted White wrote that Shuster continued to draw horror stories into the 1950s.[10] In 2009 comic historian Craig Yoe said Shuster was one of the anonymous illustrators for Nights of Horror, an underground sadomasochistic fetish comic book series. This was based on character similarities, and artistic style between the illustrations and those of the cast of the Superman comics.[11]

In 1964, when Shuster was living on Long Island with his elderly mother, he was reported to be earning his living as a freelance cartoonist; he was also "trying to paint pop art — serious comic strips — and hope[d] eventually to promote a one-man show in some chic Manhattan gallery".[12] At one point, his worsening eyesight prevented him from drawing, and he worked as a deliveryman in order to earn a living.[13][14] . By 1976, Shuster was almost blind and living in a California nursing home.[15]

In 1967, when the Superman copyright came up for renewal, Siegel launched a second lawsuit, which also proved unsuccessful.

In 1975, Siegel launched a publicity campaign, in which Shuster participated, protesting DC Comics' treatment of him and Shuster. In the face of a great deal of negative publicity over their handling of the affair (and due to the upcoming Superman movie), DC's parent company Warner Communications reinstated the byline dropped more than thirty years earlier and granted the pair a lifetime pension of $20,000 a year plus health benefits.[16][17][18] Joe Shuster died in Los Angeles, California in 1992.

Awards and honors

  • In 1992, Shuster was inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame.
  • In 2005, Shuster was inducted into the Joe Shuster Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame for his contributions to comic books.[19]
  • The Joe Shuster Awards, started in 2005, were named in honor of the Canadian-born Shuster, and honor achievements in the field of comic book publishing by Canadian creators, publishers and retailers.
  • In Shuster's home town of Toronto, the street Joe Shuster Way is named in his honor.[20]

References

  1. ^ "NewsWatch: Joseph Shuster Dies at 78," The Comics Journal #152 (August 1992), p. 9.
  2. ^ a b c d Roger Stern. Superman: Sunday Classics: 1939 - 1943 DC Comics/Kitchen Sink Press, Inc./Sterling Publishing; 2006
  3. ^ "About Us". The Joe Shuster Awards. http://joeshusterawards.com/content.asp?URL=4. Retrieved 2008-08-12.  Archived 13 Aug 2008.
  4. ^ Mietkiewicz, Henry. "Superman at The Star", The Toronto Star, April 26, 1992
  5. ^ a b The Canadian Encyclopedia: Shuster, Joe
  6. ^ Daniels, Les (1998). Superman: The Complete History (1st edition ed.). Titan Books. ISBN 1-85286-988-7. 
  7. ^ Gross, John (December 15, 1987). "Books of the Times". New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE3DC1F38F936A25751C1A961948260. Retrieved 2007-01-29. 
  8. ^ Daniels (1998), p. 17.
  9. ^ Ciepley, Michael. "Ruling Gives Heirs a Share of Superman Copyright" The New York Times, March 29, 2008. Accessed on 2008-29-03. Archived on 2008-29-03.
  10. ^ White, Ted. "The Spawn of M.C. Gaines" in Lupoff, Dick & Don Thompson, eds., All in Color For a Dime (Ace Books, 1970)
  11. ^ Staff writer (11 March 2009). "The Dark Side of Superman". Metro. p. 7. 
  12. ^ Richler, Mordecai. "The Great Comic Book Heroes", Encounter, 1965; reprinted in Richler collections Hunting Tigers Under Glass: Essays & Notes (McClelland & Stewart, 1968), Notes on an Endangered Species (Alfred A. Knopf, 1974), and The Great Comic Book Heroes and Other Essays (McClelland and Stewart, 1978) ISBN 0771092687, ISBN 978-0771092688
  13. ^ Heer, Jeet. "The Injustice of Superman" The Guardian, April 5, 2008]
  14. ^ Graham, Victoria. "Originators of Superman Destitute: Sold Rights in 1938 for $130," The State Journal (Lansing, Mich.), (November 25, 1975), p. D-3.
  15. ^ Horn, Maurice. The World Encyclopedia of Comics: Shuster, Joe. (Scribner, 1976) ISBN 0877540306, ISBN 978-0877540304
  16. ^ Lambert, Bruce (August 3, 1992). "Joseph Shuster, Cartoonist, Dies; Co-Creator of 'Superman' Was 78". New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0CE6D71330F930A3575BC0A964958260. Retrieved 2008-08-12.  Archived 12 Aug 2008.
  17. ^ "Man and Superman". Time. January 5 1976. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,947632,00.html. Retrieved 2008-08-12.  Archived 12 Aug 2008.
  18. ^ Associated Press (June 28 2006). "Superman co-creator has humble Canadian roots". CTV. http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060628/superman_returns_cdn_060628/20060628?hub=Entertainment. Retrieved 2008-08-12. 
  19. ^ "Canadian comic-book awards: one down, one to go". CBC. May 2, 2005. http://www.cbc.ca/story/arts/national/2005/05/02/Arts/comicawards050502.html. Retrieved 2008-08-12.  Archived 2008-08-12.
  20. ^ Transportation Services Toronto and East York District: Staff Report, March 13, 2006

Further reading

  • Yoe, Craig. (Introduction by Stan Lee). Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman's Co-Creator Joe Shuster (Harry N Abrams Inc, 2009) ISBN 978-0810996342

External links








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