Tagged: Joe Shuster

MIKE GOLD: 24-Hour Comics Day — Before

This weekend includes at least three elements: the Jewish holy week between the New Year and the Day of Atonement, the weekend, and 24-Hour Comics Day.

I note that first part just in case somebody reads this to my mother. Hi, Mom!

24-Hour Comics Day  was created by Scott McCloud and it is exactly what the name implies: comics creators get together in local conclaves (not autoclaves; that’s a completely different thing) “to create a 24-page comic book in 24 continuous hours.” It’s sort of a tribute to the days of yore when a creator would get an emergency over-the-weekend assignment and get a bunch of friends together to write, pencil, ink, letter and color the entire book over the weekend, deliver it on Monday, and hopefully get paid for their effort.

Of course, way back then comic books ran 64 pages – 48 pages after World War II hit speed. But today we’ve got to do all those poster shots and, you know, backgrounds and stuff so we’ll ignore the drop in pages.

It’s enormous fun for participants and observers, kibitzers (Hi, Mom!) and hecklers. Since the last thing these 24-hour comics creators need is the sabotage of an admittedly grossly talented editor, I’m going to drop by Challengers Comics and Conversation in Chicago (1845 N. Western Avenue, about a block south of the Blue Line Western Avenue L stop) to do what I do best: mooch food and annoy people. There will be about 25 creators creating, fulfilling the “Comics” part of Challengers’ name, and plenty of kibitzers to meet the “Conversation” part. It all starts at 11 AM Saturday; I’ll probably wander in around 1 or 2 PM after everybody gets down to the hard work. But enough about me.

The type of creativity and camaraderie shown at 24-Hour Comics Day is the lifeblood of this medium. It’s been there since day one when young fans of pulp writing, science fiction and newspaper strips got sought out employment in the new form. Everybody in the biz was a kid back then; Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson, Joe Kubert, Gil Kane and many, many others weren’t old enough to get their driver’s license when they started out in comics.

This sort of enthusiasm endures to this day. I love going to “independent comics” shows such as MoCCA in New York just to soak in all that energy and see where the young creative spirits are wandering. Plus, I’m working on that incubus thing.

It’s pretty busy, so you’re trying to break into the racket 24-Hour Comics Day probably isn’t the place to schlep (Hi, Mom!) your portfolio. Call ahead to see if your local venue is receptive to walk-in presentations. However, it’s a great place to see how it all happens, how it’s put together, what people use as their tools (yeah, I know, laptops and iPads) and network. Not the Howard Beale type; you know what I mean.

Many venues are doing 24-Hour Comics Day in association with a local or national non-profit group, and that’s great – particularly in these troubled times. But, really, giving young and new creators the opportunity is a great thing in and of itself. Helping out, even by simply attending and hanging out (although buying a few comics would be swell) is a great thing as well. As we Ashkenazi-Americans like to say, it’s a Mitzvah.

Hi, Mom!

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

JOHN OSTRANDER: Superman – Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

This is an amazing Superman. Not totally invulnerable, can only leap mover tall buildings and not fly, defying authority, fighting criminals and corrupt politicians, on the side of the little guy – really amazing stories. What? Grant Morrison’s Superman? No, I’m not talking about that. I haven’t read his new version although I’m sure it’ll be good; Morrison wrote All-Star Superman, one of my favorite run of Superman stories.

No, I’m talking about the original run of Superman stories, by the creators – Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. I read them in one of the DC Archive books and I was floored when I read them. This was not the Superman I grew up on; he was actually a lot more interesting.

In one story, he gets a bad guy to talk by throwing him off the roof of a building, catching him, and then throwing him off again. He keeps doing this as he worries about whether or not he might have butterfingers. In another story, there’s a series of slums that are public housing and the buildings are in terrible shape. Supes’ solution? He pisses off the authorities to the point where they try to bomb him. He’s running in and out of the slum buildings that wind up flattened so that the authorities have no choice but to build new ones. And he’s laughing while he does it. The man’s a maniac – a Supermaniac.

In another story, an innocent man is about to be executed. Supes gets proof he’s innocent and goes to the governor. It’s almost midnight and the governor is in his pajamas and robe. There’s a storm and the phone lines go out. No way they can contact the prison in time. Supes grabs the governor and hurtles through the night, running and leaping at high speed to get the governor there in time to pardon the guy.

In another, Superman deals with a wife-beater and gives the jackass a taste of his own medicine.

Is the art a little primitive by today’s standards? Perhaps. Are the stories a little simple by today’s standards? Maybe – but they move like a speeding bullet. Superman at the start was very much a character of his time, born in the Depression, where the public’s confidence in their political institutions were low, where crime seemed rampant, and the little guy/gal seemed to have no-one on his/her side. Superman wasn’t bound by the courts or the law; he was an outlaw for justice.

Sound like today? Oh yeah. A Superman that hearkens back to his roots might be just what we need. I don’t know if that’s what Grant Morrison is doing but, from interviews he’s given and fro9m what I read in articles, it sounds to me as if he read those old stories, too, and has gleaned from them a basic, more primal Superman. Yesterday’s Man of Tomorrow written for today? I could get into that.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

Joanne Siegel, R.I.P.

Joanne SiegelJoanne Siegel, the widow of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel and model for the original likeness of Lois Lane and the person who inspired Lois’s middle name, has passed away at 93. Word hit the comics community yesterday through a Tweet from Brad Meltzer and was later confirmed by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

CBR quoted Meltzer:

“I got the word from the people at the Siegel and Shuster Society. I met her when I was doing [my novel] ‘The Book of Lies’ because I was researching who killed Jerry Siegel’s father. I met Laura first, who is Jerry and Joanne’s daughter. We became really good friends, and she said to me ‘Of all the people who have ever researched Jerry Siegel, you’re the only one who’s ever called us.’ I became really close with the family, and they seemed really excited that someone was going to tell their story.”

“The crazy part is– of everyone I’ve ever spoken to in my life, there’s nothing like speaking to Lois Lane. When I finally met her at the unveiling of the repaired Siegel and Shuster house, which I flew to because I wanted to meet her face-to-face and see all the work everyone in Cleveland had done, everyone said to me ‘She’s beautiful. You won’t believe how beautiful she is.’ And I was thinking that this is a 90-year-old woman…how beautiful can she be? But she was beautiful. It was the only way to describe her. You saw here, and there was this stunning, elegant, amazing woman that was a spitfire.”It wasn’t like talking to your grandmother. You really saw ‘intrepid reporter’ as part of her personality. I just got a note from her in December talking about everything we’ve been doing on the [History] show and it’s still amazing to see how much she had going even at that age.”

The former Joanne Carter met her future husband and his artist partner Joe Shuster in Cleveland in the late ’30s when she responded to an ad the two had placed looking for local models. The original sketch Shuster did of her grew to become the foundation for fast-talking reporter Lois Lane, and Joanne later married Jerry in 1948. In the years since, she stood by the struggling writer as he saw the financial benefit and artistic credit for Superman pass him by while his publisher pushed the character to wider cultural acceptance, and later took a very public and prolific role in fighting DC owner Warner Bros. for the rights to the character after her husband’s passing in 1996. Along with her family and the family of Shuster, Siegel teamed with well-known intellectual property lawyer Marc Toberoff to push for more rights on the character than Superman’s creators had ever been able to earn in their lifetimes, which led to various reversions and much wrangling over settlements and compensation. The suit has been on hold since October, and it is unknown how Siegel’s death will affect the proceedings.

Here’s a photo from Alan Light of the Siegels (Jerry, Joanne, and daughter Laura) from the 1976 San Diego Comic Con.

Jerry Siegel, Joanne Siegel, Laura Siegel Larson

Sex! Comics! Oboy!!

“I learned the mechanics of sex from Carl Barks. He was known as the good duck artist (for his work on Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge), but for me he was the good fuck artist.”

Craig Yoe said that last night at the opening of Comics Stripped, an exhibition at the Museum of Sex in (where else?) Manhattan. Yoe is best known out in the real world as the man behind Yoe! Studios, a design outfit that was highly influenced by its founder’s fondness of comics art. The former creative director of the Muppets workshop, in our fannish conclave Craig’s best known as the historian who feverishly documents the relatively hidden nooks and crannies that weave their way through our beloved art form. His more recent books have been published by IDW and Fantagraphics.

Yoe was referring to Bark’s esser-known semi-erotic work, none of which was published by Disney. Unca Carl wasn’t the only major comics creator who drew on the wild side. He was joined by Dan DeCarlo, Jack Cole, Wally Wood, Willy Elder, Joe Shuster and others, all of whom – except Barks – represented in the Comics Stripped exhibition. They are joined by a wide range of artists including Robert Crumb, Jessica Fink, Spain Rodriguez, Eldon Dedini, Eric Stanton, Colleen Coover and a great many other cartoonist legends.

Yoe curated the exhibit and some of the work represented came from his own collection. Classic mid-30s “eight-pagers” were well represented, as were publications ranging from Capt. Billy’s Whiz-Bang and Ballyhoo to more contemporary publications such as Glamour, Screw and Jiz.

Those extremely well-versed in comics history and lore might not learn all that much but they will happily join the rest in gawking over all that beautiful original art.

The Comics Stripped show has an open-ended run at The Museum of Sex, 233 Fifth Avenue (at 27th Street) in New York City. Admission is $16.75 plus tax. More info: click.

Cleveland is Krypton– The True Birthplace of Superman

Cleveland is Krypton– The True Birthplace of Superman

Tip of the hat to Anne Trubek at the Smithsonian online magazine for her nifty article on Cleveland, the true birthplace of Superman. For those not in the know, the myth of comicdom’s biggest hero began in suburban Cleveland. While many are familiar with the names Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, many don’t know much about their humble beginnings. Back in 1933, two sons of Jewish immigrants conceived the origins of the Man of Steel. Living in Glenville, minutes from the bustling city (as Trubek notes, Cleveland at the time was the fifth most populous city in the country!), these two funnies-addicted men built what would become perhaps the single most recognized icon in comic books.

However, the fine folks of Cleveland have done little in the way of promoting their city as the birthplace of the Last Son of Krypton. In fact, when Joanne Siegel wanted to donate her husband’s typewriter, among other artifacts, to the city, not a single Cleveland-ite stepped up to accept. The home of Joe Shuster was torn down. If not for the hard work of comic critic Michael Sangiacomo and comic/novel scribe Brad Meltzer, Siegel’s home might not even be standing today. With much of the home in disrepair, the remaining legacy of Siegel and Shuster was seemingly doomed, much like Krypton. Meltzer and Sangiacomo formed the Siegel and Shuster Society, and raised over 100,000 dollars to help restore the home to its former glory. But since then, not much else has been done. The now-restored home is still used as a residence, and Cleveland has done little in the way of homage to the men who gave us the world’s first superhero.

No need for us to rewrite Anne’s thoughts, though. Click on the link above, and follow the continuing Superman saga. We must say we agree wholeheartedly that the city of “King James” should be reclaimed for Kal-El.

Supermoney: The Superman Trial and Jerry Siegel’s Estate

Supermoney: The Superman Trial and Jerry Siegel’s Estate

For those who came in late… As has been widely reported, the Federal District Court ruled somewhat in favor of the estate of Jerry Siegel in its lawsuit to have all publishing rights to the Superman story in Action Comics #1 be taken from Time Warner’s DC Comics subsidiary and given to Jerry’s heirs. The decision runs 72 pages, but at heart is the judge’s ruling that because the property existed before Action#1, “work for hire” stipulations do not apply.

The New York Times did a good job covering the story; Mark Evanier, as would be expected, did a better job. For one thing, Mark got co-creator Joe Shuster’s first name right. The New York Times did not.

Whereas there is much cause for celebration, before we start dancing in the streets we should look at what’s at stake here.

Only the original concepts – only Superman, Clark Kent, the costume as portrayed in that initial story, and the abilities unique to Superman in that story – are in play. Perry White, the Daily Planet, Lex Luthor, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Bizarro, kryptonite, Jimmy Olsen and the rest are not on the table. Only the domestic rights are in play, and even then the estate would be in something of a co-ownership position with DC Comics. So don’t look forward to that Eros Comics Superman series quite yet.

Sadly for the Siegel family, this does not bring to an end a fight started by Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster 60 years ago. Actually, it’s just warming up.


DENNIS O’NEIL: The kryptonite reality

DENNIS O’NEIL: The kryptonite reality

Once again, life has imitated comics. Maybe comics should sue.

This latest instance was reported in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago and has to do with kryptonite, the stuff from Superman’s planet or origin which can lay the Man of Steel low, or even all the way down. As far as I know, kryptonite was introduced in the early 40s by the writers of the Superman radio show. Since I was only a year or two or three old at the time, I’ll forgive them for not getting in touch with me and telling me why, exactly, they introduced it. But a guess might be: to facilitate conflict, which is widely considered to be a necessary ingredient in drama, and especially melodrama.

These guys – I assume they were guys – and their comic book counterparts were facing a fairly unique problem: how to get their hero in trouble and thus create conflict/drama, and do it not only once, but several times each month, or even more often.

Oh, sure, there had been superhuman characters in world literature and myth before Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, but they were in self-contained stories, and not many of those, and the problem was pretty limited. But with Superman… well, here was a fellow who was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound – and that was when he was in his infancy. (For the record: Superman is only a year older than me. That is, he appeared only about a year before I did, though I gestated for the customary nine months and Supes took a leisurely four years to progress from the imaginations of Joe and Jerry to the public prints. He was a slow developer, but once he got started…) And he literally become more powerful with every passing year. And he had to have a lot of adventures.

So, okay, how do you get this guy in trouble, often, and thus create suspense and interest? The question has been answered in many ways, many times over the years. Kryptonite was one of the earliest of these answers. According to the mythos, it is a fragment of – I guess mineral – from Krypton, where Supes was born. Something in the gestalt of our planet makes kryptonite dangerous to natives of Krypton. (All of which you almost certainly know, but we do try to be thorough here.)

We thought it was fictional. Some of us, of the professional writing ilk, further thought that it was neither more nor less than an answer to a plot problem and at least one of that ilk thought it was overused and temporarily retired it. But now, a Chris Stanley, of London’s Museum of Natural History, analyzed a substance some of his colleagues discovered and, according to the Times, “found that the new mineral’s chemistry matched the description of kryptonite’s composition in last year’s film Superman Returns.”

It is not known whether or not anyone collapsed near the stuff.

At this point, you can either shrug and get on with your life, or pause, and engage in some pretty wild speculation about the nature of reality.

Be warned: We probably aren’t finished with this topic.

RECOMMENDED READING: The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins.

Batman, The Question, Iron Man, Green Lantern and/or Green Arrow, and The Shadow, as well as all kinds of novels, stories and articles.

Dennis O’Neil is an award-winning editor and writer of comic books like