Wednesday, June 02, 2010

This year, author Tom De Haven published a kind of tour of such adventures in their various media, in Our Hero: Superman on Earth (Yale.) He tells the story, (now familiar to fans) about how two boys from Cleveland, Joel Shuster and especially Jerry Siegel, dreamed up Superman and produced many of the first comic book stories, only to be cheated and forgotten until recent decades. (It wasn’t all bad, though. Eventually Jerry Siegel actually married Lois Lane—or the Cleveland girl they first hired to model for the character in the comics.)

De Haven explores the possible origins of Siegel’s creation—bits and pieces of characters from popular culture (especially science fiction) and popular science speculations, plus adolescent interest in muscle-building. By reversing the more common sci-fi situation (instead of human hero goes to strange alien planet, the strange alien hero comes to earth), throwing in some Flash Gordon wardrobe and a movie serial newspaper heroine (even adapting the Lois Lane name from a B-movie actress), they came up with Superman. (For one reason or another I suppose, De Haven doesn’t include this possibility of a more dramatic source for Superman— the death of his father during an armed robbery. The name L. Luthor turns up, too.)

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