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Behind Superman's spit curl


Metropolis has always been a very mobile city. Joe Shuster, the co-creator and original artist of Superman, modeled the city on Toronto and Cleveland. DC Comics, the publishers of Superman tales for all these years, have moved the city between Delaware and New York. If you're driving on Route 24, you'll find Metropolis in Illinois about halfway between Nashville and St. Louis. They have a giant Superman statue and a SuperMuseum. For generations, Metropolis has described a place in the heart where a person can dream of the right thing and have the power to do it.

Jerry Siegel dreamed of writing for the pulp magazines of his day. Fresh out of high school, he hooked up with Joe Shuster and the pair began producing comic strips. They had some minor successes before their creation Superman appeared on the cover of Action Comics No. 1. The character was an instant success, soon spreading to newspapers across the country.

The duo spent the next 10 years watching their creation grow into a commercial juggernaut, appearing on radio, in movie serials, and on every little thing imaginable. Most of the money from these off-shoots went into the coffers at DC Comics' corporate predecessor. In the mid-'40s, Siegel and Shuster initiated the first in a periodic series of lawsuits with DC (or related entities) over the use of their creation. It took a public relations campaign upon the release of the first Christopher Reeve Superman film (1978) for Time Warner to award Siegel and Shuster a $35,000 annual honorarium and permanent credit on all Superman media.

In Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book, Gerard Jones chronicles the struggles of these two creators, along with many of the other people responsible for so much of what appears on the modern silver screen (such as Superman Returns, now in theaters). For a much more intense take on the wrongs that were perpetrated in the name of comic book capitalism, see Rick Veitch'sThe Maximortal.