Almost Gone! Highly Recommended. By Julian Voloj. Art by Thomas Campi. Everyone knows Superman, but not everyone knows the secret origins of this American legend. Based on archival material and original sources, all incredibly well documented with extensive notes, here is told the very personal story of the friendship between illustrator Joe Shuster and writer Jerry Siegel, and how creating Superman changed their lives both for the better and for the worse. Super Genius, 2018.
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Everyone knows Superman, but not everyone knows the secret origins of this American legend. Based on archival material and original sources, all incredibly well documented with extensive notes, here is told the very personal story of the friendship between illustrator Joe Shuster and writer Jerry Siegel, and how creating Superman changed their lives both for the better and for the worse.
They thought they had achieved their dream of creating a world-famous character. And that they had. But they never owned it, having immediately signed it over to DC when they were paid for those first pages in Action #1. The young, inexperienced pair expected to get rich–and for ten years, they actually did extremely well, under contract to provide Superman art and stories both in the comics and for the highly popular newspaper strip.
But they made a deal they would ultimately regret. And when they tried to regain control of their character in1948, the tables turned and they were out, persona non grata at DC and stuck in careers that would never again be as successful.
Told from Shuster’s perspective, beginning with a policeman who gives him a meal after finding him hungry on a park bench, homeless, this offers us a fascinating graphic novel about geeks and gangsters. It puts Superman’s creation into the wider context of the American comic-book history.
What’s amazing about this is even though I’ve read the history of these two creators before, this offers new material. And it is also as well documented as anything I have ever seen. 14 illustrated pages at the end of the book carefully detail the sources and direct quotes that are used on the specific pages of this story.
I found it a page-turner, and when I was done, I didn’t put it down until I had read every last note. It’s interesting how Jerry and Joe were actually estranged several times, first when Jerry actually asked other, better artists to draw Superman. Then again when Jerry went off to war in the early 1940s. DC started a Superboy feature, with Joe doing the art. Jerry could not forgive Joe for this when he came back from the war–it was his idea from the start, and DC had originally turned him down on the concept the year before.
And when DC had provided Joe with a small pension, he lost it when he once again was swept up in Jerry’s attempt to regain control of Superman. Sadly, this too was doomed to failure and left Joe even more destitute than before. Meanwhile Jerry, even though he went back to work for DC in the late 1950s and early 1960s, ultimately spent much of his life bitter and unhappy. This finally culminated in a widely-read rant that he mailed to hundreds of news outlets. Neal Adams and other creators came on board and, along with DC’s fear of negative publicity as the first Superman movie was launching, DC finallly provided for and acknowledged the two boys who’d contributed so much to the sucess of the company, but who had shared in very little of its benefits.
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