Submitted by countylibrary on

Nearly 90 years after Superman’s debut in 1933, he remains as relevant and popular as when he first graced the pages of comic books all those years ago. Superman represents what it truly means to be an American; to have courage, extend a helping hand and never stand down in the face of malevolence. He has appeared in countless movies, starred in his own TV show, and who can forget the comic books? Whether you’re a part of his fan base or not, it seems like everyone knows The Man of Steel.       

But do they?

Superman’s story does not begin on the alien planet Krypton. In fact, it begins in a lonely Jewish neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio. Born in 1914 to Lithuanian immigrants, creator Jerry Siegel was an introverted, sensitive boy and the laughing stock of his elementary school. Constantly teased by other students for being overweight, he often skipped school to venture over to the local library, where he found comfort in fantasy and adventure novels. He would go on to create fantasy worlds of his own, inventing characters like Goober the Mighty, a humorous parody of Tarzan.

Eventually, Siegel’s writing wound up in his high school newspaper, The Glenville Torch. He was incredibly inventive, yet he couldn’t decide whether he liked writing about villains or heroes more. His answer came to him in the most tragic of ways - when his father, Michel Siegel suffered a heart attack during a store robbery and died in 1932. Out of a horrible tragedy emerged a new kind of hero. Siegel named him “The Super-Man.” 
Not long after his father’s death, Siegel met (and befriended) someone who could bring his words to life. Joe Shuster illustrated columns for a local newspaper in Cleveland and their first collaboration was a short story called The Reign of Super-Man.

For a while, the beloved superhero remained a work in progress. The final touches came to Siegel one restless night in a series of dreams. It was decided that Superman (now without the hyphen) would have an alter ego named Clark Kent, a shy, newspaper reporter who could transform into the crime-fighting superhero whenever help was needed. He also created Lois Lane, a young woman who was “ga-ga over super-powered Superman.” The next morning, Siegel rushed to Shuster’s home and an enthusiastic collaboration began.

For eight months, the duo searched for a publisher and were turned down multiple times. One even called the Superman concept “an immature piece of work.”  It wasn't until they met Jack Liebowitz and Harry Donenfeld, who were in the process of creating Action Comics, that they found a home for thier icon. To get their stories published, Siegel and Shuster ended up selling the rights to their beloved hero for just $412. Their contract signaled not only the beginning of a very successful franchise, but the end of their association with the hero.

Today, let’s not only celebrate how awesome Superman is, but also the men who imagined him. Although they were never able to realize a steady profit from their work, Siegel and Shuster are responsible for the creation of DC’s greatest hero and the countless adventures we've taken with him!

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