Super Boys: The Amaz­ing Adven­tures of Jer­ry Siegel and Joe Shus­ter – The Cre­ators of Superman

Brad Ric­ca
  • Review
By – November 4, 2013

Even casu­al com­ic book read­ers are famil­iar with the ori­gin sto­ries of their favorite super­heroes; they know whether super pow­ers are derived from a spi­der bite, a blast of radi­a­tion, or intense phys­i­cal and men­tal train­ing. It goes with­out say­ing that most every­one who is able to read can recite Super­man’s ori­gins: his father, fac­ing the immi­nent destruc­tion of his plan­et Kryp­ton, places his infant son in a rock­et ship and hurls him toward Earth, where he grows up to become the Man of Steel while hid­ing behind the façade of a wimpy news reporter named Clark Kent. But how many read­ers of com­ic books can faith­ful­ly recite the ori­gins of the writ­ers and artists behind these beloved icons? Fortu­nately, over the last sev­er­al years read­ers have been treat­ed to a bonan­za of books about the (most­ly) Jew­ish writ­ers and artists who cre­at­ed our favorite char­ac­ters. Brad Ricca’s book is a wor­thy addi­tion, telling for the first time the ori­gin sto­ries of Jer­ry Siegel and Joe Shus­ter, the cre­ators of Superman. 

Ric­ca goes where no writer has gone before, and he begins at the very begin­ning with Siegel and Shus­ter as chil­dren of immi­grants mak­ing their way in Cleve­land and Toron­to, respec­tive­ly. Shuster’s fam­i­ly relo­cat­ed to Cleve­land, and Jer­ry and Joe became class­mates, friends, and even­tu­al­ly part­ners in the ear­ly days of com­ic books. Their mutu­al love of the ear­ly pulp mag­a­zines inspired them to write their own comics. These ear­ly comics, with sto­ries by Siegel and art by Shus­ter, laid the ground­work for their great­est cre­ation: Super­man. After years of rejec­tions, they final­ly hit on the right com­bi­na­tion and Super­man took off. In their naiveté, the young authors sold the rights to Super­man to a slick pub­lish­er for a mere $130. After years of law­suits and bit­ter­ness, their names were even­tu­al­ly recon­nect­ed to Super­man, but they nev­er reaped the rich­es that they deserved. 

Ricca’s thor­ough­ly-researched biog­ra­phy reads like an adven­ture nov­el, and it’s no sur­prise that the sub­ti­tle echoes Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer-prize-win­ning nov­el, The Amaz­ing Adven­tures of Kava­lier and Clay, which may have been based on the lives of Siegel and Shus­ter. Copi­ous detailed notes at the end of the book make Super Boys a must-have com­pan­ion for all fans of the super duo that gave us Superman.


Wendy Was­man is the librar­i­an & archivist at the Cleve­land Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry in Cleve­land, Ohio.

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