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.