As someone who resides in the state of Ohio, I am always fascinated when I find famous writers or artists who grew up here in Ohio. As a writer I am especially interested in other writers from Ohio and their achievements and their trials.
Superman is a made-up character, he does not exist except in comic books and movie screens and on various merchandise that kids wear and play with. The Ohio connection? The creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster grew up in Cleveland. They created the character, Superman in 1932. Jerry was the son of Jewish immigrants, his father came from Lithuania and his mother from Kiev, which at that time was in Russia.
He attended Glenville High School. Joe was also the son of Jewish immigrants from Rotterdam, Amsterdam. At age 10, Joe’s family moved to Cleveland where he later attended Glenville High School. It was at Glenville High School, on the eastside of Cleveland, that Joe and Jerry became friends.
The earlier version of Superman first appeared in short stories. In 1939 Superman became a syndicated Comic Strip. Clark Kent worked at The Daily Star Newspaper when the comic character first appeared. Joe named The Daily Star after the Newspaper where he worked in Toronto, the “Toronto Daily Star”. Joe also modeled the cityscape of Clark’s hometown, Metropolis, after his old hometown. As many artists and writers do, Joe and Jerry gave Superman bits and pieces of their own backgrounds that came from their childhoods spent in Ohio. Joe also created the look of Clark Kent on his own looks and the movie star, Harold Lloyd.
The image of Superman was created using Douglas Fairbanks Sr. as the model. Lois Lane, the female character in Superman, was modeled after Jerry’s wife, Joanne Carter. Joe and Jerry entered into a 10 year contract to write Superman stories for National Allied Publications. Jerry later became comics art director for the publishing company of Ziff-Davis and then later in the early 1950’s returned to DC Comics to write more Superman stores in 1959 but was not credited for these stories.
It would seem that even when writers and artists like Joe and Jerry put a lot of time and talent into creating memorable characters like Superman, legal battles can ensue over the rights now and in the future to these characters. According to a quote from, Jones, Gerard, Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book (Basic Books 2004), “Superboy and Superman became legal battles for both Joe and Jerry for the rights to these characters between themselves and National.
Jerry’s wife and daughter won half the rights to “each and every work (in any medium whatsoever, whenever created) that includes or embodies any character, story element, or indicia reasonably associated with Superman or the Superman stories, such as, without limitation, Superman, Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, Superboy, Supergirl, Lana Lang, Lex Luthor, Mr. Mxyzptlk, Ma and Pa kent, Steel, the planet Krypton, Kryptonite, Metropolis, Smallville, or the Daily Planet” Warner Bros. Is appealing this judgement.
Many Superman fans will be ever endeared to these two men for their vision, their creativity and their dedication to creating much loved characters such as the likes of Superman. Every time I watch “Smallville” I will remember Joe and Jerry and their connections to Ohio.