Siegel and Shuster: Dateline 1930s

Billed as “Previously Unpublished Works from the Creators of Superman”, this is a comic book that was published by Eclipse comics in 1984 that I’d never heard of until I saw it for pretty cheap (definitely less than a new comic) in my LCS’ back issue bins. I’ve never been the hugest aficionado of Golden Age comic books, but from what I’ve read of the pair’s original Superman works, I enjoyed it and I thought this might be an interesting bit of comic book history.

Contained within the book is a collection of comic strips and stories that Jerry Siegel introduces as material for a monthly comics tabloid that he and Joe were proposing called Popular Comics. They even signed a contract for its publication, but then rescinded the offer and paid them nothing. Dejected, they shelved the comic and worked toward creating the character that would come to define them (and superhero comics in general).

“But what of our proposed monthly comics tabloid?” Siegel asks. Well, like I said, it’s in this comic, which he says survived as photostats (colored, as he mentions, in crayon), as well as full pages. Others were cut into smaller strips because they tried to sell it to newspapers for syndication, and what Eclipse has done for the two has been to re-create, refine, and re-publish that tabloid (albeit in regular comics format). Also included is an interview with Jerry and Joe by Shel Dorf, some of which is about their careers and lives and some of which is commentary about what is in the book.

As a “must-have comic book” type of deal, this isn’t anything that I think people would be seeking out as it’s akin to Pisces Iscariot, Lost Dogs, Tracks, or any other B-side collection I own on CD. The pieces are all snippets, starting with “Kaye”, who is a dying scientist that might wind up with some sort of superpowers. Then we see a one-page “Futurities” item telling us about space stations and futuristic fashions; followed by the soap opera-like “Gloria Glamour”; and “The Waif” and “Spuds”, two humor strips. That’s pretty much the deal with the rest of the book two, as Siegel and Shuster went through a number of different genres, much like comic books from 1934-1935 tended to do.

I personally prefer the adventure-based stuff, especially the stuff that is science fiction. Yes, that’s because of the fact that the two created Superman, but I seem to find that sort of stuff holds up better than a number of humor strips from the day or the more culturally insensitive adventure comics stories that you tended to find. That aside, the art is more dynamic and you can see it’s where Siegel shines in his writing and Shuster shines in his artwork.

So this was fun overall, but not something I’m going to continue to come back to and flip through over and over. Eclipse published a second volume in August 1985, which has a cover full of flying machines that’s very Art Deco in its style. I might grab that if I find it. As for this one? It’s not essential. But if you’re a person who enjoys looking at these sorts of books, I’d give this a try if it’s in a cheap bin.

Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?


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