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Sunday, January 18, 2009

"Superman" (1943) [1 of 3] - Pen and Ink Signed by Joe Shuster

This is a fantastic Superman pen and ink signed by Joe Shuster. There are a couple of unique elements here.

First, the size. By 1976, Shuster was almost totally blind but his blindness started many years earlier. Shuster compensated for has failing eyesight by drawing his boards quite large. Here, his Sunday page was drawn on 2-20"x14" boards instead of one.

Second, the strip includes one of the most famous Superman quotes -- Perry White: "Sometimes I almost think Clark Kent is Superman -- But of course that's ridiculous... Isn't it?"

Third, it's signed by Joe Shuster. As the story goes, Shuster tended to shy away from the public (due to his desire to keep his failing eyesight private). Evidently, there was a contest won by a young Superman fan andFirst Prize was this Sunday page. The youngster actually went to Shuster's office and was able to get Shuster to sign it for him.

Fourth, it has all many of the prime characters in it: Superman, Lois Lane, Perry White and Clark Kent.

Two 20"x14" Panels Signed by Joe Shuster

Here is what the finished product looked like in the Sunday Mirror.

The Sunday Mirror Sunday Page

Here is how the two pages were framed...

I've always been struck by the story of Superman's development and how Superman's creators failed to realize any significant financial reward for their efforts -- was was the case with many of the early cartoonists.

Here's some of the story about Shuster from Wikipedia:

Joseph Shuster was born in Toronto, Ontario, the son of Jewish immigrants. His father Julius, an immigrant from Rotterdam, South Holland, the Netherlands, and his mother Ida, who had come from Kiev in Ukraine, were barely able to make ends meet. As a youngster, Shuster worked as a newspaper boy for the Toronto Daily Star and, as a hobby, he liked to sketch. He had one sister, Jean Peavy. One cousin is comedian Frank Shuster of the Canadian comedy team Wayne and Shuster.

When Joe Shuster was 10, his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio. In Cleveland, Shuster attended Glenville High School and befriended his later collaborator, writer Jerry Siegel, with whom he began publishing a science fiction fanzine. The duo broke into comics at Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson's National Allied Publications, the future DC Comics, working on the landmark New Fun — the first comic-book series to consist solely of original material rather than using any reprinted newspaper comic strips — debuting with the musketeer swashbuckler "Henri Duval" and the supernatural crime-fighter strip Doctor Occult, both in New Fun #6 (Oct. 1935).

Siegel and Shuster used an early version of the character that would become Superman in short stories and in a 1933 comic-strip proposal. In 1938, after that proposal had languished among others at National, editor Vin Sullivan chose it as the cover feature for National's Action Comics #1 (June 1938). The following year, Siegel & Shuster initiated the syndicated Superman comic strip.

When Superman first appeared, Superman's alter ego Clark Kent worked for the Daily Star newspaper, named by Shuster after the Toronto Daily Star, his old employer in Toronto. According to an interview he gave a few months before his death, he modeled the cityscape of Superman's home city, Metropolis, on that of his old hometown. When the comic strip received international distribution, the company permanently changed the name to The Daily Planet.

In the same interview, Shuster stated that he modeled the look of Clark Kent after both himself and movie star Harold Lloyd, and that of Superman after Douglas Fairbanks Sr. He modeled Lois Lane after Joanne Carter, the woman who would later marry Jerry Siegel

Shuster became famous as the co-creator of one of the most well-known and commercially successful fictional characters of the 20th century. National Allied Publications claimed copyright to his and Siegel's work, and when the company refused to compensate them to the degree they believed appropriate, Siegel and Shuster, in 1946, near the end of their 10-year contract to produce Superman stories, sued National over rights to the characters. They ultimately settled the claim for $94 000 after the court ruled against them — but that the rights to Superman had been validly purchased by the publisher when they bought the first Superman story. After the bitter legal wrangling, Shuster and Siegel's byline was dropped by DC comics.

In 1947, the team rejoined editor Sullivan, by now the founder and publisher of the comic-book company Magazine Enterprises where they created the short-lived comical crime-fighter Funnyman. While Siegel continued to write comics for a variety of publishers, Shuster largely dropped out of sight.

Shuster continued to draw comics after the failure of Funnyman, although exactly what he drew is uncertain. Comics historian Ted White wrote that Shuster continued to draw horror stories into the 1950s. In 1964, when Shuster was living on Long Island with his elderly mother, he was reported to be earning his living as a freelance cartoonist; he was also "trying to paint pop art — serious comic strips — and hope[d] eventually to promote a one-man show in some chic Manhattan gallery". At one point, his worsening eyesight prevented him from drawing, and he worked as a deliveryman in order to earn a living. By 1976, Shuster was almost blind and living in a California nursing home.

In 1967, when the Superman copyright came up for renewal, Siegel launched a second lawsuit, which also proved unsuccessful.

In 1975, Siegel launched a publicity campaign, in which Shuster participated, protesting DC Comics' treatment of him and Shuster. In the face of a great deal of negative publicity over their handling of the affair (and due to the upcoming Superman movie), DC's parent company Warner Communications reinstated the byline dropped more than thirty years earlier and granted the pair a lifetime pension of $20,000 a year plus health benefits. Joe Shuster died in Los Angeles, California in 1992.

----- DATABASE NOTES -----

From Siegel & Shuster’s “Superman” (1943) -- Pen & Ink Sunday page signed by artist Joe Shuster a few years before he became blind. Matching color printed page. Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster “Superman” Sunday page. This not only has Superman, but Lois Lane, Perry White and Clark Kent in it as well. [Frame: 29”W x 37”H; Images: 2 @ 20”W x 13.5”H -- Sunday color: Frame: 16”W x 20”H; Image: 9.5”W x 13.5”H] Acquired 2004. SeqID-1147 Updated: 7/27/2005

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