cover image The Joe Shuster Story: The Artist Behind Superman

The Joe Shuster Story: The Artist Behind Superman

Julian Voloj and Thomas Campi. Super Genius, $19.99 (180p) ISBN 978-1-62991-776-4

In this nostalgic biography of golden age comics artist Joe Shuster, the magnitude of what he created and lost hangs over every page. In 1938, National Comics paid writer Jerry Siegel and artist Shuster $130 for the rights to their character Superman, a casual exploitation of two naive creators that critic Tom Spurgeon has called “comics’ original sin.” As a young cartoonist, Shuster meets Siegel and the two bond over comic books, pulp sci-fi, and their shared background in the working-class Jewish community in Cleveland. When Superman becomes a phenomenon and the foundation of a blockbuster new genre—the superhero—Siegel and Schuster resent making pennies while their publishers rake in millions. Watching the first Superman movie in 1948, Schuster reflects, “This was our creation, and it was no longer ours.” By the 1970s, the impoverished, troubled cartoonist is sleeping on park benches. This harsh history is softened by Campi’s art, drawn in the reassuring style of midcentury magazine illustration and illuminated with jewel-like watercolors. The art lends warmth and beauty to this elegy to two kids chewed up by a system that sees dollar signs and goes in for the kill. (Apr.)