Jerome "Jerry" Siegel (October 17th, 1914- January 28th, 1996) and Joseph "Joe" Shuster (July 10th, 1914- July 30th, 1992) were a comic book writer-artist duo who are practically responsible for giving birth to The Golden Age of Comic Books by creating the first modern superhero, Superman.
Both were young Jewish boys who grew up in Cleveland, Ohio (Jerry was born and raised there, while Joe was born in Toronto, Canada and he and his family moved to Cleveland when he was 9) and they shared a love of science fiction and adventure stories. The two were trying to make ends meet during The Great Depression through writing and illustrating short stories and selling them to publishers, but were rejected each time. During that period, Shuster produced a five-issue fanzine called Science Fiction: The Advanced Guard for Future Civilization. There, Siegel and Shuster created a short story titled "The Reign of the Superman", about a mad scientist who grants a vagrant with telepathic abilities through an experimental serum and how the empowered man wished to use his powers to achieve world domination.
Siegel wanted to refine the concept of the "Superman" and decided to make him a hero who used his special powers to help mankind instead of conquering them. Thus in 1933, the duo created a comic about the newly heroic character and tried to sell it to various publishers as a newspaper comic strip. Despite all their hard work, they were rejected each time. However, hope was not lost.
As Siegel and Shuster found work writing and drawing comics at National Allied Publications (soon to be known as DC Comics), co-owner Jack Liebowitz needed an exciting lead feature for their newest Anthology Comic, Action Comics. Soon, someone he knew found the rejected "Superman" strips and Siegel and Shuster were told that, if they paste them into a 13 page story, then National would buy the character. Soon enough, they had cobbled together the strips, rewrote and redrew them, added more story material to it and the rest is comic book history....
Notable comic book characters they created:
- The Spectre (Siegel)
Works by Jerry Siegel with their own trope pages include:
- Superman, Champion of the Oppressed (with Joe Shuster)
- Superman (Volume 1) #1 (with Joe Shuster)
- The Death of Superman (1961) (with Curt Swan)
- How Luthor Met Superboy (with Al Plastino)
- Superman's Return to Krypton (with Wayne Boring)
- The Unknown Supergirl (with Jim Mooney)
Tropes common throughout their comics include:
- Bald of Evil: The Ultra-Humanite, Superman's first proper super-villain, was a bald mad scientist with world-conquering goals. Lex Luthor and Mister Mxyzptlk are also famously bald.
- Bully Hunter: Superman -and most of their heroes- have a habit of going after all kind of abusers who thought could get away with preying on the weak and helpless.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Crooked industrialist and war profiteers were one of early Superman's favorite targets.
- Genre Shift: Siegel and Shuster's original run mostly depicted Superman as a crime-solving vigilante. Nonetheless, fantastic elements started seeping into their stories early on, and Superman was supposed to find out about his alien heritage in 1940's "The K-Metal from Krypton" story. Siegel's second run presented Superman as a Space Era hero and focused on sci-fi elements, as well as Krypton's world-building.
- Intrepid Reporter: Siegel and Shuster created two of the most famous fictional examples. Clark Kent and Lois Lane were always looking for news to report (and terrible people to expose).
- Legacy Character: Although he did not create her, Jerry Siegel wrote one of the few stories where Supergirl completes her Hero's Journey by inheriting Superman's position after his death: Superman (Volume 1) #149: The Death of Superman!.
- Superpower Lottery:
- When he showed up, Superman was the only superhuman around. And he grew more powerful through the 40's.
- The Spectre is literally God's Spirit of Vengeance.
- Origin Story: Siegel wrote Superman and Lex Luthor's first origin stories.