Jerry Siegel

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Jerry Siegel (1976)

Jerome "Jerry" Siegel (born October 17, 1914 in Cleveland , Ohio ; died January 28, 1996 in Los Angeles , California ) was an American comic book writer. Siegel became most famous as a co-inventor of the cartoon character Superman . He also published under the pseudonyms Joe Carter , Jerry Ess, and Herbert S. Fine .

life and work

Siegel was born in 1914 as the youngest child of a couple of Lithuanian - Jewish immigrants. Siegel spent his youth in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, where his father, Mitchell Siegel, a trained sign painter, ran a men's clothing store and later died in a robbery. Siegel also processed this event in his comics.

During his school days Siegel began to try his hand at writing. Together with his classmate Joe Shuster , who was a hobby artist, he finally began to work for the school newspaper The Torch . Via the detour of their work on The Torch , the two finally developed a kind of artistic partnership, which was mainly reflected in science fiction stories produced by division of labor. They published them in the self-published journal Science Fiction of the same name . The division of labor was always such that Siegel came up with stories that he put into a comic strip, which Shuster then translated into black and white pictures. In 1932 both published the story The Reign of the Superman in science fiction , which was about the experiences of a bald villain who commanded almost inexhaustible “mental powers” ​​such as telepathy and hypnosis . The name Superman chose the two in line with that of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in the 1880s coined word from superman . The term Superman as the English translation of the German “Übermensch” was popularized primarily by George Bernard Shaw's play Man and Superman and at that time had already achieved the status of a catchphrase in the English-speaking world.

From 1934 Siegel and Shuster tried - initially in vain - to sell their Superman idea to various publishers: After repeatedly encountering rejections, they began to subject the concept to a general overhaul. Finally, they revised the Superman concept to the effect that they transformed it from a mental to a physical character: Instead of superior mental powers, they now gave their figure more physical powers, such as super strength, super speed and the ability to jump huge distances in a single sentence . Their role models in this change were above all the biblical Samson and the Greek hero Heracles . In addition, they transformed their character from a villain who scourges humanity into a blissful altruistic benefactor. Visually, they transformed the lean bald head from The Reign of the Superman into a muscular muscle man with the athletic stature of a mythological demigod.

In 1937/1938 they finally succeeded in selling their character to the publisher National Periodicals (later called Detective Comics ), which at the time was looking for material for the new series Action Comics . She received $ 130 for selling the rights to her character. With National Periodicals under a lot of pressure to get enough comic material together to ensure the timely launch of Action Comics - which was slated for mid-1938 - Whitney Ellsworth, the publishing director, eventually Siegel and Shusters Superman concept, decided that had always been refused as "childish" to accept the bid and to choose it as the lead series of Action Comics .

The release of Action Comics # 1 finally brought the series - and surprisingly - a gigantic success, which, as market research showed, was mainly due to the Superman character. Siegel and Shuster produced Superman stories from then until the late 1940s for the action comics , for the eponymous series Superman , which started in 1940, and for the series World's Finest , which Superman shared with his "colleague" Batman . In the 1930s and 1940s Siegel - e. Sometimes together with Shuster - other more or less popular series for DC such as Slam Bradley , Doctor Occult , The Specter or Superboy .

Even before the American entry into World War II , Siegel - who, even of Jewish descent, felt personally injured by the racial cult of the National Socialists - stood out for his passionate anti-Nazi commitment, which he ultimately carried over to his work. A Superman story from 1940, in which the superhero Hitler dragged him to the court of the League of Nations for his offenses , ultimately led to Siegel being declared an enemy of the state in National Socialist Germany: This is what Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels called Siegel's creation, Superman, in a radio address "a Jew", while the weekly newspaper of the SS, Das Schwarze Korps , attacked Siegel in its April 25, 1940 edition as "physically and mentally circumcised Israelites".

Throughout the war, Siegel continued his propaganda activity against the Nazi regime and Japanese military fascism - from late 1941 with official approval by the US government - by using his Superman stories to buy war bonds and collect war-related goods and called for a physical fight against the aggressor states.

After Siegel - like Shuster - had a falling out with DC Comics for financial reasons in the late 1940s , he retired into private life. As a freelancer, he wrote for various comic series and publishers, e. B. in the 1970s Marvel Comics and Disney Comics for the Italian publisher Mondadori . After becoming increasingly impoverished in old age, Siegel finally received an annual pension of USD 38,000 from Time Warner , the parent company of the publishing house DC, in 1975 after the financial plight of the creator of the Superman figure - the Time Warner corporation - became known annually washed many millions of dollars into the coffers - had provoked massive protests among the readers and creators of the Superman comics.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b Bob Rozakis : Secret Identities . "It's Bob Ro the Answer Man" (column), Comics Bulletin . April 9, 2001. Archived from the original on November 14, 2010. Retrieved on November 14, 2010.
  2. Mark Evanier : Why did some artists working for Marvel in the sixties use phony names? . POV Online (column). April 14, 2008. Archived from the original on November 25, 2009. Retrieved on July 28, 2008.
  3. ^ Milestones Feb. 12, 1996 . In: Time , February 12, 1996. Retrieved May 11, 2011.