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The Original Superman.
Ok, Superman fans. Think you know all there is to Superman? Well, here is something to think about. The Superman character has gone through many transformations. Many think that Superman got it's start in June 1938 but that is far from the truth. The fact of the matter is that Superman, actually, got it's start in 1933. It was a short story novel written by Jerry Siegel with the illustration provided by Joe Shuster. The title of the story was the Reign of the Superman.
Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were two struggling writers who wanted to escape poverty during the Great Depression. They wrote a couple of stories that were rejected by the publishers. Taking a chance on writing some science fiction materials, the duo teamed up to work on the story of the Reign of the Superman. Siegal, who wrote the story under the pen name of Herbert S Fine, was inspired by Nietzche's use of the German word Ubermensch. Ubermensch was German for Superman.
Nietzche had written a book entitled "Thus spoke Zarathustra" back in 1883 in which the word Superman had its beginnings. Afterwards, in 1903. George Bernard Shaw wrote a play called Man and Superman. The word Superman was beginning to gain worldwide acceptance. On a specific Tarzan episode, Jane referred to her hero as Superman to which Siegal credits it as an influence for his future character.
A Villain in the making
The plot for the realm of the Superman was interesting because it features Superman as a villain. In fact, as you look at the above picture near the title, he has a resemblance with Lex Luthor. He did not have a friendly face, in fact, it looked more like anyone's worse nightmare. The story starts when a mad scientist by the name of Dr.Smalley, strikes up a friendship with a vagrant from the streets. He manages to talk him into an experiment, studying the use of super powers in man.. In exchange for his cooperation, he offers him a real meal and a brand new suit.
The doctor's invention gave that vagrant telepathic powers. Impressed by his newly-acquired powers, he turns evil and tires to conquer the world. Dr. Smalley tries to stop him but winds up getting killed by the evil Superman. He continues on his quest of conquering the world when his plan backfires. Losing his powers, he found that his new found strength was temporary. Unable to get the formula due to the death of Dr Smalley, the Ex Superman returns to the breadline, resigned to his fate.
This reminds me of another Superhero, who was very popular in the 40's. Steve Rogers, also known as Captain America, was given a formula to increase his strength.The only difference was that it was a scientist who was working with the government under a top secret plan. Another point to observe in this is that Captain America's powers were permanent. He, also, stood for Justice in the American way.
Turning a villain into a good guy.
Not being satisfied with the Superman image of a villain, Siegel wanted to come up with a hero that could serve humanity. He got inspired reading the adventures of Detective Dan, which was a black and white comic book in the 30's. Finally, he and his friend Shuster put the finishing touches of his hero and entitled it The Superman but it was rejected by Consolidated books publishing. Discouraged, Shuster burned the pages of his story but Siegel managed to rescue the cover from the fire.
Finally on June 1938, the first issue of Superman hit the stands and the rest is history. I got inspired by their story because these two went through the great depression, yet they had a gift, vision and an idea. They used the talents they had and kept on, even though the doors were closed time and time again. What would have happened had they given up? We would have been deprived of the Adventures of Superman and missed out on a great Superhero character.
Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster made some money from their character but some believe that they were ripped off. Jerry Siegel was a talented writer and even worked for Marvel and Archie comics. Joe Shuster was a talented cartoonist and made some money drawing for different publications. A lawsuit was settled in the 70's in which they were given $20,000 a year. Eventually, it rose up to $30,000 with health benefits. Sadly, to this day, they are no longer with us but their legacy of Superman still remains.