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Shuster, Joe

SHUSTER, JOE

SHUSTER, JOE (1914–1992), U.S. cartoonist. Joseph Shuster was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the son of Jewish immigrants from Rotterdam and Kiev. As a boy, he worked at the Toronto Star but liked to sketch as a hobby. The fantasy world of the newspaper's color comics had a strong impact on him. The family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, when he was 10, and at 18 he met Jerry *Siegel, with whom he was to create Superman, the most famous and fabulous fictional superhero of the 20th century. When Superman first appeared, in 1938, its hero, mild-mannered Clark Kent, worked for The Daily Star, named by Shuster after his old employer in Toronto. When the comic strip received international distribution, the company permanently changed the newspaper's name to The Daily Planet. Superman's popularity helped establish comic books as a format and spawned a genre of costumed superheroes, from Spiderman to Wonder Woman to Captain Marvel. Superman became an industry unto himself. Faster than a speeding bullet, as he was described on the radio, the Man of Steel appeared in newspaper comics, animated cartoons, movie-theater serials, a television series, a Broadway musical, a novel, feature films, and a stream of franchised goods from lunch boxes and toys to bubble gum. In the 1970s alone, Superman sales exceeded $1 billion. Superman was reared as a normal American boy and grew up to become Clark Kent, but when danger loomed, he became the crusader for "Truth, Justice, and the American Way." He doffed his glasses, stripped to a blue bodysuit and red cape, and flew off, using X-ray vision and other powers to thwart the latest evil menace or global disaster. But Siegel and Shuster did not share in the money machine, having signed away their rights in 1938 for $130. After a series of bitter legal battles, both creators became destitute and even sold their old comic books as collectors' items worth thousands of dollars apiece. Shuster, partly blind and unemployed, lived in a very modest apartment in Queens, n.y. Finally, Siegel and Shuster were granted $35,000 a year from the publisher of Superman, dc Comics, for the rest of their lives and were guaranteed that all comics, tv episodes, films, and other Superman references would state that the character was "created by Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster."

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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