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Siegel, Jerry


SIEGEL, JERRY (1914–1996), U.S. cartoonist. Siegel, the co-creator of Superman, the first of the great comic book superheroes and one of the most recognizable fictional characters of the 20th century, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania. A fan of movies, comic strips, and science fiction pulp magazines, Siegel corresponded with other science-fiction fans before publishing, in 1929, what may have been the first science fiction fan magazine, Cosmic Stories. In high school, Siegel befriended his later collaborator, Joe *Shuster. They created Superman (Siegel imagined Superman from his birth on the doomed planet Krypton and his rocket arrival on Earth to his superhuman powers and his mild-mannered alter ego, Clark Kent; Shuster gave Superman his skintight costume and accompanying cape). They were inspired by several fictional characters, including Tarzan and Popeye, and used Superman in short stories and a 1933 comic strip proposal. In 1938, after the idea had languished among other proposals, Superman was chosen as a cover feature for Action Comics #1, published by the future DC Comics. They signed away the rights to Superman for $130. In 1946, Siegel and Shuster, nearing the end of their 10-year contract to produce Superman stories, sued DC over rights to the characters they created. After a two-year fight, they relinquished their claim in return for about $100,000 and severed their relationship with dc. Siegel's later work appeared elsewhere but in 1975, nearly destitute, he launched a public-relations campaign to protest dc Comics' treatment of him and Shuster, who, partly blind and unemployed, lived in a threadbare apartment in Queens, n.y. In 1978, after the first Superman movie made more than $80 million, dc, which over the years had received more than $250 million of the more than $1 billion that Superman generated from movies, television and a variety of commercial products, bowed to public opinion. Ultimately, Siegel and Shuster were granted $35,000 a year each for the rest of their lives and were guaranteed that all comics, tv episodes, films, and other Superman ephemera would be required to state that the character was "created by Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster."

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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