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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Superman's Canadian Heritage?

Okay... so Superman's not Canadian, but one half of the famous pair that created him was from Toronto, and that creator's sur name, much like Eisner's, was adopted to address the award for Canadian accomplishments in the field of comics. Of course, I'm talking about Joe Shuster!

The child of poor Jewish immigrants, Shuster worked as a youngster as a newspaper boy for the Toronto Daily Star and in his spare time devoted himself to his favourite hobby of sketching. At the age of ten he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, met a fellow student at Glenville High School by the name of Jerry Siegel, and the pair began collaborating together on a science fiction fanzine. Years later, they began working for National Publications on a book called New Fun, created some original characters like the musketeer swashbuckler "Henri Duval" and the supernatural crime-fighter strip Doctor Occult, both of which debuted in the October 1935 issue of New Fun #6. From here they kept re-tooling their original comic proposal of a "strong man in tights", who was originally dismissed, but fortunately after a few revisions, National editor, Vin Sullivan, chose it as the cover feature for National's Action Comics #1 which hit in June 1938. And well the rest is comic book history...

If you'd like to know more about this early part of the genesis of the granddaddy of all super-heroes I recommend the new all-ages picture book from Random House, Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman!

Written by Marc Tyler Nobleman and illustrated by Ross MacDonald, this book tells "the true story of the events leading up to two teenagers' creation of a character that would change the course of popular culture".

Now to get back to that part about Superman's Canadian heritage? This is the commercial about Shuster from Canada's Heritage Commercial Series. I used to see this all the time on TV, and while it's been argued that it is a little off in its portrayal of events, I personally enjoyed seeing it each time I'd catch it during some show. As an American living in Canada for a time, these commercials taught me a lot of interesting tidbits about figures and events in Canada's history. The one about the Halifax Explosion was of particular interest to me.

So check out the commercial, and definitely take a look at Boys of Steel. It's a beautiful book, and it's in stock now!

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At 8/14/2008 8:22 AM, Blogger Marc Tyler Nobleman, Author of "Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman" said...

Thanks for plugging my book! Very kind of you.

And while I, too, like this little Joe Shuster movie, it is more than "a little off" - it is almost completely inaccurate. Joe was the artist; he designed Superman's costume. The details the Joe character mentions here (from a secret identity to leaping over tall buildings) came from his partner, writer Jerry Siegel. And not till 1934. Also, neither Jerry nor Joe coined the phrase "faster than a speeding bullet" - that came from the radio show.

At 8/14/2008 1:02 PM, Blogger Joe said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 8/14/2008 1:02 PM, Blogger Joe said...

Yeah, I knew "a little off" was an understatement, especially how it severely omits mentioning Siegel's obvious contributions to the character. A move I guess to focus on "the Canadian" in the commercial. I'm charmed by the commercial merely for the fact that it's amazing to see a comic book artist immortalised in a commercial as part of a nation's cultural heritage. Unfortunately, no matter how much money or recognition comic books rack up as Hollywood movies, etc. I doubt we'll ever see noted national recognition of the creator's of these wonderful characters.

At 8/18/2008 10:43 PM, Blogger stymieresh said...

So we can "BLAME CANADA" for Superman?

I'm just full of 'em tonight!


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