Socialist Worker

The Man of Steel who couldn't help his own creators

by Sasha Simic
Issue No. 2359

Henry Cavill as Superman in Man of Steel

Henry Cavill as Superman in Man of Steel

Superman was created in 1932 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

These 18 year old Jewish boys from Ohio,  based him on archetypes and scenarioes from science-fiction “pulps”. 

In 1938 they sold the rights for their character to DC comics for £85. They continued to write and develop the strip until 1946.

The character has always been spectacularly lucrative. His first appearance in Action Comics in June 1938 sold half a million copies.

When Superman  appeared in his own comic in 1939 it sold over a million copies and comics became a national craze. 

Originally he couldn’t fly or press coal into diamonds. 

Superman was a vigilante. He took on slum landlords’, corrupt businessmen, politicians and warmongers. 

Soon superhero comics became an industry with hundreds of “long underwear characters”. 

Superman appeared on radio, films and television. 

In each new show he became more powerful   until in the 1950s he became a McCarthyite patriot fighting for “Truth, Justice and the American Way”.

Siegel and Shuster struggled to survive as comic creators. By the early 70s Siegel was a courier and Shuster, who was nearly blind was desperately poor. 

It took the threat of strikes by a new generation of comic creators in 1978 to win them credit, a modest pension and medical insurance. 

But they, and other comic character creators, never got the smallest fraction of what their characters were worth. 

The latest Superman film, Man of Steel, made £80 million in its first week-end in the US.

 Superheroes may fight for justice but many people think that justice has been denied their actual creators.

Man of Steel
Directed by Zack Snyder
On general release now


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Tue 25 Jun 2013, 18:18 BST
Issue No. 2359
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