Jerome (Jerry) Siegel (October 17, 1914 - January 28, 1996) was the co-creator of Superman, the first of the great comic book heroes and one of the most recognizable fictional characters from the 20th century.
The son of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania, Siegel was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the youngest of six children. His father Mitchell was a sign painter who opened a haberdashery and he encouraged his son's artistic inclinations. Tragically, his father was shot and killed in his store by a thief when Jerome Siegel was still in junior high school.
Siegel was a fan of movies, comic strips, and especially of science fiction pulp fiction. He became active in what would become known as fandom, corresponding with other science fiction fans, including a young Jack Williamson. In 1929 he published what may have been the first science fiction fanzine, Cosmic Stories, which he produced with a manual typewriter and advertised in the classified section of Science Wonder Stories. He published several other booklets over the next few years.
Siegel attended Glenville High School and worked for its weekly student newspaper, The Torch. Siegel was a shy, not particularly popular student, but he achieved a bit of fame among his peers for his popular Tarzan parody, "Goober the Mighty". At Glenville he befriended his later collaborator Joe Shuster.
He and Shuster created Superman, partly out of myths like Hercules and Philip Wylie's 1932 novel Gladiator, and used the character in short stories and a 1932 comic strip. In 1938 they managed to sell it to DC Comics, which put Superman on the cover of the first issue of Action Comics in June.
In 1946 the pair had a contract dispute with DC over rights to Superman, and after a two-year fight relinquished claim to the character in return for about $200,000. He continued to write the occasional uncredited story.
Siegel became comic art director for Ziff-Davis Company in the 1950s but eventually left the business.
In 1968 he worked for the Western Publishing: he wrote, with Carl Barks, the stories of the Junior Woodchucks' comic book and in 1972 he worked for Mondadori Editore on the Italian comic book Topolino, the local Disney's publication.
In 1978, the pair again sued DC Comics over Superman rights and received $35,000 a year each for the rest of their lives. All comics, TV episodes, films and (later) video games starring Superman (including the popular Smallville show) are required to state that Superman was "Created by Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster.
In 1986, Siegel was offered to write an "imaginary" final story for Superman, following the pivotal Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline and the miniseries Man of Steel, which reintroduced Superman. Siegel declined.
Last updated: 05-15-2005 21:52:31