Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Secret Life of Joe Schuster

While the unfortunate image to the left may make it appear otherwise, Superman is a mythic, fictional figure that inspires trust, and safety in us (unlike Batman, for instance), we all feel pretty comfortable with the history of Superman.

We all know that Joe Schuster is one half of the most famous duo of comicbook creators (he and Jerry Siegel created Superman, and essentially created this entire genre). Well, comics historian Craig Yoe recently made an incredible find when he unearthed a rare find of an underground comic produced by Schuster back in the early 1950s when the artist was down on his luck, because he had been repudiated by DC. The comic, titled Nights of Horror — crude in form — is actually a group of stapled pamphlets of erotic horror art that were sold under the counter at drugstores for $3.00 each.

According to a published report:

Yoe, who found the complete 16-issue run of the crude publication at a used-book store: “There are some who say I should have left this stuff buried and not ruin Joe’s reputation. But this is a major body of work by the creator of the superhero. Some of the drawings are beautiful, showing the great craftsman that he was. There's even an innocence.

“I can’t say I'd frame it and put it above my mantel, but it’s a very important find for comic-book history and cultural history.”

Yoe reproduced the work in a new book Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman's Co-Creator Joe Shuster (Abrams ComicArts, $24.95). Personally, I’m thinking of picking up this book myself, just for it’s historical value, in the ever-unfolding “secret history” of the early days of comics.

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