Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman

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JERRY SIEGEL AND Joe Shuster, two misfit teens in Depression-era Cleveland, were more like Clark Kent—meek, mild, and myopic—than his secret identity, Superman. Both boys escaped into the worlds of science fiction and pulp magazine adventure tales. Jerry wrote stories, and Joe illustrated them. In 1934, they created a superhero who was everything they were not. It was four more years before they convinced a publisher to take a chance on their Man of Steel in a new format—the comic book. The author includes a ...

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Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman

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JERRY SIEGEL AND Joe Shuster, two misfit teens in Depression-era Cleveland, were more like Clark Kent—meek, mild, and myopic—than his secret identity, Superman. Both boys escaped into the worlds of science fiction and pulp magazine adventure tales. Jerry wrote stories, and Joe illustrated them. In 1934, they created a superhero who was everything they were not. It was four more years before they convinced a publisher to take a chance on their Man of Steel in a new format—the comic book. The author includes a provocative afterword about Jerry and Joe’s long struggle with DC Comics when they realized they had made a mistake in selling all rights to Superman for a mere $130!

Marc Tyler Nobleman’s text captures the excitement of Jerry and Joe’s triumph, and the energetic illustrations by Ross MacDonald, the author-artist of Another Perfect Day, are a perfect complement to the time, the place, and the two young visionaries.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Starred Review, Booklist, June 1, 2008:
“[T]his robust treatment does [Shuster and Siegel’s] story justice.”
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2008:
"The battle for truth and justice is truly never-ending."
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, June 23, 2008:
“Nobleman details this achievement with a zest amplified by MacDonald's … punchy illustrations.”

Publishers Weekly

Catering to comics junkies, this vibrant and well-researched picture book biography introduces the youthful inventors of Superman, who this year celebrates his 70th anniversary. Writer Jerry Siegel and illustrator Joe Shuster are mild-mannered everymen whose reflective glasses conceal their eyes-and their potential. In a crowded high school hallway, Jerry wishes he could be with his "friends," and a turn of the page reveals Tarzan, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. Joe, "lousy at sports and mousy around girls," draws sci-fi heroes with a passion. In 1934, when both are 20, Jerry dreams up the Superman concept and Joe draws prototypes labeled "S" for " 'super.' And for 'Siegel' and 'Shuster.' " In June 1938, their creation launches in Action Comics. Nobleman details this achievement with a zest amplified by MacDonald's (Another Perfect Day) punchy illustrations, done in a classic litho palette of brassy gold, antique blue and fireplug red. MacDonald's Depression-era vignettes picture Siegel pondering his superhero's powers and the friends casting a single, caped shadow. A cautionary afterword chronicles their protracted financial struggles with DC Comics-when Siegel and Shuster sold their first Superman story, they also sold all rights to the character, for $130. Ages 10-up. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Charles E. Kreinbucher
This is the story of two "boys of steel," Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, creators of the Superman comic strip. Both Joe and Jerry grew up during the Great Depression, during which they endured hardships and difficult living conditions. Both were somewhat outcasts at school, having limited friendships and little interest in sports or other school functions. However, they both had magnificent imaginations and shared a passion for writing and drawing. The two boys became strong friends in high school and developed into a perfect team. They produced several comics, which were rejected. Then, they struck on the idea of Superman. Although it was rejected four times before it was accepted, Superman became an instant hit. In the years since, the character and his story have been transformed into many forms of enjoyable media. Nobleman's account is an engaging and informative read. The illustrations are well-designed to evoke the historical, 1930s setting. The story is inspiring in its messages about teamwork and perseverance. The final three pages develop the story of Joe and Jerry further, highlighting the injustices and morality of the publishing business. Reviewer: Charles E. Kreinbucher
School Library Journal

Gr 4-6

Nobleman portrays teenaged Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster as outcasts who found solace in the world of pulp magazines and comics. Their peers did not understand their fascination with tales of musclemen and detectives with gadgets, and their teachers deemed the stories that they loved to write and illustrate "trash." Despite these obstacles, the two friends continued writing and illustrating, and in 1934, Siegel had an avalanche of ideas about a new type of hero that he then shared with Shuster, who drew the first concept illustrations of Superman. It took another four years, however, before the superhero would make his public debut in Action Comics #1. MacDonald's illustrations are a tribute to 1930s pulp art, from the lines of the characters outlined in brown to the washes of yellow in the background. While the layout remains primarily in picture-book format, comic-book elements appear sporadically, such as with phrases separated from the rest of the text and placed in oval bubbles. One spread also uses panels to depict Siegel's thoughts as he conceptualized Superman. The story ends with the young men successfully landing a publisher. The afterword fills in more of the details, including Siegel and Shuster's long-running battle with DC Comics for a greater share of the profits, how their Jewish background affected Superman during World War II, and their final years. Boys of Steel is a solid introduction to the history of Superman's creation, especially for children who find an outlet in storytelling and art.-Kim T. Ha, Elkridge Branch Library, MD

Kirkus Reviews
Ask children where the Man of Steel comes from, and they may answer "Metropolis" or, if they're well read, "Krypton." In fact, he came from Cleveland, the invention of two "meek, mild and myopic" Depression-era teenagers. Drawing incidents and dialogue directly from a range of published interviews and other accounts, Nobleman shows how Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster parlayed a steady diet of Tarzan, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon into a new kind of Hero, with superhuman abilities and a secret identity not so different from, well, themselves. Tongue resolutely in cheek, MacDonald switches between full page and comics-style panels, portraying the young writer and artist in Superman-style poses-stooped and nerdy by day but standing solidly, hands on hips and looking larger-than-life when working on their creation. In his afterword, Nobleman retraces Superman's role in World War II and beyond, filling in the sorry tale of how Siegel and Shuster were cheated of fortune and fame by DC Comics. The battle for truth and justice is truly never-ending. (Picture-book biography. 7-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375838026
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 7/22/2008
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 516,201
  • Age range: 6 - 9 Years
  • Lexile: 760L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

MARC TYLER NOBLEMAN grew up thinking he'd become a superhero because his last name already sounded like one. Instead he turned into a writer and cartoonist and a comic book maven. In researching Boys of Steel, he dug up details about the creators of Superman that have not been in a book before.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2008

    Inspiring story for artistic kids!

    'Boys of Steel' is filled with delightful, colorful illustrations, and an easy-to-read text, making it perfect for kids age 4 and up. It tells the little known story of the two 'geeky' teenaged boys from Cleveland--Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster--who were ignored and picked on by their peers at school,and who channeled their frustrations into creating 'scienti-fiction' stories. Looking to popular films and magazines of the time (Depression Era, 1930's), they drew inspiration from Tarzan, Flash Gordon and Doc Savage--and created the world's first comic book super-hero: SUPERMAN.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2014

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    Posted November 2, 2009

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