Siegel and Shuster's Funnyman: The First Jewish Superhero, from the Creators of Superman

Siegel and Shuster's Funnyman: The First Jewish Superhero, from the Creators of Superman

2.4 5
by Thomas Andrae
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Here is a kaleidoscopic analysis of Jewish humor as seen through Funnyman, a  little-known super-heroic invention by the creators of Superman. Included are complete comic-book stories and daily and Sunday newspaper panels from Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s creative fiasco.

Siegel and Shuster, two Jewish teenagers from Cleveland, sold the

Overview

Here is a kaleidoscopic analysis of Jewish humor as seen through Funnyman, a  little-known super-heroic invention by the creators of Superman. Included are complete comic-book stories and daily and Sunday newspaper panels from Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s creative fiasco.

Siegel and Shuster, two Jewish teenagers from Cleveland, sold the rights to their amazing and astonishingly lucrative comic book superhero to Detective Comics for $130 in 1938. Not only did they lose the ownership of the Superman character, they also agreed to write and illustrate it for ten years at ten dollars per page. Their contract with the DC publishers was soon heralded as the most foolish agreement in the history of American popular culture.

After toiling on workman’s wages for a decade, Siegel and Shuster struggled to come up with a new superhero, one that would right their wrongs and prove that justice, fair-play, and zany craftsmanship was the true American way and would lead to ultimate victory. But when the naïve duo launched their new comic character Funnyman in 1947, it failed miserably. All the turmoil and personal disasters in Siegel and Shuster’s postwar life percolated into the comic strip.

This book tells the back story of the unsuccessful strip and Siegel and Shuster’s ambition to have their funny Jewish superhero trump Superman.

Mel Gordon is the author of Voluptuous Panic: The Erotic World of Weimar Berlin.

Thomas Andrae is the author of Batman and Me.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 1948 Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the bitterly disenfranchised cocreators of Superman, attempted to recapture success by launching the comedic superhero "Funnyman." The comic book series, which also spawned a short-lived newspaper strip, was a flop, lasting only six issues, and is regarded as a footnote. In this volume, Gordon and Andrae attempt to make much of the fact that this footnote wears clown shoes, positioning Funnyman as "the first Jewish superhero." Gordon's lengthy disquisition on the roots of Jewish humor opens the book. Though full of fascinating facts and images, the essay is fragmentary and poorly organized, and the implicit relationship to Funnyman is often strained. Andrae is on firmer ground with his analysis of Superman and Funnyman as twin offspring of two Jewish phenomena: the strongman and the schlemiel. Unfortunately, the book reprints fewer than 40 pages from the series' six issues, alongside excerpts from the strip. One suspects some editorial embarrassment that Siegel and Shuster's stilted attempt at heroic slapstick fails to entirely live up to the claims made on its behalf. A fuller presentation would have permitted readers to better consider those points that do seem apt. (July)
From the Publisher

"…Funnyman’s immediate historical relevance is as the character Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created as their follow-up to Superman, but underlying that is a point of larger cultural importance. Andrae and Gordon approach the character as the most straightforward expression of Jewishness in comics at the time, and as a springboard to a wider discussion of the history of Jewish humor…Funnyman was the result of Siegel and Shuster turning a specific ethnic style into a more universal one. Funnyman might come from Jewish tradition, but in comics form he becomes any goofy guy who has to stand up against brute force of any sort. He’s far more reflective of the reading audience, as well as the creators, than Superman ever was, though Clark Kent was an attempt to rectify that. The Yiddishisms might have whispered to one audience, but the 'schlemiel' is something many people can identify with…" — Publishers Weekly

Library Journal
First things first: Funnyman isn't funny; that's not a big surprise considering the star of the eponymous comic book and strips was a comedian-turned-crime fighter wearing a prosthetic Jimmy Durante nose and the wardrobe of a clown while running through dated jokes (1940s-era). Fortunately, most of this book about the supposedly first Jewish superhero doesn't dwell on the character who was so unpopular he was kicked out of his own comic strip. Rather than focus on the contrived comic superhero, Andrae and Gordon deliver a book with a keen sense of cultural history that sets up the joke that is Funnyman with a primer on the importance of humor among Jews. The anthropological lesson not only explains creators Siegel and Shuster's raison d'être for their hero but also underscores how the development of Jewish humor parallels the rise of entertainment culture. Even more interesting is the book's examination of how Siegel and Shuster used Jewish stereotypes to undermine their own Man of Steel. Though, if Funnyman is all you want, the book includes all of his appearances.Verdict This book is required reading for anyone searching for a cultural compass in comic books' greatest title, Superman. Just don't expect it to be funny.—Robert Morast. Fargo, ND

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781932595789
Publisher:
Feral House
Publication date:
07/01/2010
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
7.40(w) x 9.82(h) x 0.50(d)

Meet the Author


The co-creator of "Superman" and "Funnyman," who died at the age of 81 in 1996. The Canadian-born artist was a co-creator of Superman and Funnyman.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Siegel and Shuster's Funnyman: The First Jewish Superhero, from the Creators of Superman 2.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Boring
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my second attempt to send this message. I shan't retype all I lost. Just buy it, and enjoy some of the best comics of the past 71 years.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gcgbsgefunvevyfehyfrbtdbrfhytjtftvfsrhyvedyvfyjubtdkmmo.o.inyfrjiiikmi...inhvrgybyku.ooiybunoiljh...bhmomo.mk.iilutg vbmbhxegghgmhk mm.gjggghmjrsfggvvh g