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.
School Library Journal
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