all artwork copyright by DC Comics, Inc.
unless otherwise noted
by Bob Hughes
(Updated 08/22/2015)



Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster first met at Glenville High School in Cleveland, Ohio in 1930 where both were on the staff of the high school newspaper.  Shuster had moved to Cleveland from Toronto, Canada when he was 10.  Jerry was already a science-fiction pioneer at that time, having published the first science fiction fanzine, Cosmic Stories in 1929 when he was 14 years old.  It was done on a typewriter with carbon paper. 

Joe's mind was also teeming with science fiction images including this drawing done on May 2,1931 when Joe was only 16 years old. 

copyright 1985 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.  From Siegel And Shuster: Dateline 1930's #2 pub by Eclipse Comics
In October 1932, the two collaborated on a new fanzine, called Science Fiction, this time mimeographed and featuring the work of professional writers like Raymond Palmer, author of "The Girl in the Golden Atom".  The third issue of that magazine, published in January 1933, featured a Jerry Siegel story called "Reign of the Superman" about a fantastic villain who used his super brain for evil.

The splash page from that story (reprinted in Comic Book Price Guide #18) shows a giant who looks suspiciously like Luthor hovering over a bread line. Yes, the evil Professor Smalley took advantage of the depression gripping America to recruit subjects for his hideous experiments.

Shortly after this story was finished, Jerry was seized with a new idea.  Instead of having the evil Superman prey on the victims of the depression, why not a good Superman who would avenge the misfortunes of the downtrodden?  Quickly, he got Joe Shuster busy sketching the new character and working the story up- this time in comics format.  A new company, Humor Publishing, had just released three album-sized comic books, Detective Dan, Adventures of Detective Ace King, and Bob Scully, Two Fisted Hick Detective
Siegel contacted them and they seemed eager to add Superman to their line, so Joe Shuster drew up an entire Superman story, including two cover sketches. Unfortunately, Humor stopped publishing comics after those two one-shots and the deal was never concluded.  Depressed, Joe tore the original Superman story to shreds.  Only the two cover sketches survive, which can be seen in Comic Book Price Guide 18 and Comic Book Marketplace 36
That idea scotched Jerry and Joe turned to new concepts and soon had a contract with the Cleveland Shopping News to put out a monthly comics tabloid called Popular Comics.  They had almost completed the first issue when the publisher changed his mind and reneged on the deal.
Two of the strips our boys devised for that tile were Gloria Glamour and the Waif (seen at  left from Eclipse Comics' Siegel and Shuster: Dateline 1930's#1).  Both characters would show up many times in future work.

copyright 1984 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

Meanwhile, Siegel tried shopping his Superman idea to other artists and actually convinced pro artist Russel Keaton, (who had been ghosting Buck Rogers) to work up a series of sample strips.  This 1934 version, in which baby Superman is sent back from the future rather than from another planet,  helps show the order in which the concepts of "the Man From Tomorrow" developed.  Only nine of the original strips have surfaced, but there are believed to be more, as well as scripts for addtional stories, some of which made it into the early issues of Action Comics.
Eventually, Jerry and Joe began reworking the Superman concept into a comic strip.  They put together several weeks worth of samples and sent them around to the syndicates with no luck.  But with each rejection, they repacked them and sent them on to the next prospect.
Some time in this period, the idea of putting Superman into an acrobat  costume featuring a cape and leotards came into existence.  This early picture of Clark Kent looking askance at the Man of Steel dates from 1934-5 and was part of the package sent around to syndicates to promote the strip.  This particular "S" design on Superman's shield has only been seen in one other picture which must therefore date from the same time period.