Joe Shuster (1914-92)
and his assistants
1938-40

 

03/05/05

The years of effort had finally paid off and Jerry and Joe's prize baby finally saw print.  The cover of Action Comics #1 shows Superman lifting an automobile over his head and smashing it into a big rock.  People are running in all directions.  There is nothing on this cover to indicate whether the central figure is a hero or villain.  If anything, he appears to be an engine of  wanton destruction.  Clad in dark bluish-grey tights, still heavily shaded for the intended black and white newspaper publication,  Superman has a long red cape, red boots and shorts, a yellow shield on his chest with a red 'S'.

If you look closely, you can see the boot design goes much higher up his legs than the coloring does and features some kind of ornamental design.  This is a clue that the cover drawing is much older than the work inside and probably dates from the 1934-5 original syndication proposal.  Inside, Superman's costume is much simpler.  The scalloped shield becomes a triangle.  The 'S' is embossed, rather than drawn, and is yellow, not red.  The boots are blue and appear to be laced up his shins.

Shuster

From Action 1 Page 13, June 1939


As the workload increased with the addition of a newspaper strip version of Superman, Joe turned the inking and detail work over to Paul Cassidy (b. 1910).  Cassidy immediately supplied a more fluid line to Joe's style, with a bolder darker line that filled in details like Superman's 'S' symbol.  Cassidy even added another 'S' symbol to Superman's cape, which he also added folds and wrinkles to.  Cassidy's cape was dynamic and flew in all directions, often even covering Superman's face.

 

Daily #78  Joe Shuster and Paul Cassidy

 

 

Eventually, Paul got to do entire stories by himself. Cassidy had a totally different sense of layout and design than Joe did. He often drew Superman with BOTH legs tucked under him and his arms outstretched sideways, rather than forwards or above his head. He also restored the five-cornered shield design, seen in Action 6. Cassidy loved back views, cape tricks and reclining figures and was clearly a superior draftsman to Shuster, but somehow, he failed to capture the power of the Man of Steel.

Cassidy twists and turns Superman's body and delights in back bends, flips and other acrobatic displays. Superman's cape is securely attached to the front of his jersey rather th an behind his head, and tends to bunch up against his collar.  In the large version of the 'S' shield seen below, Cassidy has squashed the top bar up against the the edge of the shield as a straight line, with a rather exaggerated serif on the end.

Paul Cassidy from Action 25 page 4 June, 1940

 

Eventually Joe employed numerous assistants to help him churn out a daily and Sunday strip, a bi-monthly 64 page comic, a monthly 13 page story for Action Comics and an additional Superman story for the quarterly World's Finest Comics.

 

This unpublished page is a perfect illustration of shop work. According to Wayne Boring (quoted in Secret Origins #1) Joe Shuster laid out the page and then Paul Cassidy tightened it up.  Leo Nowak added the detail work to the bodies (called "slicking").  John Sikela then inked all the Superman heads and Ed Dobrotka finished the rest of the inking.

 

Some of Shuster's other early assistants included Dennis Neville, who worked in the shop during  1940.  Neville did a lot of work on Slam Bradley and would draw the first two Hawkman stories for Flash Comics. He apparently continued to work on Superman after he lost the Hawkman assignment. His style was much closer to Shuster's own than Cassidy's was. Neville is clearly using a pen throughout and has a much thinner, crisper line, unfortunately lacking in any weight. This is preferable to his brushwork, which was amateurish at best. However, he was particularly adept at mimicking Shuster's approach towards children, and thus quite suited to this sequence. The "S" which Cassidy had added to Superman's cape disappears again.

 

Joe Shuster and Dennis Neville Daily 161, June 1939
 

Dennis Neville, Daily 314, January 1940

 

 

 

Paul J. Lauretta (b.c. 1916) was another early assistant.  He primarily inked stories and did lettering and background figures.  Lauretta, like Shuster was a disciple of Roy Crane, so their work is similar. Lauretta however, had a smoother line.  He probably left the shop to work on another DC feature, King Carter, in 1939.

 

 

A sample of Paul Lauretta's inking and lettering, from Action Comics #10, March 1939.

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