The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Lifestyle

April 17, 2013

Superman's 75th puts spotlight on Cleveland roots

CLEVELAND (AP) — The tough, blue-collar roots of Superman's creators are getting a fresh look on the superhero's 75th anniversary.

Creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster lived just a few blocks apart in the Cleveland neighborhood that shaped their teenage lives, their dreams and the imagery of the Man of Steel.

In the city's Glenville neighborhood, still in the throttling grip of the Great Depression, Siegel and Shuster labored on their creation for years before finally selling Superman to a publisher.

The Man of Steel became a Depression-era bootstrap strategy for the Siegel/Shuster team, according to Brad Ricca, a professor at nearby Case Western Reserve University who uses Superman in his classes.

"They really just saw it as a way out," he said.

In his upcoming book "Super Boys," Ricca says the story of Superman's creation is mostly about their friendship: two boys dreaming of "fame, riches and girls" in a time when such dreams are all the easier to imagine because of the crushing economic misery.

Ricca said Siegel and Shuster reflected Cleveland's ethnic mix: both were sons of Jewish immigrants, struggled during the Depression and hustled to make something of themselves.

"The Depression is all about, you know, if nobody is going to give you a job, you make your own, you find your own niche and we find that's what they are doing," Ricca said.

Superman's first appearance, in Action Comics No. 1, was April 18, 1938. The first and greatest superhero has gone on to appear in nearly 1,000 Action Comics and has evolved with the times, including a 1940s radio serial, a 1950s TV series and as a reliable staple for Hollywood. Pop culture expert Charles Coletta at Bowling Green State University said Superman ranks globally with George Washington and the Super Bowl as American icons.

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