The Many Faces of the Man of Steel


Mirrored Image

The Seigel and Shuster in Superman

In a normal day, Superman stops a bank robbery, catches a speeding train headed toward certain doom, saves Lois Lane from an evil villain, and even helps a cat from a tall tree, before returning home to … Toronto? Clark Kent did report for The Daily Star based on The Toronto Star before 1940, when a New York editor ordered the change. Indeed, the Canadian born Joe Shuster based the futuristic Metropolis landscape on the skyline of Toronto, Canada.

Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.
Film legend Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., seen here in The Man in the Iron Mask, was the model for Superman's body.
"Cleveland was not nearly as metropolitan as Toronto was, and it was not as big or as beautiful," Shuster told The Toronto Star in a 1992 interview. "Whatever buildings I saw in Toronto remained in my mind and came out in the form of Metropolis."

After Shuster moved to Cleveland, Ohio at the age of 10, he frequented the silent picture theatre where his uncle Jack worked as a projectionist. The images of these actors from a bygone era resurfaced when Shuster modeled the Superman's body after the physique of film star Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.

"He had stance which I often used in drawing Superman," Shuster said in 1983. "You'll see in many of his roles – including Robin Hood – that he always stood with his hands on his hips and his feet spread apart, laughing – taking nothing seriously."

The Man of Bronze
Elements of Lester Dent's Doc Savage, one of Jerry Seigel's favorite adventure novels in high school, can be seen in Superman's universe.
It was Shuster's high school friend Jerry Seigel, however, that first conceived of Superman. When reporting for his high school newspaper the Glenville Torch, Seigel read and reveiwed numerous books. He gushed over the Doc Savage series of adventure novels written by Lester Dent under the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson, where "the Man of Bronze" possessed superhuman abilities – "a superman". Interestingly enough, Savage's first name was Clark, and he too has a "fortress of solitude." Edgar Rice Burrough impressed Seigel immensely with his imaginative stories Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. An awkward kid who was not much of a ladies man, Seigel retreated into a world of adventure, science fiction, and fantasy, and honed his writing skills reporting for the school newspaper. These high school experiences gave birth to Superman and his alter-ego, Clark Kent. Interestingly enough, the mild-mannered, bumbling Clark Kent was named after heartthrob screen legends Clark Gable and Kent Taylor.

"I wore spectacles and was a high school boy who wrote for the school newspaper," Seigel recalled in 1983. "Introverted, my thoughts kept dwelling on science-fiction, thriller pulp magazines and the movies … Those attractive girls in the classes and corriders didn't care that I existed. But!! If I were to wear a colorful, skintight costume! If I could run faster than a train, lift great weights easily, and leap over skyscrapers in a single bound! Then they would notice me!"

Jerry Seigel Clark Kent Joe Shuster
Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster drew on their own high school experiences as bumbling, insecure teenagers to create Superman's alter-ego, Clark Kent.
When Seigel showed Shuster his idea for a superhuman superhero, Shuster was estatic. He too shared Seigel's high school frustrations as an awkward, bespectacled teenager. Like Seigel, he was the original Clark Kent.

"He looked like the stereotypical 90-pound weakling getting sand kicked in his face," Joe's cousin Frank Shuster said in an interview with The Toronto Star. "And it later occurred to me that he was Clark Kent the sort of nebbish in glasses that everyone wanted to kick around but underneath he was the Man of Steel. It came from him being the quiet, pensive kid who sat there drawing, and underneath it all, really just wanting to have that strength and that power."

Seigel and Shuster's greatest conception, however, may be Superman's relationship with Lois Lane. As fans of the comic may know, Clark Kent is attracted to Lois Lane, but she thinks of him merely as a clumsy and annoying admirer. She does have feelings for Superman, however, because of his Superpowers and willingness to do good. Seigel and Shuster revealed in a Oct. 29, 1975 interview with the Washington Star that Lane was named for Lois Amster, a Cleveland girl that Shuster had a crush on in high school. Perhaps Lois' relationship with Superman and Clark Kent was Seigel and Shuster's way of finally getting the girl.

In the end, however, it was life that imitated art. In 1947, Seigel found himself dancing with a girl costumed as the popular comic-strip character Dixie Dugan in a constume party. Behind the mask was a woman named Joanne Carter, who had answered an ad for a artist's model when she lived in Cleveland. The artist was none other than Joe Shuster, and the sketches that he made of Carter became the basis for Lois Lane. In 1948, Seigel, the model for Clark Kent, married Carter, the model for Lois Lane. Apparently Superman's sex appeal found its way into the real world.

Created by: Erin Barnes • Dave Hendrick • Chris Yeung