A BIRTHDAY SALUTE: The co-creator of Superman was born 109 years ago on July 10, 1914…
By CHRIS RYALL
It wasn’t necessarily foretold that I’d go on to work in the comic-book industry, but as far as initial introductions to the creators behind the comics go, mine felt pretty special.
It was the mid-1970s and I was already a bit of a comic fanatic, despite not being so adept at actually reading them yet. I had an older brother who collected Marvels at a steady clip, so I basically remember comic books being in my hand from my first moment of sentience.
Which isn’t so uncommon to many of us who came of age in the Bronze Age – there were only so many entertainment options available at the time – but this all felt like a relevant story to relay today of all days.
I don’t recall the year – 1975 or 1976 – but my mother, my biggest comic-book enabler, took us kids to a comic convention in Los Angeles, a couple hours north of us. How she even knew about such things, I have no idea, but that’s just how it was – she somehow always knew just what we needed, and just how to encourage what has become a lifetime source of enjoyment.
I don’t remember much about this “Casual Con,” the name on the little convention booklet I managed to keep all these years. Even digging deep online, I turned up nothing about the show. But I remember enough.
I remember meeting an old man at the show, a man who in my mind’s eye was 120 but in reality, was more like early 60s. He was kindly, I recall that much, and he took my little pamphlet of a convention booklet and signed something on it for me.
I went about my day. In fact, when I got home, I took a pencil and scribbled beards, eye patches, and snaggleteeth on the faces that ran alongside the “Autographs” page.
When I came across this program years later, and read the autograph and became aware of its importance, I did my best to erase all the pencil markings. I did an OK job but you can see from the image below that Doctor McCoy’s face lost a bit of detail along the way. But I cleaned it up best I could, and then had my mom seal the program in contact paper to preserve it. (I don’t even know what contact paper is now, I just recall that it was in regular use at my house at the time. A kind of waxy, mostly clear wallpaper that was applied to book covers, school folders (notably my Marvel Mead folders, which seemed to tear easily), you name it.
Whatever the case, the program lasted, the inked signature hasn’t totally faded, and it remains a truly unique piece of my comic collection. I never quite got the “autograph gene” but this one means the world to me.
And like I say, if I needed some kind of sign or portent about a future in comics, well, it’s hard to do better than this one, which was provided by a gent who was born 109 years ago today.
The autograph? It’s pictured below and in so many ways, it’s a product of its time – the nice note rather than just a signature, the care with which this creator put down each word. I doubt he knew that this signature would have the near half-century impact that it’s had but it sure has.
“To Chris,” it reads, “With best wishes from the Artist CREATOR of SUPERMAN, Joe Shuster.”
He sure was.
I was a Marvel kid and yet one of my most beloved books from childhood was and still is Superman: From the ’30s to the ’70s, which is where I first experienced Shuster’s landmark creation. But even before that, I had the good fortune to experience the man himself.
Happy birthday to you from across time and space, Joe. I wish comics had been as kind to you as you were to me that day.
— The TOP 13 SIEGEL AND SHUSTER SUPERMAN Stories — RANKED. Click here.
— PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite SUPERMAN Influences. Click here.
Chris Ryall is the co-owner/publisher of Image Comics imprint Syzygy Publishing. His latest series is Tales of Syzpense, out now.