Case Western Reserve University teacher wrote the book on Superman



CLEVELAND, Ohio — Brad Ricca knows enough about Superman to write a book. So he did.

His effort, “Super Boys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster — the Creators of Superman,” will be released June 4 from St. Martin’s Press.

“The history of Superman is tied to Cleveland,” said Ricca, and he points out several instances in his book where Siegel and Shuster clearly were influenced by the news of the city and the state.

“Superman rescues workers from a coal mine cave-in shortly after miners were trapped in southern Ohio. Superman stops car accidents and busts gambling rings, which were big problems in the real world Cleveland,” said Ricca, a lecturer in Case Western Reserve University’s English department, where he also teaches a course in comic books.

Siegel and Shuster lived in Cleveland as they produced dozens of Superman adventures set in the mythical Metropolis. Yet, they sneaked their city and the area into several issues, the book recounts.

Proof that Siegel intended to use Cleveland as a setting instead of Metropolis is found in “Action Comics” No. 2, where Clark Kent is identified as a reporter at the Cleveland Evening News, the book says. In that same issue, he files a report over the phone and says, “Send this to Cleveland.”

It started in “Action Comics” No. 1, where Kent responds to a wife beating at 211 Court Ave., which was the address of the Canton bureau of The Plain Dealer at the time.

Coincidence? Not likely. Jerry and Joe desperately wanted to get their super-creation into the comics pages of the Plain Dealer and other newspapers, Ricca said.

Thereafter though, Superman’s base is Metropolis. The publishers presumed people could relate to a city modeled after New York, the book says.

In 1948, DC Comics produced a four-page Superman comic called “Superman and the Great Cleveland Fire,” which raised money for city hospitals after the catastrophic 1944 gas explosion that killed 131 people and destroyed one square mile of the city .

References to Ohio continued, the book says. In 1992, the villain Doomsday, who would eventually “kill” Superman (he got better), emerged out of the ground in Upper Sandusky. The Justice League fought him somewhere outside Youngstown and lost. Doomsday trudged on to Metropolis where he had a battle royal with Superman.

During his “walk across America” in 2010, Superman made it to the suburbs of Cincinnati. He never got to Cleveland, but did stop in Danville, a thinly disguised Glenville.

“Super Boys” is a follow-up to an award-winning documentary Ricca put together on the life of Siegel and Shuster called “Last Son.” The film, which was not commercially released, won the Silver Ace Award at the Las Vegas Film Festival in 2010.

Ricca, 42, of Cleveland, said he has read Superman comics as long as he can remember. He said he did not believe it when his father told him Superman was created by two boys who lived in the same city he did. It was almost too huge to contemplate.

Superman is a man with great power, power enough to destroy or dominate the world, but he uses his power only for good, Ricca said. He’s sometimes criticized for being old fashioned, a “Super Boy Scout,” but that is the essence of the character and maybe the reason for his longevity.

Ricca said the milestone 75th anniversary of Superman is a rare thing for a pop culture icon.

“For us, 75 years is a lifespan,” he said. “In popular culture, it’s even more huge. Nothing lasts that long. There was a time a trend lasted 10 years, now they die out in months. ‘The Avengers’ movie made $1.4 billion and everyone knows who they are. If not for Superman, there would be no Avengers.

“Superman was the first of his kind, the first superhero,” Ricca said. “He started it all.”



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