Superman continues to be one of the most successful and impactful superhero titles of all time. The adventures of this heroic character, along with the endless number of villains he has had to face, have filled comic books, movie screens and graphic novels for some time. Now fans can read the behind-the-scenes story of how Superman, the character, was created in the pages of Action Comics.
The Joe Shuster Story: The Artist Behind Superman explores the early days of writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster’s influential contribution to comic book lore. Those early issues of Action Comics proved to be historic, and Super Genius’ new title honors the tradition and retells the history.
At the center of the new graphic novel are writer Julian Voloj (Ghetto Brother) and artist Thomas Campi. Recently, Hollywood Soapbox exchanged emails with Voloj about the new project. Questions and answers have been slightly edited for style.
What inspired you to tell the story of Joe Shuster?
How not to be inspired? It’s the origin story of Superman and the American comic book industry! The story was begging to be told as a graphic novel. I’m surprised that no one else did it.
How influential was Superman on your comic book reading as a child?
I grew up mostly with European comics. I was not much into superheroes and have to admit that I was more a Batman fan. However, I have a collection of Superman comics dating back to the late 1960s. When I recently went through my old comic books, I discovered that from one issue to the other, Siegel and Shuster’s creator credit appears. As a kid, I never paid attention to this, but now it was an emotional discovery.
What do you love most about Superman?
He is the father of all superheroes. A true pioneer. Growing up, I never questioned how superheroes had their start. They were just something you would take for granted. Now having researched the backstory, it’s fascinating to see how Siegel and Shuster created from the culture that surrounded them something new, something that would inspire a whole industry. He really became the blueprint for the whole genre.
What did you find most surprising about Shuster‘s story?
To me the most surprising discovery was that the story was not as black-and-white as often assumed. Siegel and Shuster worked in the industry before Action Comics #1 was published. Them cashing in a check that would pass the rights to their creation to the publisher was business as usual. They were also not living in poverty, but for a decade had good salaries and a celebrity status. The story then takes a turn for the worse when they tried to sue their publisher. In comics, we often like to have good guys and bad guys; real life is not that way, and we show the more complex narrative in our graphic novel.
What was it like to work with Thomas Campi? Was it very collaborative?
Working with Thomas has been a pleasure. I’m based in New York; he’s in Australia, and we never met in person and only communicated with email and Skype. So the time difference was sometimes a challenge. I strongly believe in true collaboration between writer and illustrator, meaning each partner focuses on his/her strengths. My scripts don’t break down the pages into panels, but I trust the illustrator to create the best possible flow. In some cases, we had to go back and change certain details related to historic accuracy, but overall, Thomas had the artistic freedom he needed to create a masterpiece.
By John Soltes / Publisher / [email protected]
The Joe Shuster Story: The Artist Behind Superman, written by Julian Voloj with art by Thomas Campi, is now available from Super Genius. Click here for more information.