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Clevelander Joe Shuster's Story Takes Flight in Graphic Novel

illustrations by Thomas Campi [courtesy: Supergenius Comics]

Without two Cleveland kids from Glenville High School, Superman never would've taken flight. 

Those two kids, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, fought for decades to get the recognition they deserved for creating the Man of Steel, which became a huge moneymaker for DC Comics- but not for them. 

Now their story of financial hardship is the subject of a graphic novel, told specifically from the point of view of the artist in "The Joe Shuster Story" by writer Julian Voloj and illustrator Thomas Campi. 

While there are books written about Superman's creators, Voloj had something else in mind.

"I was basically waiting for someone to tell the story of Siegel and Shuster in comic book form.  I thought that was a no brainer to do," Voloj said.

Telling the story as a graphic novel is a fitting tribute to Cleveland's comic book legends.

"I think people who are not hardcore Superman fans would never pick up a 500 page non-fiction book.  But they might be interested in this, because this is a story that's interesting even if you're not interested in heroes," he said.

As Voloj was researching Siegel and Shuster's story he discovered a treasure trove of Shuster's old letters at Columbia University.

"I got access to it even before the whole thing got cataloged, so I could read about his hardship firsthand.  That was quite touching because you never really hear about his perspective," he said.

Voloj and his collaborator, Campi, made sure to weave in the various pop culture influences that inspired Siegel and Shuster in the 30s like Zorro, Tarzan and the film, "Metropolis."

"They really created something new out of all the existing [pop] culture that was really there," he said.

For Voloj, Shuster's legacy is that he created the look of the modern superhero.

"If you ask a kid to draw a superhero it would be more or less a copy of Superman.  He would have a cape, he'd have a costume, he'd have a shield on his chest.  [Shuster] created an iconic look.  In a way every artist working on superheroes is working in the tradition of Joe Shuster," he said.

The Joe Shuster Story: The Artist Behind Superman by Julian Voloj and Thomas Campi is published by Supergenius Comics

View this post on Instagram @julianvoloj talks to @dcbstream about #joeshuster Story #superman creators #siegelandshuster for more visit Applause.ideastream.org and listen to 90.3 FM #supergeniuscomics #thomascampi

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Dave DeOreo is coordinating producer for Ideastream Public Media’s arts and culture team.