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Joseph Shuster

Birthdate: (78)
Birthplace: Toronto, Toronto Division, ON, Canada
Death: July 30, 1992 (78)
Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA (Hypertension, Heart failure)
Immediate Family:

Son of Julius Shuster and Ida Shuster
Brother of Jean Peavy and Frank Shuster

Occupation: Co-Creator of Superman Comics
Managed by: Kevin Lawrence Hanit
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Joe Shuster

Joseph "Joe" Shuster (July 10, 1914 - July 30, 1992) was a Canadian comic book artist. He was best known for co-creating the DC Comics character Superman, with writer Jerry Siegel, first published in Action Comics #1 (June 1938). He grew up in Cleveland, Ohio.

Shuster was involved in a number of legal battles concerning the ownership of the Superman character, eventually gaining recognition for his part in its creation. His comic book career after Superman was relatively unsuccessful, and by the mid-1970s Shuster had left the field completely due to partial blindness.

He and Siegel were inducted into both the comic book industry's Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1993. In 2005, the Canadian Comic Book Creator Awards Association instituted the Joe Shuster Awards, named to honor the Canadian-born artist.

Early life and career

Joseph Shuster was born in Toronto, Ontario to a Jewish family. His father, Julius, an immigrant from Rotterdam, South Holland, the Netherlands, and his mother Ida, who had come from Kiev in Ukraine, were barely able to make ends meet. As a youngster, Shuster worked as a newspaper boy for the Toronto Daily Star and, as a hobby, he liked to sketch. He had one sister, Jean Peavy. One cousin is comedian Frank Shuster of the Canadian comedy team Wayne and Shuster. When Joe Shuster was 10, his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio.

In Cleveland, Shuster attended Glenville High School and befriended his later collaborator, writer Jerry Siegel, with whom he began publishing a science fiction fanzine called Science Fiction. Siegel described his friendship with the similarly shy and bespectacled Shuster: "When Joe and I first met, it was like the right chemicals coming together."

The duo broke into comics at Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson's National Allied Publications, the future DC Comics, working on the landmark New Fun — the first comic-book series to consist solely of original material rather than using any reprinted newspaper comic strips — debuting with the musketeer swashbuckler "Henri Duval" and the supernatural crime-fighter strip Doctor Occult, both in New Fun #6 (Oct. 1935).

Creation of Superman

Action Comics #1 (June 1938), the debut of Superman. Cover art by Shuster.Siegel and Shuster created a bald telepathic villain named "The Superman", bent on dominating the entire world. He appeared in the short story "The Reign of the Super-Man" from Science Fiction #3, a science fiction fanzine that Siegel published in 1933. The character was not successful. Siegel eventually devised the more familiar version of the character, after reading his script, Shuster modeled the hero on Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and his bespectacled alter ego, Clark Kent, on Harold Lloyd. Siegel and Shuster then began a six-year quest to find a publisher. Titling it The Superman, Siegel and Shuster offered it to Consolidated Book Publishing, who had published a 48-page black-and-white comic book entitled Detective Dan: Secret Operative No. 48. Although the duo received an encouraging letter, Consolidated never again published comic books. Shuster took this to heart and, by varying accounts, either burned every page of the story, with the cover surviving only because Siegel saved it from the fire, or he tore the story to shreds, with only two cover sketches remaining. Siegel and Shuster each compared this character to Slam Bradley, an adventurer the pair had created for Detective Comics #1 (May 1939). In 1938, after that proposal had languished among others at More Fun Comics — published by National Allied Publications, the primary precursor of DC Comics — editor Vin Sullivan chose it as the cover feature for National's Action Comics #1 (June 1938). The following year, Siegel & Shuster initiated the syndicated Superman comic strip.

Siegel and Shuster's status as children of Jewish immigrants is also thought to have influenced their work. Timothy Aaron Pevey has argued that they crafted "an immigrant figure whose desire was to fit into American culture as an American", something which Pevey feels taps into an important aspect of American identity.

When Superman first appeared, Superman's alter ego Clark Kent worked for the Daily Star newspaper, named by Shuster after the Toronto Daily Star, his old employer in Toronto. According to an interview he gave a few months before his death, he modeled the cityscape of Superman's home city, Metropolis, on that of his old hometown. When the comic strip received international distribution, the company permanently changed the name to The Daily Planet.

In the same interview, Shuster stated that he modeled the look of Clark Kent after both himself and movie star Harold Lloyd, and that of Superman after Douglas Fairbanks Sr. He modeled Lois Lane after Joanne Carter, the woman who would later marry Jerry Siegel.

Legal issues

Shuster became famous as the co-creator of one of the most well-known and commercially successful fictional characters of the 20th century. National Allied Publications claimed copyright to his and Siegel's work, and when the company refused to compensate them to the degree they believed appropriate, Siegel and Shuster, in 1946, near the end of their 10-year contract to produce Superman stories, sued National over rights to the characters. They ultimately settled the claim for $94,000 after the court ruled against them — but that the rights to Superman had been validly purchased by the publisher when they bought the first Superman story. After the bitter legal wrangling, Shuster and Siegel's byline was dropped by DC comics. In 1947, the team rejoined editor Sullivan, by then the founder and publisher of the comic-book company Magazine Enterprises where they created the short-lived comical crime-fighter Funnyman. While Siegel continued to write comics for a variety of publishers, Shuster largely dropped out of sight.

Later career

Shuster continued to draw comics after the failure of Funnyman, although exactly what he drew is uncertain. Comic historian Ted White wrote that Shuster continued to draw horror stories into the 1950s. In 2009, comics historian Craig Yoe said Shuster was one of the anonymous illustrators for Nights of Horror, an underground sadomasochistic fetish comic-book series. This was based on character similarities, and comparison of the artistic style between the illustrations and those of the cast of the Superman comics.

In 1964, when Shuster was living on Long Island with his elderly mother, he was reported to be earning his living as a freelance cartoonist; he was also "trying to paint pop art — serious comic strips — and hope[d] eventually to promote a one-man show in some chic Manhattan gallery". At one point, his worsening eyesight prevented him from drawing, and he worked as a deliveryman in order to earn a living. By 1976, Shuster was almost blind and living in a California nursing home.

In 1967, when the Superman copyright came up for renewal, Siegel launched a second lawsuit, which also proved unsuccessful.

In 1975, Siegel launched a publicity campaign, in which Shuster participated, protesting DC Comics' treatment of him and Shuster. In the face of a great deal of negative publicity over their handling of the affair (and due to the upcoming Superman movie), DC's parent company Warner Communications reinstated the byline dropped more than thirty years earlier and granted the pair a lifetime pension of $20,000 a year plus health benefits. The first issue with the restored credit was Superman #302 (August 1976). Shuster died in Los Angeles, California in 1992.

Awards and honors

In 1985, DC Comics named Shuster as one of the honorees in the company's 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great. In 1992, Shuster was inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. In 2005, Shuster was inducted into the Joe Shuster Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame for his contributions to comic books. The Joe Shuster Awards, started in 2005, were named in honor of the Canadian-born Shuster, and honor achievements in the field of comic book publishing by Canadian creators, publishers and retailers. In Shuster's home town of Toronto, the street Joe Shuster Way is named in his honor.


Comics work (interior pencil art) includes:


Crime and Justice #20-21 (1954) Hot Rods and Racing Cars #20 (1955) Space Adventures #11-13 (1954) Strange Suspense Stories #19, 21-22 (1954) This Magazine is Haunted #18-20 (1954)


Action Comics #1-24 (1938–40) Adventure Comics #32-41, 103-109 (1938–46) Detective Comics #1-32 (1937–39) More Fun Comics (diverse stories): #10-48; (Superboy): #101-105, 107 (1936–46) New Comics (then, New Adventure Comics) #2-31 (1936–38) New York's World Fair #1-2 (1939) Superman #1-4 (1939–40)

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Joe Shuster's Timeline

July 10, 1914
Toronto, Toronto Division, ON, Canada
July 30, 1992
Age 78
Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA