"That was one important day in our lives", recalled Shuster. "We just sat down and I worked straight through. I think I had brought some sandwiches to eat, and we worked all day long. I was caught up in Jerry's enthusiasm, and I started drawing as fast as I could use my pencil."
"When I saw the drawings that were emerging from his pencil, I almost flipped", recalled Siegel.
The concept was simple: and extraordinary hero with a most secret identity. Besides the all-powerful superman, another equally important character was created that day: Clark Kent. He born due to both adolescents desire; about being more powerful and more desirable to the opposite sex.
"Superman would have a dual identity, and in one of them he could use glasses the way I do", recalled Siegel. Shuster feeled the same way. But to be true, the dual-identity was not born with superman. Scarlet Pimpirnel, the adventurer of the French Revolution, in Baroness Orczy's novel, Child of the Revolution, had a double life as costumed protector of the innocent, and also the Mark of the Zorro, one of Siegel and Shuster's favorite saturday matinee movies, featured Douglas Faribanks Sr. as the son of a XIX century aristocrat who masqueraded as an avenging swordman against evil.
Among other reference characters were Philip Wylie's 1930 novel Gladiator, featured by a superman hero called Hugo Danner, who could leap 40ft in the air, lift automobiles and deflect bullets off his invulnerable skin. Also Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan of the Apes, Shuster collected and studied the Tarzan newspaper strips by Hal Foster. Siegel considered the ape man the greatest hero action of all times. The third strongman was Popeye the Sailor.
This time Superman weared a cape, thanks to Fairbanks movie heros, and also in order to create a sense of movement, the feeling of action as he was flying or jumping for leaping. The costume evolved out of dresses of classic heroes and strongmen. Originally he wared sandals laced half way to the calf, that were covered in red to look like boots by the printer.
The "S" insignia on his chest was added to make the costume distinctive. Shuster recalled they wanted to put something in front of superman as trademark like the first letter of the character's name. "We thought S was perfect. Afer we came up with it, we kiddingly said: 'well, it's the first letter of Siegel and Shuster!"
But superman was also an alien from another planet, a science fiction character. "The John Carter stories did influence me. Carter was able to leap up great distances because Mars is smaller than Earth, and he had great strenght. I visualized Krypton as a great planet, much larger than Earth; so a kryptonian would be able to leap great distances and leap up great weigths."
There were other comic strips with science fiction elements, like Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon, but they were ordinary people in extraordinary circunstances and places. Superman was an extraordinary person in the most ordinary place and time: present day America (that's the 30's, or course) A powerful upsetting innovation.
Ironically this innovation made the strip so inusual it would have a very difficult time finding and open-minded editor or publisher....
to be continued...