i got hooked on comic books by superman’s grandmother

I remember one of my babysitters when I was young. She was old, with white hair, and she came in from Long Island where she lived. She told me that her husband (as I remember it) had created Superman, and sometimes she brought some of the comic books for me to look at. This was back when old comic books were just old comic books, not valuable collectables.

I remembered her years later, when the first Superman movie was coming out. Until that point, the two men who had created Superman had received virtually nothing for their creation, because of a contract they had signed when they were very young. With the movie coming out, however, and all the money being made from tickets and toys and so on, it was rather embarrassing that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who had created the character in the first place, were living in near poverty. So, they were given a small pension for the rest of their lives.

But, thinking about this today, I went to Wikipedia and found this:

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.

So, it was apparently his mother who I was remembering, not his wife, and it says something about their finances at that time that she had to babysit in order to make money.

I've traced back the timeline, and it is possible that this was my first exposure to comic books. The first comic book I bought was Fantastic Four #26 ("The Avengers Take Over"), which was dated May 1964. We moved to the city in 1963, but there's no way to tell the exact sequence of events.

So, it is possible (maybe even probable) that I got hooked on comic books by the mother of one of the men who created Superman. That could help explain why the addiction has been so persistent.

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8 Responses to i got hooked on comic books by superman’s grandmother

  1. sonje says:

    What an AMAZING story! That must be so cool to have a tangible connection to…SUPERMAN! Did she give you the comic books or just let you look at them? If she gave them to you, do you still have them?

    • She just brought them to me to look at. If she had given them to me, they’d be long gone. If nothing else, sold for money at some point (and under the circumstances I would have felt bad about that). Hey, I paid my rent once with the first 51 issues of Cerebus the Aardvark and the first ten issues of Nexus.

      (The weird thing is that I never was a huge Superman fan.)

  2. A lovely story, indeed. Wow. Thanks for sharing. It must be incredible to look back now and understand the cultural significance of that experience.

    • Well, the funny thing was that she didn’t completely understand it either, I think, or she wouldn’t have been so cheerful about the whole thing. It was only when the first Superman movie was going to come out that they really started to protest about how they had been treated.

  3. That’s an interesting “small world” story.

    I think these days artists and writers are a little more savvy about these things, and are less likely to sell their birthrights for a mess of pottage…

  4. Well, also I think it’s unusual these days for people as young as they were to be able to create big-time comic book characters as they did. Jim Shooter (a long-time writer and editor whose career began in the 1960s) started as a high school student who needed money. He sent in scripts, and he even did rough layouts (he didn’t know he was supposed to get paid more for that, and they didn’t tell him). I don’t think it’s that easy to get into the field these days.

    But ownership of the characters is still an issue, especially now that so many of them are being made into major motion pictures. The guy who created Ghost Rider not only doesn’t get any money from the movies, he’s now legally prevented from even identifying himself as the creator of the character.

  5. SB Roberts says:

    Now that’s a great introduction to comics! 🙂

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