Tuesday, May 16, 2017

0012: Check-off's Siegel

[Before I go any further, brownie points to anybody who got the title pun for this post. If you don't get it at all, let me know in the comments.]

Many small comics publishers don't make much (or any) profit,  but few announce it for the record. Fandom House, based in Colorado, probably published around or about twenty comics from 1982 to 1990. Even so, they had at least two imprints, True Fiction Publications and Sputnik Press. And if we are to believe the indicia from the inside front cover reproduced below, they did it as a non-profit publisher. That may be how they were able to get the last two published scripts by Jerry Siegel. At least I think they're the last. I've spent the last few days scrolling through databases online (never rely on just one) trying to find anything scripted since then. There were some new text pieces, most notably a remembrance of Joe Schuster that ran in the Superman titles with November 1992 cover dates. (Schuster died that July and the text pieces were in stores by September; Siegel himself passed away early in 1996.) However, when I found this recently, which I had pulled out of a bargain bin because it had a scrap of Matt Howarth art in it, and found a Jerry Siegel writing credit for what appeared to be a new story it prompted me to ask, "Well, what was the last new Jerry Siegel story to be published?" As a comics fan, shouldn't I already know that?" After having done a little research I've concluded that you shouldn't be beating yourself up if you don't. Check it out:


Above we have the cover to "Near To Now" #1 (Summer/1987), a B&W science fiction comics anthology. 32 pages plus cover, no ads, for $2.00. Siegel's contribution was the script to an 11 page story called "It's Sgt. Space Cop!", illustrated by Scott M.F. Johnson, who also contributed to "Astronauts in Trouble" years later. A note from Johnson about his predictable reaction to being offered the job can be seen in the scan of the inside front cover, above right. There was one other issue later in the fall, but Siegel wasn't in it. The actual last script was (I believe) the origin story for Sgt. Space Cop which ran in a 64 page "Near To Now Special" in 1990 which Fandom House released under the Sputnik Press imprint. I'll keep an eye out for that; I might have bought it years ago and put it in a box of miscellaneous indie comics because it was an anthology from a publisher name that couldn't fill a box of its own.

What I knew of Siegel, aside from the fact that he and Schuster created Superman, is that he had been screwed over by DC for years as editors and administrators exploited the fact that he obviously had some sort of socialization disorder long before there was even a terminology to deal with it. He had been given several 'one-time' settlements over his claim to Superman profits, which even combined didn't amount to a fraction of the licensing revenue taken in by Superman, Inc. (a company separate from DC set up by its owners specifically to market Superman). He often worked in obscurity and under pseudonyms while getting fewer and fewer assignments at DC in the 60's. Some of the Human Torch solo stories over at Marvel were actually written by Siegel, as were many of the Red Circle hero stories over at Archie. Then his bitter private feud with DC became very public and very messy very quick when the Superman movie came out in the late 1970's.

Over at Marvel, Steve Gerber tried to assert control over his character Howard the Duck and was promptly removed from the title by editor-in-chief Jim Shooter (who, not so coincidentally, was the kid that DC editor Mort Weisinger hired to replace Siegel scripting Legion of Super-Heroes stories in Adventure Comics). Jack Kirby, who was writing and drawing several titles for Marvel left abruptly at about that time as well. In 1980, Eclipse published Gerber's graphic novel "Stewart the Rat", the same year that he and Kirby saw their "Thundarr The Barabarian" debut on television. In 1982, when Eclipse decided to publish their first color comic, it was Gerber and Kirby's "Destroyer Duck". Next, they did a colorized two-issue reprint of their first graphic novel, Don McGregor's and Paul Gulacy's "Sabre". By January 1983, both titles became ongoing series, with a new Jerry Siegel feature, "The Starling", as the back-up feature in "Destroyer Duck". Val Mayerick (the original Howard the Duck artist) drew "The Starling" and it ran until "Destroyer Duck" ended with issue #7. Unable to find publishers for his often off-kilter story ideas, Siegel found a receptive audience for stories about his and Schuster's early struggles to enter the industry. Eclipse published two issues of "Dateline: 1930's", full of rejected newspaper strip proposals, et al. A two issue set reprinting stories drawn by Ralph Reese included a 1974 Skywald story scripted by Siegel. Then, in spring of 1987, shortly before "Near To Now" #1 was published, Eclipse published a 3-D comic reprinting 1951 Ziff-Davis "Lars Of Mars" stories drawn by Murphy Anderson, including a previously unpublished (?) 12-pager. So, in the ten years since the Superman movie brought him to the awareness of the general public he was able to parlay that into 48 pages of "The Starling" in color and 20+(?)  pages of "Sgt. Space Cop" in B&W. In the meantime, there were three more Superman movies.

Here's the first page of that Sgt. Space Cop. There are too many obscure text bits by Siegel, including letters to fanzines, forewords and blurbs, to track down but maybe I could use this space to provide a checklist of latter day Siegel works.

(Eclipse Comics)
⌂ Destroyer Duck #2
⌂ Destroyer Duck #3
⌂ Destroyer Duck #4
⌂ Destroyer Duck #5
⌂ Destroyer Duck #6
⌂ Destroyer Duck #7
⌂ Dateline 1930's #1
⌂ Dateline 1930's #2
⌂ Reese's Pieces #2
⌂ Lars of Mars 3-D #1
(Fandom House)
⌂ Near To Now #1
⌂ Near To Now Special #1

Now you can check off Siegel as you find him.

Researching these are kind of fun. If readers have any suggestions for examining 'missing' periods of a creator's career, I can't make any promises but I'll consider digging through old files to see what I can find out.

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