In so many books I read about Jerry Siegel, the hardest years of his life were clearly the latter part of the ’60s up until the premiere of Superman: The Movie in 1978. It’s brutal to read about the creator of Superman living paycheck to paycheck and downsizing his living space frequently for the better part of two decades. Mention could also be made about the difficulties he went through in his personal life, or what Joe Shuster had to endure. It was certainly a black mark on the eye of DC Comics and the comics industry as a whole. Despite all the gloom and doom one reads about that point of Siegel’s career, there are some really amazing accomplishments during that time as well. For many, Siegel’s most charming, well-written Superman stories came during the Silver Age, chief among them being the original “Death of Superman.” He also wrote many, many Superman family stories, including Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl and Superboy, as well as the Legion of Superheroes during that same period which are remembered very fondly. The temper of Superman editor Mort Weisinger notwithstanding, Siegel reinvented himself during the Silver Age in a way that could easily be called the best work of his career. He gave DC fans a lot of great work to look back on during the period. Recently, I came to find out that Jerry also did some work for non-Superman comics during the late Silver Age, as well, which came as a surprise to me given everything he faced. There was forgettable output for some independent publishers, but also work for the Big Two, including a few collaborations with Stan Lee, among others (Marvel Tales and Strange Tales, in which he scripted some Kazar and Human Torch stories). Most surprisingly, in a recent run through of the Adam Strange: The Silver Age Omnibus, I found that he also wrote three issues of Adam Strange, perhaps my favorite DC character from that era! Remembering that Jerry Siegel’s entry into his most beloved genre of science fiction was the issue of Amazing Stories that featured a man flying with a jetpack on the cover, Jerry writing in 1965 about a hero with a jetpack felt so appropriate. Jerry Siegel and Lee Elias on Adam Strange was hardly Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino, but there was still a quaintness to his stories that I couldn’t help but find charming. Jerry’s work became more and more sparse by the late ’60s and early ’70s. Mystery in Space 99-100 and 102 were released a lot later than some of his more famous stories of the period. This was partly because as the decade rolled on, so did Siegel and Shustser’s lawsuit with DC, eventually culminating in them getting squeezed out of the company altogether, tragically, by the early ’70s. Every Superman fan knows the rest, and if you don’t, much has been written that you can check out. All in all, Siegel’s writing in the Silver Age was very impressive. He reinvented himself in an incredible way that few others have done, and in an era that had little in common with the era in which he got his start. While his Adam Strange comics aren’t issues that I will go back and reread often, they are still a wonderful feather in the hat of a great career.
2 thoughts on “Siegel and the Silver Age”
… and Jack Kirby’s experience too, and how many other creators whose work didn’t become as iconic but nevertheless earned money … which they didn’t see: the business-mind that operates without scruples has got a lot to answer for
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Yes, definitely. Sadly, it was part and parcel with a lot of creators and companies in those days. Thankfully, by the time Jenette Kahn came to power at DC, she made an effort to establish a fair royalty system, which has changed the lives of so many.
To put it into perspective, Len Wein once said he had made more money from the creation of Lucius Fox than he made from Wolverine!