Catering to comics junkies, this vibrant and well-researched picture book biography introduces the youthful inventors of Superman, who this year celebrates his 70th anniversary. Writer Jerry Siegel and illustrator Joe Shuster are mild-mannered everymen whose reflective glasses conceal their eyes-and their potential. In a crowded high school hallway, Jerry wishes he could be with his "friends," and a turn of the page reveals Tarzan, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. Joe, "lousy at sports and mousy around girls," draws sci-fi heroes with a passion. In 1934, when both are 20, Jerry dreams up the Superman concept and Joe draws prototypes labeled "S" for " 'super.' And for 'Siegel' and 'Shuster.' " In June 1938, their creation launches in Action Comics. Nobleman details this achievement with a zest amplified by MacDonald's (Another Perfect Day) punchy illustrations, done in a classic litho palette of brassy gold, antique blue and fireplug red. MacDonald's Depression-era vignettes picture Siegel pondering his superhero's powers and the friends casting a single, caped shadow. A cautionary afterword chronicles their protracted financial struggles with DC Comics-when Siegel and Shuster sold their first Superman story, they also sold all rights to the character, for $130. Ages 10-up. (July)
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Starred Review, Booklist, June 1, 2008:
“[T]his robust treatment does [Shuster and Siegel’s] story justice.”
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2008:
"The battle for truth and justice is truly never-ending."
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, June 23, 2008:
“Nobleman details this achievement with a zest amplified by MacDonald's … punchy illustrations.”
This is the story of two "boys of steel," Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, creators of the Superman comic strip. Both Joe and Jerry grew up during the Great Depression, during which they endured hardships and difficult living conditions. Both were somewhat outcasts at school, having limited friendships and little interest in sports or other school functions. However, they both had magnificent imaginations and shared a passion for writing and drawing. The two boys became strong friends in high school and developed into a perfect team. They produced several comics, which were rejected. Then, they struck on the idea of Superman. Although it was rejected four times before it was accepted, Superman became an instant hit. In the years since, the character and his story have been transformed into many forms of enjoyable media. Nobleman's account is an engaging and informative read. The illustrations are well-designed to evoke the historical, 1930s setting. The story is inspiring in its messages about teamwork and perseverance. The final three pages develop the story of Joe and Jerry further, highlighting the injustices and morality of the publishing business. Reviewer: Charles E. Kreinbucher
School Library Journal
Nobleman portrays teenaged Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster as outcasts who found solace in the world of pulp magazines and comics. Their peers did not understand their fascination with tales of musclemen and detectives with gadgets, and their teachers deemed the stories that they loved to write and illustrate "trash." Despite these obstacles, the two friends continued writing and illustrating, and in 1934, Siegel had an avalanche of ideas about a new type of hero that he then shared with Shuster, who drew the first concept illustrations of Superman. It took another four years, however, before the superhero would make his public debut in Action Comics #1. MacDonald's illustrations are a tribute to 1930s pulp art, from the lines of the characters outlined in brown to the washes of yellow in the background. While the layout remains primarily in picture-book format, comic-book elements appear sporadically, such as with phrases separated from the rest of the text and placed in oval bubbles. One spread also uses panels to depict Siegel's thoughts as he conceptualized Superman. The story ends with the young men successfully landing a publisher. The afterword fills in more of the details, including Siegel and Shuster's long-running battle with DC Comics for a greater share of the profits, how their Jewish background affected Superman during World War II, and their final years. Boys of Steel is a solid introduction to the history of Superman's creation, especially for children who find an outlet in storytelling and art.-Kim T. Ha, Elkridge Branch Library, MD
Ask children where the Man of Steel comes from, and they may answer "Metropolis" or, if they're well read, "Krypton." In fact, he came from Cleveland, the invention of two "meek, mild and myopic" Depression-era teenagers. Drawing incidents and dialogue directly from a range of published interviews and other accounts, Nobleman shows how Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster parlayed a steady diet of Tarzan, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon into a new kind of Hero, with superhuman abilities and a secret identity not so different from, well, themselves. Tongue resolutely in cheek, MacDonald switches between full page and comics-style panels, portraying the young writer and artist in Superman-style poses-stooped and nerdy by day but standing solidly, hands on hips and looking larger-than-life when working on their creation. In his afterword, Nobleman retraces Superman's role in World War II and beyond, filling in the sorry tale of how Siegel and Shuster were cheated of fortune and fame by DC Comics. The battle for truth and justice is truly never-ending. (Picture-book biography. 7-10)