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‘The Artist Behind Superman: The Joe Shuster Story’ (review)

Written by Julian Voloj
Illustrated by Thomas Campi
Published by Super Genius Comics
Released 5/15/18 / $19.99 TPB/$24.99 HC


I have written a few biographical theater pieces over the last few years. So I was very excited to read this take on the life of Joe Shuster, one of Superman creators.

I picked it up and read it from cover to cover. It’s a book every comic book reader should purchase. It’s a piece of the industry’s history.

Voloj’s story starts off with an older Joe Shuster sleeping on a park bench. That image alone of him looking so ragged is striking.  He is homeless and a police officer gets him a meal in a diner. It is then it is revealed he once drew Superman.

From there, we flashback to a young Joe. We see flashes of his life as a child.

Voloj introduces us to Shuster in a good, informational way. It’s very well researched and well done.

We learn that he loves comic strips and his favorite is Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McKay. That is where the seeds to his artistic hopes lie.

He then goes to Alexander Hamilton Junior High. He decides to join the school’s newspaper “The Federalist” to draw. It is there he meets Jerry Fine aka Jerry Siegel. We get to see the two boys become immediate friends and it makes you smile. Voloj does such a good job with these two characters that you almost forgot these two go on to create Superman.

But eventually they do create Superman. And what’s interesting is that they did extremely well by him. But then in 1948, they tried to get some control over Superman and are shown the door.

The pair are never as successful again.

This whole book is told from Shuster’s perspective. You may have heard the story before but it’s still horrifying to read. And to see it in this format, it adds another layer of sadness to the tale. Voloj shows us the human side of Shuster as he gets into Shuster’s head and his side of things. It’s mesmerizing at times.

The art by Campi is wonderful and really evokes the time period that this takes place in. It’s also very much in tune to Shuster’s emotions and is truly inventive.  He’s a very talented artist.

This book is a must for all comic book fans. It is the “secret origin” of the entire industry. Nothing exists in comics without Joe Shuster. And this is an amazing book to discover that piece of history.


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