I'm mentioning it here because it hasn't been mentioned elsewhere here
that I've seen, and because it's something pivotal to me, and my upbringing,
and the formation of my personality. And because you ought to know about it
if you don't already.
The other day, Jerry Siegel -- half of the team of Siegel and Shuster,
creators of the most widely known character ever to come out of comics, one of
the five most recognizeable characters on the planet (this by a survey not
long ago) -- passed away, following his partner Joe a few years earlier.
Jerry and Joe created Superman. I didn't have the honor or pleasure of
ever getting to meet them, but everything I have ever heard has shown them to
be decent, kind, generous people who got screwed out of their fair share in
the character who became a billion dollar industry. Bill Mumy, who is as much
a comics fan as I am, maybe moreso, had Jerry over to dinner once, with Bob
Kane and Jack Kirby; it was the night of his life. Jack is also gone, but
this is about Jerry. And it's about Superman.
I collect only a few things. Watches. I like watches. I don't have a
lot, but more than 3 is a collection, I'm told. Comics, sure, I got about
10,000 comics, most in storage, a lot in my office at home. But I've always
considered myself a comics reader, not a comics collector.
I *collected* Superman stuff. And I have one of the best collections on
the Western Seaboard: bronze rings from the 1940s, pinbacks, patches, mugs,
pins, figurines, Supermen of America membership badges, a cape made from the
original bolt, to the original patterns, as that made for George Reeves...you
name it, I got it.
Because when I was a kid, Superman was It. Because of that singular
character -- invulnerable, unstoppable, whose single goal was to find the
right thing and do it -- I decided that I could do anything I set my mind to
doing. Truth, justice, and the American way. Yeah, it's corny as hell, and
maybe it doesn't parse too well in a "stick it to 'em" society, but as a kid,
it *meant* something to me. Okay, I grudgingly accepted that I couldn't
fly...but otherwise, if I decided I wanted to do it, then by god I *could* do
it. If that meant teaching myself to read at an early age, or dealing with
the great personal angst of a family life that was dysfunctional on the best
of days, for which invulnerability was a quality much to be desired...or
deciding that someday I was gonna be a Writer, then that was what was going to
And to this day, my only agenda is to try and find the right thing, as
best as I am able to perceive the right, and do it. Because when you're a kid
you're young and foolish enough to believe there IS a Right Thing; you just
have to dig long enough and think hard enough and survive the kryptonite long
enough to figure it out. And you don't lie, you don't sell out your friends,
you put yourself on the line, and anybody who wants to hurt your friends has
to go through you first.
These are the lessons learned by a kid; they are tempered with time, but
they still shape the adult.
When you start as a nearsighted kid, who doesn't fit in with the new
school (and there was always a new school every 6-12 months), who believes he
just might have a little nascent talent waiting to come out, tall and gawky,
with stars in your eyes and a home life that would make the Borgias seem like
a tea party...how much of a leap is it really to see Clark Kent in the mirror,
and anticipate Superman...?
Maybe it's maudlin, maybe it's indulgent. Maybe it's over-wrought, and
maybe it's silly. But the concept and the character of Superman meant
something to me as a kid. Still does. And now the man who created Superman
is gone, and somebody ought to say something, however silly or indulgent or
maudlin it might be seen by others.
Because it's the right thing to do.
Bye. Give my regards to Joe. And Kandor. And Krypton. And Jor-El.
And Lara. What you created, endures. Rest easy.