Superman of Tomorrow? Or of Krypton? Wayback Whensday Origins Issue

The recent auction of a three page synopsis sent by Superman creator Jerry Siegel to cartoonist Russell Keaton has once more brought the various early incarnations of Superman to the public.

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster‘s first Superman appeared as a short story in Jerry’s science fiction fanzine appropriately called Science Fiction in early 1933. In The Reign of the Superman the title character was a villain.

Jerry rethought Superman and partnering with Joe Shuster recreated the villain into a hero and as a comic. Interest was shown by a comic book publisher but after the Superman comic book was completed the publisher had either lost interest. Of that 1933 collaboration only the cover remained.

Now Jerry thought perhaps a different artist might be more acceptable to the comic strip syndicates and so he contacted a number of established comic artists, Russell Keaton showed interest in a reimagined Superman.

Siegel decided that he might have a better chance of selling comics to a publisher if he could collaborate with a well-known artist. So he ended his collaboration with Shuster and wrote to several artists, including Hal Foster, who drew the Sunday Tarzan strip; legendary illustrator J. Allen St. John, who had illustrated a number of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books; and Leo O’Mealia, who drew the Fu Manchu comic strip.

Siegel then wrote to Russell Keaton, who worked on Buck Rogers and his own Skyroads strip. Keaton provided some samples of artwork for a Superman strip [link added] but later backed out, probably because of Siegel’s lack of experience or expertise.

The letter to Keaton visualizes Superman as a human from the far future.

Back with his partner on a number of comic book features Seigel and Shuster finally sell their creation not to a comic strip syndicate as hoped but to a comic book company. Superman debuts in Action Comics #1 in 1938.

As explained on the first page of Action Comics #1 this Superman is now a refuge from a distant planet.

This origin story would be expanded in January 1939 when Jerry and Joe’s dream of a comic strip came true.

Since then Superman as a “strange visitor from another planet” has become canon.

A more involved history of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in the 1930s can be read at Kandor Archives.