In 1933, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two Jewish teenagers from Ohio, fashioned an ideal personality called Superman and a narrative of his marvelous deeds. Little did they suspect that several years after conceptualizing the figure and their many vain attempts to sell
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In 1933, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two Jewish teenagers from Ohio, fashioned an ideal personality called Superman and a narrative of his marvelous deeds. Little did they suspect that several years after conceptualizing the figure and their many vain attempts to sell the story to various comic book publishers, their creation would give rise to the iconic genre of comic book superheroes. There is no doubt that the Superman character and the accompanying narrative led to Siegel and Shuster, the writer and artist, respectively, becoming famous. However, was it only the appealing character and compelling narrative that accounted for the story’s enormous popularity, which turned its creators into such a celebrated pair, or did the visual design play a major part in that phenomenal success? Recent years have seen a burgeoning interest in the comic book medium in several disciplines, including history, philosophy, and literature. However, little has been written about its visual aspect, and comic book art has not yet been accorded much recognition among art historians. Since the integration of storyline and art is what allow the comic book medium to be unique and interesting, I contend that there should be a focus on the art as well as on the narrative of works in comic books. In the present study, I explore the significance of the visual image in the prototype of the Superman figure that Siegel and Schuster sold to DC Comics and its first appearance in the series American Comic Books
. I argue that although the popularity of Superman’s first appearance was due to the conceptual ideals that the character embodied, the visual design of the ideal man was also an essential factor in its success. Accordingly, through a discussion of the first published Superman storyline, I emphasize the artistic-visual value of the figure of this protagonist in particular and the comic book medium in general.