Superman - The Real Story

Home Up Nancy's Poetry Kennywood Park True Stories? Superman P-51

Note: I have spent considerable time researching this subject and I wanted to share my thoughts with my nearest and dearest friends.
 

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Superman is a superhero that appears in comic books published by DC Comics, and is considered an American cultural icon. The Superman character was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster in 1933. Superman’s appearance is distinctive and iconic. He usually wears a blue costume, red cape, and stylized red-and yellow “S” shield on his chest. This shield is used in a myriad of media to symbolize the character. *

Jerry Siegel was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the youngest of six children of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania. *
Joseph "Joe" Shuster was a Canadian-American comic book artist. He was best known for co-creating the DC Comics character Superman, with writer Jerry Siegel, first published in Action Comics No. 1 (June 1938). *
*source - Wikipedia

All this is fact, but there is much of the story that you may not know. What you are about to discover is true, because I heard it from a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy, if you know what I mean.

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster lived in the Glenville area of Cleveland, a predominantly Jewish section of Cleveland at the time. Glenville was “the place to be”, and spawned many famous people, including sports journalist Hal Lebovitz, NFL Coach Benny Friedman, playwright Willie Gilbert, journalist Wilson Hirschfeld, and many more.

How Superman got his name.
Jerry and Joe had been working for months, developing the superhero character and writing action stories befitting the character of a superhero. The biggest problem facing them was to come up with a name for their character. They thought of many names, but couldn’t find the right one. The one they liked the best was Mister Fantastic, but they dismissed it, along with others such as Adventure Man, Titanica, Gigantua, and others. They were looking for a name that rolled off the tongue.

Murray K. Supperman lived in the neighborhood. Murray was one of those young geniuses that you have heard about. He graduated from Glenville High School at 16 and attained his business degree from Dyke College at 19 years of age. Murray was highly intelligent, but he had not acquired many social skills. In these days we would call Murray a nerd. The equivalent term in the 30’s was Crumb. Murray was a crumb, a fink, a loser by social standards. Murray was aware of this and wanted to be like the popular guys, Keen, or Neat.

Murray was an accountant, not a very exiting job by some standards, but something he was good at. As a typical accountant, he wore dress slacks, suspenders, a white dress shirt, and one of those green plastic visors on his head like the ones you see on the old movies.

Murray had no idea how to improve his popularity. One way, he thought, was to start getting his shirts monogrammed with his initials MKS. He tried this on a few dress shirts and some of the folks in his office started to see him in a different light. If you know anything about monograms, the last letter in the monogram is the predominant letter, and is placed in the center. Thus, his initials MKS in monogram form became MSK.

After many months of trying, Murray still had not become the cool (in today’s parlance) guy he wanted to be, so he tried something totally out of his comfort range. Murray sent for a Charles Atlas Muscle Building course and started doing the exercises on a daily basis.

During the warm summer days Jerry Seigel and Joe Schuster would move out to the front porch of Jerry’s house to do their work. Not many homes had air conditioning In the 1930’s. Murray would pass by occasionally and wave at Jerry and Joe, not knowing what they were doing. Sometimes, while walking the neighborhood for exercise, a couple of teenage girls would see Murray, wave and say “Hi”, giggle, and keep walking.

That was not the response that Murray wanted. He wanted the girls to stop and chat, but they continued to ignore him. He thought he might start going out without his horned-rimmed glasses, thinking that it would make him look more attractive. After all, his eyesight wasn’t very bad. He just needed the glasses for his accounting work. He also started doing more difficult Charles Atlas exercises. Before long, he was building more muscle and started growing out of his dress shirts. Some people noticed, but he was still held in slight regard socially.

Murray felt that he was almost keen enough, almost neat enough to get a girlfriend, but he wanted to try a new tactic. He started wearing work pants and t-shirts, but his dependence on suspenders did not quite bring him to the level of sharpness that he had expected. But he did not realize that the suspenders were a disadvantage.

He decided to show off his muscles, so he bought a tight-fitting, long-sleeved blue sweatshirt and had it altered to show a huge monogram.

His M S K monogram really stood out on that shirt. However, his suspenders covered the “M” and the “K”, so the only thing anyone would see was the big red “S”. Murray didn’t realize this, and on his daily walk past the Seigel house, Murray was approached by two typical teenage girls. To say they were typical would be to stereotype them. They wore the black saddle shoes, dark skirts with some kind of little fancy stitching on the bottom, white blouses and dark, woolen sweaters with only the top button fastened.
Murray saw them approaching and smiled. As the girls approached, they were impressed by the new Murray K. Supperman. They shouted almost simultaneously, “Murray Supperman, you look super, man”!

Jerry and Joe, sitting on the porch heard this. Jerry remarked to Joe, “He looks super, man”? Joe mimicked Jerry, repeating the words “super man, super man”. And it was then that the light bulbs went off in their heads, and they knew they had a name for their super hero, Superman.

And that’s how it really happened.

Richard V. Briscar