Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman / by Marc Tyler Nobleman, illustrated by Ross MacDonald
Title: Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman
Illustrator: Ross MacDonald
Economic concepts: child schooling and work, goods/services, producers, scarcity
Review: In the 1930s, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster lived on a fare of pulp magazines, comic strips, and action movies. While they dreamed of being heroic like the characters that populated the media, the two teenaged boys also worked on their own creative outputs. Jerry wrote science fiction works his teachers considered trashy, while Joe work on illustrations in his spare time. Eventually the duo thought of combining their respective talents and creating their own comic strip to sell to newspaper syndicates. But finding a unique hero was proving to be a problem. That is, until Jerry had a light bulb idea one night and dreamed up a hero who was an alien who came to earth to protect humans … “The real Earth, the Great Depression Earth. That was something different. The other heroes Jerry and Joe about were regular humans in strange places. This hero would be a stranger in a regular place.” And so Superman – and his alter ego Clark Kent – was born and that mythos has since become an ingrained part of our culture.
Nobleman tells the story of Siegel and Shuster’s famous creation against the backdrop of the Great Depression so readers will glean clues about the scarcity faced by many during that time period. For instance, the reader learns that when his family had no money to spare for art paper, Joe would resort to drawing on the back of butcher’s paper wrapping the family’s dinner or any other scraps of paper he could find. Other economic concepts are highlighted briefly in the duo’s search for an editor and the Superman character becoming a franchise. An author’s note at the end provides more details, particularly expounding on issues of copyright and payments to the Superman creators after their character took flight.
Reviewed by: Rutgers University Project on Children and Economics
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