Finding A Tribute To Super Creator Widow Of Superman Co-Creator Works On A Man-Of-Steel Memorial In Cleveland

By Michael Sangiacomo, The Plain Dealer
Publication Date: October 29, 1996 Page: 1B Section: METRO Edition: FINAL / ALL

Joanne Siegel remembered the house as being white. But the house she saw yesterday was a stark blue and red.

Faded posters and pictures of Superman in a window were the only acknowledgement that the superhero was born in a bedroom of this modest house on Kimberley Ave. more than six decades ago.

Joanne Siegel, widow of Superman co-creator Jerome Siegel, is in Cleveland to fulfill her late husband's wish to develop a fitting Superman memorial in the city.

She plans to speak with officials of several institutions, including the Western Reserve Historical Society and the Great Lakes Science Center, to decide what that memorial will be.

The legacy includes Jerry Siegel's typewriter, his glasses, photos and some of the filing cabinets full of his writings, letters and personal papers. It also includes a tall urn containing half of his ashes - one of his final requests.

A spokesman for Mayor Michael R. White said the city is prepared to do whatever it takes to honor the two men - Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster - who created an icon.

"We want to have something she can be proud of," Tracy Felder said. "We just have to help her find the right place for it."

Yesterday, Joanne Siegel tentatively walked up to the porch of her husband's former house and knocked on the door.

No one answered. She wrote a brief note explaining that she was the widow of the man who created Superman in that house, and wanted to pay her respects.

When she tried to find Shuster's former home at Amor Ave. and E. 105th St., she found a vacant lot. Like her own former home near E. 79th St. and Kinsman, it had been torn down.

Joanne Siegel first met the comic-writing duo around 1935. She was in junior high school then.

"I remember the day I came here to talk to an artist, `Mr. Shuster,' about a modeling job,' she said. She expected to be met by an older man, not the nervous boy who answered the door.

"Joe was taking art lessons, and felt that he needed someone to pose as the Lois Lane character for the Superman story. So I posed.

"I remember the day I met Jerry in Joe's living room," she continued. "Jerry was the model for Superman. He was standing there in a Superman-like pose. He said their character was going to fly through the air, and he leaped off the couch to demonstrate, and fell on the floor."

She remembers looking at the drawings and reading the story about how the Man of Steel came to Earth from a dying planet and found that he had "powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men." That origin would become something of a liturgy to millions of fans of the comic books, the radio and television series, and the movies.

"Joe was not so sure that they would be able to sell the idea, but I knew they would," she said.

She moved to Boston after high school to begin a modeling career, and kept in contact with Shuster over the years. In 1948, after a chance meeting at a party in New York, she met Jerry Siegel again. "We were married a couple months later," she said.

Over the years, others have proclaimed to be the models for Lois Lane or Clark Kent, but they are all wrong, Joanne Siegel said.

The teenage creators shopped their character around for six years before selling the concept to National Allied Periodicals, later called DC Comics. The first adventures ofSuperman appeared in "Action" No. 1 in 1938, and have been published continuously ever since.

A mint copy of "Action" No. 1, which sold for a dime in 1938, is valued today at $145,000. Only four perfect copies are known to exist.

Jerry Siegel went on to write for comics at DC through the 1970s, though much of his work was not credited.

Shuster died on July 30, 1992, in his western Los Angeles home at the age of 78. Jerry Siegel died Jan. 28 in a suburban Los Angeles hospital at the age of 81.