Welcome to the two-hundred and tenth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous two hundred and nine.
Comic Book Legends Revealed is now part of the larger Legends Revealed series, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can check out here, at legendsrevealed.com.
COMIC LEGEND: Jerry Siegel's father was shot and killed in a robbery of his store.
Jerry Siegel was born in 1914 as one of six children of Lithuanian immigrants. His father Mitchell painted signs and eventually opened up his own haberdashery.
Sadly, Mitchell (Mitchell, by the way, was his "American" name) died when Jerry was 18 years old, six years before Action Comics #1 came out.
The following story appears in Gerard Jones' great look at the history of comics, Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book....
Jerry was home with his mother when it happened. Mitchell was downtown, closing the haberdashery alone. A neighboring merchant saw the door ajar and the light on after closing time but saw no sign of Mitchell among the shelves. He poked in, called Mitchell's name, and then saw the blood on the floor. He followed it behind the counter, and there was Mitchell on the floor, already dead, with two bullet holes in him. The money was gone from the cash register. The police never found the thief who shot him.
I am pretty sure that Jones was the first person (or rather, the first comics historian) to learn that Mitchell Siegel died in a robbery. That's a momentous find, and Jones should get a TON of credit for his work here.
However, it does not appear to be the entire story.
My pal Marc Tyler Nobleman, writer of the great kid's book about Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Boys of Steel,
along with Siegel and Shuster historian Brad Ricca, discovered a great deal of evidence to suggest that Mitchell died not of a gunshot wound, but of a heart attack, and not over a robbery of cash, but of clothes.
I don't mean to step on Marc and Brad's toes, so I'll just link you to Marc's site here, where he has most of his evidence, including the police report listing cause of death as "heart failure" and describing the incident (via a rough transcription on Marc's part)...
"when Michael Siegel became excited when three unknown Negroes entered his store at 3530 Central Ave and one of them walked out with a suit of clothes ? the events ? Michael Siegel fainted and fell down on the floor causing his death"
I think that really should just about cover it, no? But you can check out Marc's site if you need even more convincing (you shouldn't).
Still, whether his father was shot or not, the fact that the creator of one of the world's most famous crimefighters lost his father to crime? That's amazing.