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Comic Book Legends Revealed #275

STATUS: True

A CBR poster named gryphon asked if I could do a legend involving Canada in honor of FanExpo Canada, which took place earlier this week. Well, that reminded me of an e-mail I got a couple of years back from a reader named Clayton F....

Hello. As a Canadian comic book fan I have many a time in my youth seen a commercial that is from a series of commercials that deal with our heritage as Canadians. It is a 30 second episode that talks about the origin of Superman, and more importantly, the country in which Joe Shuster is from. In this commercial it depicts him as a native of the Great White North, and this has always been a point of pride for me as a Canadian comic geek. But, whenever I see an article or story published on the web or in for instance, Wizard magazine, they say that he was created by "Cleveland" natives, Shuster and Siegel. I want to know if this "urban legend" is a fraud, or are we Canadians just hated that much that we're not mentioned. Please find out for me. Thanks

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So sure, gryphon and Clayton, we shall give the Canadian heritage of Superman its due this week.

Yes, Joe Shuster was, indeed, born in Canada. He moved to Cleveland, Ohio when he was either 9 or 10. Before that, though, he lived and grew up in Toronto, Ontario.

Like many young boys during the 1920s (Shuster was born in 1914), Shuster worked as a newspaper seller on a street corner. A "Newsboy," if you would. The paper Shuster sold was the Toronto Daily Star (now called just the Toronto Star, still Canada's largest newspaper in terms of print circulation)...

Shuster gave the last interview of his life in April of 1992 (Shusters passed away in July of that year) to Henry Mietkiewicz of the Toronto Star. The interview was given in connection with the 100th Anniversary of the Toronto Star.

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And Shuster spoke about a couple of notable pieces of Canadian influences upon the early Superman stories.

For instance, from Action Comics #1, note where Clark Kent works...

In the interview, Shuster notes, “I still remember drawing one of the earliest panels that showed the newspaper building. We needed a name, and I spontaneously remembered the Toronto Star. So that’s the way I lettered it. I decided to do it that way on the spur of the moment, because The Star was such a great influence on my life.”

Perhaps a greater Canadian influence (especially since the Daily Star became the Daily Planet a few years later) is the city of Metropolis itself.

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On the design of the city, Shuster remarked

“Cleveland was not nearly as metropolitan as Toronto was, and it was not as big or as beautiful. Whatever buildings I saw in Toronto remained in my mind and came out in the form of Metropolis. As I realized later on, Toronto is a much more beautiful city than Cleveland ever was.” Pausing for a moment, Shuster chuckles and adds, “I guess I don’t have to worry about saying that now.”

Here is Toronto's skyline in the 1930s...

And here is Cleveland's skyline in the 1930s...

In fairness to Cleveland, it was not exactly like Shuster drew a whole lot of buildings in the early days of Superman. Action Comics #1 is almost completely devoid of skyscrapers until the end of the issue - which takes place in Washington DC!!

From Action Comics #8, here's an example of Shuster's take on Metropolis...

As you can see, while I certainly do not disagree with Shuster when he says he had Toronto in mind when drawing Metropolis, it was not like it had a major effect upon how the city was drawn. Still, it's pretty darn neat to be known as the city that inspired Metropolis!

Certainly the modern Toronto skyline is a worthy comparison to the city of Metropolis...

Anyhow, there you go, gryphon and Clayton, something about Canada! I will even throw a shout out out of nowhere to Graeme Burk, just because he knows a lot about Canadian comic book history and I'm sure had I thought to ask him for a topic this week, he would have had plenty of good ideas.

Thanks to Henry Mietkiewicz and the late, great Joe Shuster for the informative interview!

Okay, that's it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for this week's covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!

As you likely know by now, in April of last year my book came out!

Here is the cover by artist Mickey Duzyj. I think he did a very nice job (click to enlarge)...

If you'd like to order it, you can use the following code if you'd like to send me a bit of a referral fee...

See you all next week!

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