It's taken me a long time to get around to reading Men of Tomorrow by Gerard Jones. I've had a copy for several years and started it once a while back, but got stopped in the first chapter and never returned for some reason. Now at long last I've finished this outstanding chronicle of the earliest development of the comic book and most especially the hero Superman and the company which publishes him still, DC Comics.
|Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster|
Hugo Gernsback's famous issue of Amazing Stories which featured a flying man (E.E. Smith's Skylark of Space) is referenced several times in the saga and is presented as a singular point of departure for many of the creators who would make comic books into what we know today. This singular image seems to be the ember which ignited the fire which still burns slowly in print and on screen in the modern world.
Certainly Seigel and his longtime partner Joe Shuster (a much more sympathetic and passive character) are the centerpieces of this story along with Harry Donnenfeld and Jack Liebowitz, the owners of what would eventually be DC. We follow all of these men, and other significant figures, from before their births, tracking their parents who came to the United States to seek new lives. In fact that story is the root of this tome, the struggle of many immigrants, most all of them Jewish to redefine themselves inside the matrix of America.
It is to Jones' credit that he does not limit his presentation to the sometimes tawdry battle between the Superman people but spreads his narrative to encompass the broader rise of comics which surrounded that singular epic struggle. We meet many of the distinctive and often wildly colorful men and sometimes women who created the Golden Age of comics.
|Left to Right: Robert Maxwell, Paul Sampliner, Harry Donenfeld, Jack Liebowitz, M.C. Gaines and Whitney Ellsworth|