Books for Babes provides info on the sort of comics that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. This week we recommend ‘The Artist Behind Superman: The Joe Shuster Story’, in stores now from Super Genius.

The Artist Behind Superman: The Joe Shuster Story

Cover to ‘The Artist Behind Superman: The Joe Shuster Story’ OGN. Art by Thomas Campi/Super Genius

By Stefania Rudd. Superman made his debut in 1938 as the cover feature in the anthology Action Comics #1. Originally, the character wasn’t long for this world; he was only supposed to hang around until the next action-adventure rock ‘em, sock ‘em hero came along. However, due to Superman’s immediate popularity he was allowed to remain, appearing in new stories for generations that followed. Who would have guessed then that 80 years later the staying power of this iconic character would still captivate audiences across the globe? Well, the two men who created him had faith that he might — though it took far too long a time before they received the proper recognition they deserved.

The Joe Shuster Story focuses on the man responsible for coming up with the design and artwork for Superman. But this story goes beyond the basics of a biography; it provides historic context to an industry that has grown so large it probably would be all but unrecognizable to those early pioneers today. The story begins before Joe is even born with his mother in Russia and how she and her sister fled to Canada due to pogroms becoming more prevalent in their town. It’s there where she met Joe’s father. They marry, start a family — naturally, this is where Joe comes in. Mr. Shuster’s story continues in Cleveland, OH, where he discovered his passion for science fiction, Sunday funnies, and drawing. It’s when he transfers schools that he meets a kindred spirit in Jerry Siegel, and their lifelong creative partnership begins.

Julian Voloj conveys Joe’s story through the artist’s perspective and voice, oftentimes breaking the fourth wall to deliver pivotal points of his life and career to the reader. One of the more affecting ways Voloj does this is by having Joe relate to a police officer at the very beginning of the story. This encounter — which takes place after the officer found Mr. Shuster asleep on a park bench — is a powerful way to get to the heart of the matter. With so much information and detail packed into this book, Voloj works with artist Thomas Campi to make it accessible through the graphic novel format. Although, there are no formal chapters, the story breaks up nicely into chunks of time, making it a seamless read. The story weighs a balance between Joe’s personal life, watching the growth of the comics industry, and how his life, and that of Mr. Siegel’s, are very much intertwined. It’s also incredibly well-researched — at the end of the book there is a detailed bibliography as well as notes that provide both reliable reference and additional details.

Visually, I love what Thomas Campi has done for this book. It’s reminiscent of the art found in those Little Golden books we had as children, but it carries with it a contemporary strength, as well as a beautiful blend of dreamy colors and lines which create a detailed pastel aesthetic. It also has a very mixed media feel, in moments when Campi presents artwork in a different style than the rest of the book — for example, when we see Joe’s artwork through various comic pages or strips.

I really enjoyed The Joe Shuster Story. For those who have a desire to delve into the creation of the first true American superhero — not to mention the men behind him, and the industry that grew alongside his popularity — this is essential reading.

Super Genius/$19.99

Written by Julian Voloj.

Art by Thomas Campi.

This book contains salty language, advanced vocabulary, and some adult situations.

Age range 12-15; 16+

‘The Joe Shuster Story’ is in stores now. You can order it here.

Enjoy this three-page preview of ‘The Artist Behind Superman: The Joe Shuster Story’, courtesy of Super Genius.

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