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Jerry Siegel: In later years—maybe 10 or 15 years ago—I asked Joe what he remembered of this story, and he remembered a scene of a character crouched on the edge of a building, with a cape almost a la Batman.  We don't specifically recall if the character had a costume or not.  The publisher who turned it down published Detective Dan.  The sketch that was published in Steranko's book was one of the sketches that Joe made at that time for this story—to show the publisher.  In that particular sketch, the character is not in costume; but Joe and I—especially Joe—seem to recall that there were some scenes in there in which the character had a bat-like cape.

What was your reason for changing Superman from a villain to a hero?

Siegel: Obviously, having him a hero would be infinitely more commercial than having him a villain.  I understand that the comic strip Dr. Fu Manchu ran into all sorts of difficulties because the main character was a villain.  And with the example before us of Tarzan and other action heroes of fiction who were very successful, mainly because people admired them and looked up to them, it seemed the sensible thing to do to make The Superman a hero.  The first piece was a short story, and that's one thing; but creating a successful comic strip with a character you'll hope will continue for many years, it would definitely be going in the wrong direction to make him a villain.

Was "The Superman" conceived as a strip or a comic book?

Siegel: It was conceived strictly as a comic book.  It was intended to take up the entire publication.  When Joe and I first got together, we did attempt to prepare and sell newspaper strips; but they failed to sell.  When I saw this publication Detective Dan, it occurred to me that we could get up an even more interesting comic book character than that other strip, which seemed to be a takeoff on Dick Tracy.

Wasn't there a Popeye-like character with great strength that you created very early, before Superman?

Siegel: We really didn't do much of anything with that, it was a series of little short stories I wrote which ran in my high school paper, Joe and I made little sketches for it, but we never really did much with it, that was Goober, the Mighty; it was a la Popeye, but it was satirical, of course, we liked Popeye—especially the animated cartoons, which had a strong influence on me in the writing—and possibly Joe, too, for all I know...

Shuster: Yes.

Siegel: ... because the super-strength and action in the animated cartoons, rather than in the comic strip, were absolutely sensational.  I thought: this is really great, but it's done strictly as comedy, what if it featured a straight adventure character?  You could end up with a very dynamic adventure strip, so that was one of the influences on Superman, there were many: there was Tarzan, who was the greatest action hero of the time, and various others; but I think the Popeye animated cartoons were one of the strongest influences.

You said at one time that you did a Tarzan satire.

Siegel: That was it—Gooober, the Mighty took place in the jungle and kind of kidded the Tarzan theme, a lot of our early work was humorous.

Shuster: We even did a Laurel and Hardy comic strip, a few sample daily strips, but it was never published.  I was really a cartoonist, and I had no idea what we'd be going into.  I loved illustration, but I was essentially—I had a flair for comedy.

Siegel: We both loved the comic strips; it just so happened that the adventure stuff was what we managed to market, and that's what we did from there on.

Shuster: Yeah.

What sort of comedy strips did you enjoy at that time?

Siegel: I enjoyed Lil Abner; that was a strong influence on me.

Shuster: Alex Raymond and Burne Hogarth were my idols—also Milt Caniff, Hal Foster, and Roy Crane.  But the movies were the greatest influence on our imagination: especially the films of Douglas Fairbanks Senior.

Siegel: I read tremendous amounts of pulps; and Joe and I, we practically lived in movie theaters -

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Originally from NEMO: The Classic Comics Library, issue #2, August 1983, pages 6-19

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