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Did heroes like Zorro have any influence on the dual-identity motif?

Jerry Siegel: Definitely.  I loved The Mark of Zorro and I'm sure that had some influence on me.  I did also see The Scarlet Pimpernel but didn't care much for it.  But the shy reporter with glasses came out of our own personal lives.  Of course we loved Douglas Fairbanks as Robin Hood, and that influenced both of us: me in the writing, and Joe in the art.  I'm sure that subliminally we remembered Rudolph Valentino in The Sheik, and the tremendous romantic appeal to women of a guy in costume.

Yet, the early Superman avoided women.

Jerry Siegel: Yes.  I figured that the character would be so advanced that he would be invulnerable in other ways than physically.  Secretly, I kind of enjoyed the thought that women, who just didn't care at all about somebody like Clark Kent, would go ape over somebody like Superman.  I enjoyed the fact that he wasn't that affected by all their admiration.  When you come down to it, some of the greatest lovers of all time simply aren't that crazy about women: It's the women who are crazy about them.  Clark Gable was hard to get, and so were some of the other romantic heroes.

So Superman was conceived as being like the ideal Hollywood romantic hero of the time?

Siegel: That's right.

Joanne, when you first saw the Superman character, did you feel about him the way Jerry and Joe thought girls would?

Joanne Siegel: I thought Superman was terrific.  Joe showed me the drawing, and I was taken by it immediately.  I thought that this was really different; and that Jerry had a terrific idea, and Joe's drawings brought it to life.  I was thrilled to have even a small part in the project.

When I met them I was struck by Joe's age.  We met during the Great Depression.  I was just a teenager, and my father was out of work; so in order to have any spending money, I had to earn my own money.  I found that no one would hire me because I had no skills or training, and even grown people were having trouble getting jobs.  I had read an article about modeling, and I thought maybe I could get away with that.  So I practiced various poses in front of a mirror, and I put an ad in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in the Situation Wanted column, advertising myself as a model, and Joe happened to see it.  We corresponded, and he signed all his letters "Mr. Joseph Shuster," so I thought he was an older man.  We set up an appointment at his apartment, where he lived with his parents, brother, and sister.  I went there on a Saturday afternoon because I was going to school during the week.  I was so nervous, because I thought he was going to say I was too young.

It was a freezing cold day, and I was absolutely frozen by the time I got there, because I lived on the other side of town.  I pounded on the door; and it opened a little bit, and I saw a young boy on the other side, and I said, "I'm the model that Mr. Shuster is expecting,"  He said, "Come on in," and we got to talking.  I asked if I could leave my coat on, because I was still cold.  Right away we got excited, we were talking about not only the weather but movies and everything.  Finally I said, "Does Mr. Shuster know that I'm here?"  And he said, "I'm Mr. Shuster."  That was the way we met.

We went in the back, and I posed for him that day; I posed for him every Saturday after that.  When I came out to the living room, Jerry was waiting to meet me, because he knew I was going to be coming.  I was absolutely astounded with his energy - talk about super-energy!  He was sitting on a chair, his feet were going, he was flipping through magazines, anxiously waiting to meet me, (To Jerry:) You made a shambles of that house...  We hit it off just great.  Then we found that we had all been on our school papers, so we felt that we had a real common bond there.  I was at a different school, but I had been on my school paper, and I had wanted to be a girl reporter; so I was very thrilled that I was posing as a girl reporter.  We've been together ever since.

And you dated Jerry?

Joe Shuster: I started dating her first.

Joanne Siegel: Right.  We dated first...

Jerry Siegel: I was just a bystander.

Joanne Siegel: ...and many years later, Jerry and I and Joe had a reunion at the Hotel Plaza in New York at a great cartoonists' ball.

Jerry Siegel: It was a costume ball.  Tell them who you came as.

Joanne Siegel: I came as Dixie Dugan, because I had my hair exactly like hers at that time.  Joe took me down to the Brooks costume company and rented an enormous ballgown for me, so I looked exactly like Dixie Dugan.  Jerry and Joe were having problems at that time - there was litigation - and I just didn't feel like going as Lois Lane under those circumstances.  But Lois Lane also wore her hair that way, remember?  After this reunion at the ball, Jerry and I started dating, and a few months later, we were married.  That was in 1948.

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

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