By the early 1930s, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had submitted scores of stories to publishers and were roundly rejected.
Siegel, in particular, wasn’t willing to admit defeat and persuaded his partner to create an alternate outlet for their work: a typewritten, mimeographed science-fiction fanzine called, logically enough, “Science Fiction.”
The self-published and distributed fanzine wasn’t a great success, but a story in the third issue did introduce a character who – with a bit of tweaking – would take the world by storm by the end of the decade: a bald, telepathic villain named “Super-Man.”
The story concerned a homeless man named Bill Dunn who is recruited to participate in a mad scientist’s experiment in exchange for food and clothes. The scientist’s potion grants Dunn vast telepathic powers that prove too much for the former vagrant to control.
Corrupted by his newfound abilities, Dunn kills the scientist and plans to conquer the world. Unfortunately for the self-proclaimed Super-Man, the potion’s effects prove to be temporary and without his former benefactor to recreate the experiment, Dunn realizes he will soon return to his former, impoverished existence.
Not a bad yarn for a couple of proto-fanboys.
As we all know, Siegel and Shuster would soon rework the concept and create a more heroic Superman. It is fascinating, however, to study Kal-El’s true roots – a once rare opportunity now afforded to anyone with an Internet connection.
The University of Florida’s digital collections website hosts a (mostly legible) reproduction of Siegel and Shuster’s Science Fiction #3 that includes the now-legendary “Reign Of The Super-Man” tale.
The story can be found here.
It’s recommended reading for anyone remotely interested in the super-hero genre and a nice reminder that Siegel and Shuster were once aspiring professionals just like many members of the comics blog-o-net.
Who knows? Maybe one of your ideas will launch an entire genre of heroic fiction and earn millions of dollars for corporate fat cats while you, the creator, remain penniless.
Something to aspire toward, right?