One of my favorite reading challenges is Kid Lit Frenzy’s Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge. Visit Alyson’s blog to discover more wonderful nonfiction titles.
Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman is an engaging, personable account of the creation of perhaps the world’s most famous superhero. The writer of the first Superman comic, Jerry Siegel, and the artist, Joe Schuster, met in high school where both were shy and bespectacled–much like a certain superhero’s alter-ego–as well as incredibly enthusiastic consumers of comics, adventure stories, and pulp sci-fi stories. Jerry’s hobby was writing stories, and Joe’s hobby was drawing. They decided to team up to create a character for a comic strip. There were many false starts before Jerry got the idea for Superman. And there were plenty of failures and rejections as they developed their concept and shopped it to publishers.
Marc Tyler Nobleman develops two themes in Boys of Steel: the challenge for shy, unpopular guys like Siegel and Schuster to make an identity for themselves and the need for escape and everyday heroism among the Great Depression-era audience who first fell in love with Superman. The story is told in simple language that would be appropriate for young readers as a read-aloud, but these more complex themes appeal to older readers, especially fans of superhero comics.
Ross MacDonald’s art has an old comics look and creates a vivid sense of the period. The color choices are especially appropriate. My favorite illustration was the double spread drawn in panel style to show Jerry getting the original idea for Superman and quickly developing it with Joe’s help:
This is the only illustration done in full-page comics style, so it makes a strong impact.
There is a lengthy afterword explaining what happened to Jerry and Joe’s creation when they sold the rights to DC Comics: in short, a lot of people got very rich off of Superman, but the original creators spent much of their lives in near-poverty.