Superman Before The Cape And Tights Was Really ... Lex Luthor?

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Long before 1939’s Superman #1, well before 1938’s Action Comics #1, was Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s first attempt at a superheroic being released in January of 1933. This Superman, though, was a bald-headed, telepathic villain.

Okay, Lex didn’t have telepathic powers, but that look is eerily similar …

The short story was the team’s first published use of the Superman name, which incidentally was only hyphenated on the story’s splash page due to a staple issue.

During the Great Depression, Siegel and Shuster wrote several stories together to help escape from the era’s extreme poverty. When Shuster was 18, he produced the first of what would be five issues of their typed and mimeographed fanzine: Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization.

See here, for information on a recent auction of surviving issues:

It was Siegel who wrote The Reign of the Superman in 1932, as inspired by the German Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical concept of the Übermensch, or “beyond man,” from his 1883 “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.” In Nietzsche’s parable, the Übermensch becomes a living goal for all of humanity to set for itself. The term “superman” was later popularized in 1903’s Man and Superman, as written by George Bernard Shaw.

In 1912’s Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jane referred to Tarzan as “superman,” which Siegel also credited as an inspiration.

In Siegel’s tale, a timid chemist transforms himself into an all-powerful villain determined to dominate the world. Siegel published the work under the moniker Herbert S. Fine, combining the first name of a cousin with his mother's maiden name, according to Wikipedia.

The years went on, and when Siegel spotted a copy of a black and white comic book called Detective Dan, Secret Operative #48 he realized that a heroic main character would be the preferred way to go. Shortly thereafter, a man of steel was born.

Until then …

The Reign of the Super-man

The following is a reprint of “The Reign of the Super-man” …

For a more in-depth look at the creation of The Reign of the Superman, see the below entry from, which contains quotes from the original creators:

From such humble beginnings are legends made …

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Written by

Joel Eisenberg is an award-winning author, screenwriter, and producer. The Oscar in the profile pic isn’t his but he’s scheming. WGA and Pen America member.

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