Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Never Ending Battle...

For truth, justice and the American way!!! It's SUPERMAN!

It's sadly ironic that when the first Superman movie was launched back in the late '70s the characters creators were broke and destitute. It took the efforts of Neal Adams to wage a war against Warner Communications and DC Comics to get Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster their creator credit and a modest pension. These guys had created the single most iconic figure of the 20th Century and were robbed for decades. Without Superman DC wouldn't be what it is today, and that particular franchise is worth billions to them. So it wasn't going to hurt to give the guys a very minute percentage of those billions, which they did, to allow both men to live out their last days in dignity. Upon Jerry's death the pension was transfered to his wife, Joanne, and she still gets it today.

With that in mind as I've stated, it's sadly ironic that on the eve of the newest Superman epic the names of the creators are again in the light in a negative way. Over on Colleen Doran's blog she reports the latest. For those who are too much of a lazy bastard to click the link here's the article in question.
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Superman: co-creator’s widow speaks.
To Whom It May Concern
By Joanne Siegel

This past year I have been extremely busy with litigation and pressing personal matters that prevented me from responding until now to the misrepresentations and twisted facts about my deceased husband Jerry Siegel and about me in both editions of Gerard Jones’ book and the surprising, unfounded, unprovoked attacks on the internet based on comments made by Michael Siegel. My attorney’s advice was to not dignify the attacks with a response, so I did not reply at the time. But I cannot help wondering how people claiming to be Superman fans - who supposedly admire the truth and justice that Superman stands for - have been so eager to accept the terrible things said about Jerry and me without one shred of proof.

As in Michael Siegel’s case, it is not unusual for a child of a first marriage to resent the second wife of a divorced parent and to be angry at his parent for going on with his new life even though the child and his mother can and should move ahead with their lives. This resentment was overblown in Michael because his mother Bella did not begin a new life for herself and Michael but tried to hang onto the old. Her hostile refusal to accept the end of her relationship with Jerry after their divorce added to the problem.

I will not go into the details of how she harassed us continually after Jerry and I were married, for that will be in my book, but her behavior was unnatural. This, and her jealousy that Jerry had married someone else, rubbed off on Michael. She was especially jealous of my close ties with Jerry since I had been the model who posed for Joe Shuster when he sketched the Lois Lane character. This was in the mid 1930’s, before Superman was published and before she married Jerry. She and Michael seemed to believe that denying the truth would make it go away.

As for Michael’s disparagement of his father, apparently after Michael read what Jones had written, he angrily wrote to Jones that he had not been quoted accurately when Jones wrote Jerry did not pay child support. His half sister Laura (my daughter) has copies of Michael’s letters in which he wrote that he never said Jerry did not pay one cent in child support. He also wrote he did not say his father bought jewelry for prostitutes - that Jones exaggerated what he said - and that he did not hate his father (which was a surprise to me as many of his statements were harsh.)

The truth is that Jerry paid child support until he was so broke he couldn’t pay our rent. Then he cashed in his small life insurance policy and from that he sent $200 to Bella as child support that Michael acknowledged and of which I have proof. As for prostitutes, that wild story had to have come from Bella and is completely untrue. Michael never had proof of any kind to back up his accusations.

After a hostile and expensive divorce, Jerry was without a home or car and had very little money left. He was not working on Superman any longer and his new comic book, Funnyman, became a flop just months later. This left him flat broke. Anyone who knows the history of Jerry’s career problems knows this, as Michael did when he verbally attacked his father and me. Michael’s attitudes towards his father grew out of Bella’s rage over the end of her marriage. She had agreed to the divorce so Jerry was confused and angry with her unreasonable behavior afterward - especially since he had given her everything she wanted - an attractive, completely paid up, furnished home in a nice neighborhood, a car, jewelry, furs, other possessions and most of his savings, leaving him in a bad financial situation. Michael grew up in the house completely paid for by his father. He and his mother never had to pay rent - ever - and were comfortable while Jerry suffered in poverty, a blackballed writer, unable to get work in the comics industry he pioneered.

As for Michael’s accusation that his father never visited him after the divorce, that was also false. Jerry did make visits but whenever he asked for private time with Michael, Bella refused unless he also spent special time with her. Years later, when Michael was an adult, a chance meeting with one of Jerry’s nieces turned ugly with Bella refusing to let Michael look at or speak to her because she was related to Jerry. Therefore, knowing that Bella’s hostility toward him had never died and that Michael, who lived with Bella his entire life, undoubtedly shared his mother’s continuing hostility, Jerry did not contact Michael, believing that he was an adult and if he wanted a relationship with his father, he would initiate it. But Michael never did contact his father.

I believe that by going public with the myths his mother told him, what Michael thought he would get was public attention. But Michael, just as we, learned that writers twist facts and misquote what people say and that just because something is in print, it does not mean it is true. He acknowledged this when he wrote to Gerard Jones and other writers that they did not truthfully report what he had told them.

Michael and my daughter Laura wrote to each other for nearly ten years about both personal and business matters. Although she told him the truth about Jerry and me and even sent him proof that what he had been told by his mother was false, Michael still refused to acknowledge the truth and that there are two sides to every story. (For example, Michael wrote to Laura that his mother told him that Jerry didn’t take one photo of Michael with him after the divorce but Laura sent him a large batch of photographs Jerry had of himself with Michael.) Neither he nor Bella could produce one shred of evidence to prove their accusations. Even so, when Bella died in November 2002, Laura and I sent Michael our condolences. He was friendlier to Laura for a while, then went back to ignoring what Laura had revealed to him, and finally, to our surprise, went public with his mother’s unsupported claims. Michael passed away on January 17th from complications following heart surgery. Michael’s attorney did not notify one member of the Siegel family, not even Laura, that he had died. His obituary was printed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on January 19th. Laura learned of his passing from a relative who just happened to read the paper and contacted her on January 20th, a few hours after Michael’s funeral had taken place. Michael was 61 years old, never married, had no children, lived with his mother until she died, and was buried next to his mother. Laura had written to Michael, asking him to explain why he had launched a public smear campaign against Jerry and me although she had explained the truth to him in her letters. He never answered her questions.

I hope this throws more light on the speculations in this matter. Laura and I were closer to Michael and the situation than the people who have been writing about him and we are the only people who have first hand knowledge of our side of the story. As far as we are concerned, it was and should remain a private family matter on which the book is now closed.

Joanne Siegel
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Now this throws a lot of fish into the kettle. For one it sheds a light on Gerard Jones' excellent book Men of Tomorrow. I've recommended that book to virtually anyone and everyone I know and I'd still do it. Or would I? When I first read it I was taken by the sheer scope and magnitude of the book, and it's research appeared to be second to none. With Joanne Siegel now casting doubt on a vital part of that research it makes me wonder. I've always been brought up to look at things with an open mind, but once you find one gaping error, one deliberate lie or falsehood in what you're seeing/hearing or reading, then the rest of the work must be looked at with serious doubt. Mind you it's hard when you write these things and all you have to go on is the memory of those who were there. I've come across that bridge many times with the books and articles I've written and I'm sure I'll have to cross it many more times.

What is the answer? Beats me, although I do know these things - the timing is both right and wrong. What happened to both Siegel and Shuster was very, very wrong. They were shafted not only by their employees but also by their peers and potential allies such as Batman creator Bob Kane (who used his knowledge of an impending push by Siegel and Shuster to get the rights to Superman to his advantage - he told DC what was coming and then renegotiated his own deal for Batman. Nice guy eh?). Shuster virtually did no comic book artwork after his Superman days were done, Siegel was blackballed from DC for a while, he did return to write some Superman and Supergirl stories with art from the likes of Jim Mooney, but he ended up as a copy editor at Marvel Comics in the late '60s - to the amazement of all concerned, especially John Romita and Herb Trimpe. Those two facts are often overlooked in when people, including Jerry's family, speak about Jerry's life. I guess the best answer is to read everything put forward and then make your own mind up.

Not that I'm one to plug books sight unseen, I'm hoping that the release of the Krypton Companion might go a long way to rectifying some of the urban myths that are floating around. And I'll have to be upfront, in the interests of disclosure, the Krypton Companion does feature some of my work, in particular interviews with both Mike Esposito and Jim Mooney, along with some artwork - and more on that later, as I submitted two pieces that were greeted with amazement, one was used and the other remains unseen and unpublished. Not that's obscene, quite the opposite. Just that it's a bit too controversial. I might end up publishing them both here...

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