Siegel & Shuster's Funnyman in Australia
Funnyman is a largely forgotten strip created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the creators of Superman. Originally intended to be the next big thing in comic books and designed to pick up the mantle from Superman and show DC Comics what they’d missed, the strip itself lasted just over a year before it folded. The strip also spawned a line of comics, but, sadly, that didn’t last long either and Funnyman never became the highly sought after hit that Siegel and Shuster desired. Lightning struck once for the duo, and in their attempts to recreate the blast, they fell somewhat short.
The comic made its appearance in 1948 and it marked the professional artistic debut of none other than Dick Ayers, who would later become better known for his involvement in the creation of the Marvel Universe with the likes of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and others. Ayers began drawing with the early issues of Funnyman and later co-created the original Ghost Rider with Sullivan. As Dick recounted to me in 2005, “I admired them (Siegel & Shuster) and I was quite honoured when Joe Shuster got friendly with me when I was going to school at nights with Burne Hougarth. I gravitated down to his studio and did some penciling for him and he was nice to work with. And Jerry would come in once in a while because he was the writer naturally.
|The Melbourne Argus, March 22, 1947|
Sadly the duo weren’t able to maintain the same standard that they’d set with Superman and the strip was cancelled by the end of 1949. Faced with yet another setback, Siegel and Shuster ran out of steam and Funnyman vanished, seemingly for good, destined to become a footnote in comic book history. Jerry Siegel returned to DC in the late 1950s and began to work anonymously before doing some editing and writing for Marvel in the mid 1960s, Joe Shuster would virtually drop out of the comic book world.
An ocean away from DC Comics and their lawyers, the Women’s Weekly, who also counted Lee Falk’s Mandrake, amongst its comic strips, decided to announce the new strip with a flourish and devoted an entire page to announcing the strip and introducing its famous creators to the country. The resulting article would be amongst the first to debunk the DC Comics myth of how Superman was created, and also made reference to Sigel and Shusters lawsuit, and their resulting defeat. The bulk of the material came from a press release that was released when Funnyman made its debut and clearly the Women’s Weekly had no issue with running it as they saw it.