All the references to Mark Millar’s infamous “Orson Welles was doing a Batman movie hoax” of 2003 in this piece by Brad Ricca suggest to me that this is another clever hoax: the claim that in the May 1937 issue of More Fun featuring Doctor Occult, the Siegel and Shuster team has drawn a familiarly shaped proto-Bat-man. The actual Batman first appeared in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939).
Although Superman was the most famous creation of the Siegel and Shuster team, it wasn’t their first work. They had already created Doctor Occult for More Fun in 1935. According to Ricca, author of the excellent biography of the Superman creators, Superboys, the timing lends itself to a host of theories:
The two panels have visual similarities, but here’s where it gets really interesting: two issues after the Doctor Occult story in More Fun, Kane himself began contributing to the magazine, meaning that he surely must have been familiar with Siegel and Shuster’s work. And the editor on More Fun in 1937 who gave Kane his first work there? None other than Vin Sullivan, the man who would then allegedly ask Kane to pitch a new superhero to him, just like one of Siegel and Shuster’s, barely two years later.
Ricca doesn’t draw any conclusions on why this was done or whether it was some kind of in joke. As I said, the frequent mentions of hoaxes, made me suspicious of this but in a tweet, Ricca says it’s not a hoax:
— BradRicca (@BradJRicca) October 1, 2013
That said, if it were it would be a pretty clever gag, laying as it does on comics scholars who study the publishing history of Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. And the truth is both Shuster and the swipe-happy Kane were drawing on familiar Dracula images. So this is almost certainly a case of swiping the same influence.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.