Joanne Siegel, the widow of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel and inspiration for the Lois Lane character, passed away today at age 93. Her death comes only a few days after Jerry Siegel’s childhood home in Cleveland, OH was restored and the streets in front of it honorarily renamed Joe Shuster Lane and Lois Lane.
Right up to her death, Joanne Siegel was involved in the epic battle for the rights to Superman — a long-running lawsuit regarding the recapture of copyright to the character is still underway.
She is survived by her daughter, Laura Siegel Larson. (above left with Joanne, right.)
No one has ever had a word to say about Joanne Siegel that didn’t indicate that she was a classy lady, and a real fighter. It’s sad that she never lived to see justice.
Bradley Ricca, who is working on a documentary about the Siegel family, sent along his own obituary:
Lois Lane died today.
Her real name was Joanne Siegel (formerly Kovacs) and she was a girl from Cleveland who so wanted to make the big time during the Depression that she put an ad in the paper advertising herself as a model. She got many responses (most of whom just wanted dates), but she only answered one, from a Mr. Joe Shuster.
Taking the bus, she arrived and was amazed to find that Mr. Shuster was, in fact, not a “Mister” at all, but a short, skinny teenager. His parents’ apartment in Glenville was freezing and the blue bathing suit Joanne had borrowed from her sister to pose in was too big in certain places. Important places. Joe saw her pinching and twisting and laughed; I’ll fill all that out, he said. And a bond was born that lasted for decades. Just outside the door, Jerry Siegel was thumbing through magazines, somewhat unaware (but not entirely) that he would later marry the girl inside. She was modeling for a character they were doing in their ongoing Superman proposal. A character named Lois Lane.
So in 1948, after Joanne and Jerry became reacquainted at a Cartoonist Society masquerade ball in New York City, they were married. She would refer to herself as Jerry’s “model” and “co-writer.” That’s how close they were. They supported each other through a lot, some of it very thin. But some of it was magnificent, like their daughter Laura, who was a much prouder topic of conversation to them than any sort of flying alien.
We all know how Jerry and Joe sold Superman to DC for $130 with that first check for Action Comics #1. We all know. But it bears repeating.
It bears repeating because no matter whose side you may be on in this, the defining battle of comics (legal, moral, economic, or otherwise), you know that after Jerry died in 1996, Joanne carried on the fight, much to the dismay of Time-Warner, some fans, and maybe even herself at times. But she never gave up. She believed in truth, justice, and all that stuff. She made a lot of calls to DC Comics in her day. A lot of dogged, pushy calls. And when they hung up, she called back.
Like I said, Lois Lane died today.
I only met her once. When, with the help of Brad Meltzer and his online army who raised money through an Internet auction, we all helped restore Jerry’s boyhood home in Cleveland. Standing on the same porch where Jerry used to bolt from the door, I presented Joanne with a copy of the original ad she once placed, something that took me years to find. In fact, after I did find it, I kind of wondered why I spent so much time on it. But when I gave it to her, her eyes lit up, making it instantly worth it and I understood, finally, why those crazy Cleveland nerds did it all in the first place: the costume, the powers, the everything-but-the-kitchen sink Superman. She was over ninety years old then, but with that red hair and warm smile, it was like looking into a time machine. They did it to impress a girl. Not just a pretty one, but an endearing, complicated, and charming one. So it makes a lot of sense, I guess, that Lois died on Valentine’s Day. Within the insanity of what super-heroes are, hers is the one character who always made us want to keep our feet on Earth.
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.