Politics Flyer
Craig Yoe has been reminding us to remind you about his new blog, Secret Identity, which both celebrates the release of his Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman’s Co-Creator Joe Shuster — which just came out this week! — and other matters of some…naughty import. Plus, he’ll be talking about the book — which, as the title suggests, reveals a little-known facet of Shuster’s career – in April!


  1. What exactly is Yoe celebrating….other than making the somewhat pathetic life of Joe Shuster even more pathetic? If the artwork was something to be proud of (as I assume Yoe thinks it is), Shuster probably would have disclosed this chapter in his career. I just don’t understand the borderline GLEE people seem to be experiencing over this revelation.

  2. The GLEE is not borderline — it is genuine (for fans of Joe) in finding that there is a whole trove of artwork out there during a time when most folks dismissed him as being blind. Sure it’s racy but it’s technically superior to Superman, that’s for sure. It’s not the play, it’s the actor. Great book = buy, read, tell others.

    Like all of us, Joe had rough times, but he also had some absolutely dizzying heights. Everyone romanticizes S&S as these mopey old dopes but they had it ALL for a time there.

    But you’re right Mark, he did not disclose it, and that is a good point to make. But should that stop historians like Yoe!? I say Noe.

    GLEE should be a SHIELD subcommittee.

  3. I think it’s one thing to accurately document the arc of a creator’s career, and another thing entirely for Yoe to be so brash about it. For example, was the cover term “fetish art” really necessary in light of the artwork…or was it there just to pimp the “Oh my GOD!” factor a provocateur like Yoe needs to sell books?

    You said it’s “not the play, it’s the actor”, but I see it as exactly the opposite. I see very little real interest or respect for Shuster and his life (the actor), yet far too much of the depressing trend (the “play”, if you will) of postmortem humiliation.

    THAT, to me, is the real fetish.

  4. Good point. I still think you should read it. Some of the subject matter is, at times, violent and repugnant at best. Some of it is really funny. But in the hands of anyone other than Craig, I have no doubt that this would have been presented in a tawdry, cheap manner. The book presents it as is — as illustration, leaving us to draw our own conclusions. Sure the cover is loud but in these days of Kindle, can you really blame Abrams?

    The play/actor can certainly be debated but if Pauly Shore does Hamlet, what is the overall effect? And if Patrick Stewart does Star Trek…..

    All I can say again is it is definitely worth reading. Craig’s introductory essay is the best bio of Shuster in years and the foreward by Stan puts it all in a perspective that is reverent to Joe. This was not stuff Joe was proud of — but if you see the art, you can see he didn’t job it. This was an artist who loved his craft but just ran out of people who wanted to pay him to do it. So he found it where he could. This wasn’t a question of want, but need. That’s the shame.


  5. But that’s the big disconnect for me. It’s great that Yoe and Stan Lee wrote warmly about Shuster, but the whole point of the book (as well as the promotion above) seems less about honoring the man and more about “Hey look! The co-creator of SUPERMAN drew dirty pichers!”

    Again, it’s one thing to soberly acknowledge a man’s career, warts and all, and another thing to smear the reputation of an already hobbled historical figure who clearly wasn’t proud of the strange places his post-Superman journey took him.

  6. The smuttiness level of this work seems pretty tame by today’s standards, rather goofy (like seeing your grandparents in their bloomers), and only a couple of steps more overt than early Wonder Woman art. But I haven’t seen the book itself, only the website examples, so it could be chockablock with Tijuana Bible-style shenanigans for all I know.

    I see it as an interesting example of what artists did Way Back When to put bread on the table, how they approached a “forbidden” topic, and what society considered forbidden fun in another era. Unless Shuster spent his life proclaiming that he was pure as the nunniest nun, I’m not seeing the smearing of a reputation–except in that an individual reader might choose to consider Shuster now somehow sullied. But, I don’t know as much about Shuster’s hobbled(?) life as I guess I should.

    I’m not snickering at him, I’m thinking, “Yeah, we all end up doing some… peculiar things during our lives…”

  7. I think if Shuster had been proud of this stuff while he was alive, we would have heard about it. Fascinating, yes. But does his estate get money from this or just a snickering tip o’ the hat?

  8. “Unless Shuster spent his life proclaiming that he was pure as the nunniest nun, I’m not seeing the smearing of a reputation–except in that an individual reader might choose to consider Shuster now somehow sullied. “

    Oh, come on. It’s not like a collection of Shuster’s unknown children’s storybook art was just found. I think even the most libertine observer would agree that the racy art doesn’t exactly do wonders for Shuster’s historical legacy.

    And what does the level of Shuster’s personal piety (or his “nunnier nun” factor) have anything to do the decisions behind how the work is being presented? Regardless of whether Shuster was a mobster or a monk, the true “selling point” of Yoe’s book is the fact that one of Superman’s co-creators was “caught” working in the porno industry of another era.

    Other than freshening up the Somebody Done Siegel & Shuster Wrong Song (He had no CHOICE, ‘cuz they SCREWED ‘im, man!)…thus sticking it to DC, corporate America, Superman, or whatever….it’s hard for me to understand why anyone would want to read, buy, or promote a project like this.

  9. What’s to snicker about? My reaction is, “Oh, interesting, look at how drawing conventions have changed, I see the connections with good girl pin-up art, yadda yadda.” How is this embarrassing in 2009? Remember that we live in a different century than the time when he had to hide this work, even if his reasons for creating it were purely to make a living. We have the capacity to be much more understanding now. I’m more bemused by the art that appeared in actual comics in the past, and what that tells us about society and/or the artists.

    Again, I’ve only seen about a dozen samples from the book, and those images wouldn’t do much for most of the libertines I spend my time at liberty with. In the decades since these images were created, comic artists have been doing far racier work publicly while working on not-so-secret stashes of children’s lit, so all I can do is shrug and think of this from the perspective of the craft and the business.

    So, come on, is this really that bad? I understand that your sense of shock must come from the respect and honour you feel for the artist, and I do respect those emotions. But I’ll also maintain that all this book does is give us a look at the ease with which he could turn a few quick lines into a saucy lady. Will this erode his reputation? Or teach us more about human versatility? I don’t think you need to worry about him. I’m guessing it’s going to be all right.

    Whether his estate gets a piece of the pie is something much worthier to get concerned about. I certainly hope it does. I guess it would depend on who owns those nasty nasty peices of art. Now, that’s the angle I’d like to learn more about.

    Having said all that: I haven’t read the text of the book. Maybe it’s nothing but slathering snickers over what a naughty pornmeister Shuster was and an invitation to drool over bosoms. I’ll have to pick up a copy and find out. Maybe actually reading the book will change my mind once I have a more informed opinion. I might end up outraged by a few too many pages of frilly undies and whips.

  10. I’m amused by people who haven’t read the book and say that I’m not respectful to Joe. I count myself as one of Joe’s biggest fans. And “Secret Identity, The Fetish Art of Superman’s Co-Creator Joe Shuster” shows Joe’s brilliance in a way that his VERY short stint as a young artist of just him drawing Superman was not able to. Though Joe’s early Superman had its own incredible brilliance, too, and virtually jump-started the whole comic book field: every superhero, every comic book career, every comic book company, every graphic novel, every comics blog, every comic book history book).

    Who says Joe wasn’t proud of this work? Maybe he was damn proud. The care he took in delineating this wonderful art strongly leads to that idea. Did he tell everyone about it? As the book demonstrates, the printer was arrested, the publisher eventually jailed for a number of years, and both were called in front of a Senate investigation. The Supreme Court banned these books by Joe. And these books were distributed under-the-counter by the Mob. It was not exactly a time to shout from the rooftops that you did this type of illegal fetish (what the heck would you call it?) material. A man approached me at the NY Comic Con signing for “Secret Identity.” He said he was volunteering at a Seuling comic convention in 1971. Joe took him to his apartment and showed him his fetish art. Joe must not have been so ashamed of it.

    Another thing that people insist on saying is that Joe did this for the money. As my book states, this is one possibility. Another is that he enjoyed doing it immensely. Another is that it was a combination of the two.

    Proud to be a comics historian and, now that you mention it, proud to be a provocateur (and, BTW, very proud not to be a prude).

    –Craig Yoe

  11. i’m further amused (ok, i’m easily amused) by people that say this material is tame by today’s standards. yes there’s weird stuff on the web but a number of mainstream media outlets that have or are soon to cover the book cannot show the majority of material in it. there’s still a lot of repression of expressed fantasies in this country (and, yes, some countries are worse).

    ther may not be genitalia and the men may not have nipples (!) but some of the art is pretty extreme according to any age: pouring red ants down a girls panties who has had her hoo-hoo smeared with honey, a nazi woman whipping a bound man till he bleeds, naked girls fed to crocodiles, teen-age s&m cults, naked flesh seared with hot irons or pierced with knives,, blood-letting, etc. if this is yor definition of mild, normal for these modern times, don’t forget to send me an invite to your next party!
    –incorrigible craig

  12. “Joe took him to his apartment and showed him his fetish art. Joe must not have been so ashamed of it.”

    Might be a bit of a difference between Shuster showing another guy the art in private and parading it around it book form without his consent.

  13. I don’t know where the April date comes from, it was in my local today. The art on the cover is about as good as it gets. Not my sort of thing. Much of what I saw seemed pretty tame (yes, by today’s standards), but not all of it.

  14. oe did more than a (wonderful) children’s comic book, superman. he had did work of a sexual nature, work that was gritty, work that was beautifully drawn without assistants in a confident mature style that had a strong effect on people then and now (like you). this revelation greatly adds to his already stellar historical legacy and stature.

    joe appreciated the colorful,the flamboyant. his chain-breaking hero lept buildings and wore a bright blue, red and yellow costume with a cape. his pornography went under the strong banner of “nights of horror”, the covers raw, sexual, violent.

    go joe!–yoe

  15. “parading it around it book form without his consent.”

    and parading around krazy kat in book form without george herriman’s consent, or publishing the erotica of thomas rowlandson without his consent, or playing beethoven symphonies without ludwig’s consent…

    but, really, next time i need to know what joe shuster feels, thinks or wants, since he’s not here, i’ll for sure check in with you, mark!

  16. Full disclosure: I’m the editor of Craig’s book, so I am obviously biased. That said, I decided to publish “Secret Identity” for a variety of reasons:

    (1) I’m a fan of Joe Shuster’s work, and thought the discovery of heretofore unknown art by this Master of Comics was revelatory. (Imagine the reaction if someone found a cache of unknown Van Gogh artwork).

    (2) I’m also a fan of Craig’s and share his passion for shining light on creators in ways that enhance our understanding of them and their work.

    (3) For those who actually read the introduction that Craig wrote, you will be rewarded to find a balanced, evenhanded overview of Shuster’s life and career, but also discover the importance of the material showcased in this book, which Craig discovered to be the missing link in the whole 1953 Senator Kefauver Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, and Fredric Wertham’s “Seduction of the Innocent” in 1954, all of which are covered in David Hajdu’s “The Ten-Cent Plague.” Hajdu’s focus on this period is expert, but he was unaware of this Shuster material and never connected the dots in the way that Craig has in his book.

    And lastly, (4) Regardless of whether the material is your thing or not, it’s an important contribution to comics history and comics scholarship. More than just great art, there is a story behind the creation of this material. The Brooklyn Thrill Killers led to Wertham’s subsequent focus on comics and their role in “juvenile delinquency,” and a hastening of the creation of the Comics Code. This is not just racy content for the sake of shock or titillation. Nor is it meant to disparage Shuster or his memory. Craig, as historian, is adding to our collective knowledge of the most seminal artist in comics, filling in the blanks in the research of Hajdu, Les Daniels, and works like Gerry Jones’s “Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book.” For that alone, I salute Craig.

    In reading over these responses, however, I am amazed at the inherent snarkiness in what people post. Books are shipped from a publisher’s warehouse a month prior to the publication date (in this case April) so that by the time April 1 rolls around, a title is fully distributed, starting in March. In cases like “Harry Potter” or “Twilight” or “Wimpy Kid,” there is a one-day laydown, where all books hit stores on the exact same day. That can’t be done for every book, so time is given for the rest of the non-event books to make its way into the retail stores. No big conspiracy here, David.

    I know that if I don’t understand something, I find it best to research my opinion and respond from an informed position rather than speculate or jump to conclusions just to stir up some unnecessary controversy. But that’s just me.

  17. “pouring red ants down a girls panties who has had her hoo-hoo smeared with honey. ”

    Thanks Chris – for giving me an idea in keeping my date entertained this evening.



  18. thanks charlie for piping in. i’m sure this is clear in charlies response but i want to emphasis that i myself, and i’m know for sure, charlie, hold hajdu, daniels and jones and their brilliant, invaluable books in the highest of regards.

    when i found this large body of joe shuster work, the strong design and draftsmanship, the breadth of it in regards to the murders it inspired, dr. fredric wertham’s involvement with it, it’s strong connection to the creation of the comics code one month after the brooklyn thrill killers trial and life sentence and its landmark supreme court censorship–and the fact that this information has been all but lost–i was as shocked as anyone. and as a historian who believes that we should know as much of the picture as possible to facilitate understanding, i was excited to share it. an added great bonus to all this is is that many people i have shown the book to have a new, even higher regard for the art and skill and imagination of the joe shuster. go joe!

  19. Oh, SNAP!

    Say Mark, next time you have one of your weekly chats with him where you tell Joe Shuster what to draw let him know that the next time he illustrates S&M pornography to can the whips, scrap the chains and let’s get some clothes on those girls!

    –Craig “He Put the “aw” in Tawdry and He Put the “”eap” in Cheap” Yoe

  20. “–Craig “He Put the “aw” in Tawdry and He Put the “”eap” in Cheap” Yoe “

    Ah, the tired “If you don’t support this, ipso-facto, you’re a prude” tactic.

    Bottom line: I think it’s a disrespectful, tacky project. But I don’t expect that to make any impact on masturbologists like Yoe and his mouth-breathing enablers.

  21. What I meant was it’s an art book. Just like the Kirby volume. It has heft, page-turning, eye-catching design, and an ESSAY! (gasp) that is very well done. Some people would have just reprinted the pictures and said that Joe was obviously into this stuff personally, etc. etc. But that’s not here.

    And history can only be disrespectful if it’s not true, right?

    My bottom line: It is an important, crazy book. Joe Shuster gets, at best, a big long paragraph in any book that talks about him in the same simple, clean lines that he used: sidekick, artist, blind. That’s it? Craig has added a series of new paragraphs that completely redefine what we know of him in the 50s. This is comics scholarship and if this doesn’t get nominated for an Eisner (next year?) then we as a massive pulsating community don’t really know what comics scholarship is. “The Boys” have been romanticized to the point of being edgeless phantoms — we can do better — Craig does.


  22. mark, you are such a thoughtful sweet guy thinking of the shuster estate. you might be interested in the fact that a few moments ago i got a letter from joe’s close sister, jean, in her nineties and sharp as a whip, er, tack. to summarize the content: jean complimented me on my thoughtfulness, confirmed joe doing the art, and revealed, “he told me he loved tall, beautiful women and admired masculine men. he must have loved to draw those pictures while hating the storylines”. and then joe’s sister concluded her long fascinating letter by telling me that i “did a great job in putting the book together”. yeah, brad, i can only humbly hope the eisner folks would agree.

  23. Mark,

    I have to agree with Craig in principle, as I’ve not yet read the book.

    It’s true that even with the best book on this subject, there are going to be people who “tee hee” about the Superman artist doing fetish-art. But so what? Who cares about the opinions of morons?

    Even if Schuster did the work just to make ends meet, it’s not his motives that should concern us, but the quality of the work for the type of work that it was. This type of sexy-fantasy art isn’t entirely unrelated to the he-man fantasy that Superman represents, and I mean that with approbation toward both.

    Schuster probably wouldn’t have gone out of his way to advertise this work, if indeed it was just a job to him. But it’s not automatically a sign of disrespect to his legacy as the first Superman artist to examine this work.

    Given however one’s boat may float, it might even be a compliment to him to get turned on by it!

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