Jeff Trexler has been digging through the exhibits in the Siegel vs WB case, and found lots of disturbing correspondence between Detective Comics and Jerry Siegel from 1939 through 1947, including talk of a gay looking SUperman with a fat bottom, and a Lois Lane who was way too buxom.
Even apart from the gender issues there’s a lot of amazing stuff here–the recurring savage criticism of Joe Shuster’s art; an early critique of Wayne Boring as an artist unsuitable for Superman; the hiring of Winsor McCay, Jr. as Superman ghost-artist-in-training; the insinuation that Superman was not significantly more popular than Zatara, Pep Morgan and Tex Thomson; and the prohibition on depictions of a flying Clark Kent are just a few of the historical moments in the mix.
I really have to wonder, in that early stage of the comic book industry, if Siegel & Shuster saw their work in a very personal way — as indy comic creators who own the rights to their own work today feel — or was it just a business thing? Did they want to grow as creators, did they want to take Superman to new places creatively & content-wise? When they saw completely different teams handle their work, did they feel outraged, or heartsick, like it was “their baby?” When they read letters where their work was summarily dismissed — and dissed — did they take it personally?
And did resentment over these letters — some of which were pretty harsh, even for standard editorial criticism — help fuel Siegel’s many decades of fighting over the character he helped create? Did these documents, in some of which he was talked down to as if he was a hick or a child, make everything more personal?