Monday, June 9, 2008

A sign of Joe Shuster's success

When Superman hit big, Joe Shuster needed help.

Possibly as early as 1938, he set up a studio on Euclid Avenue in Cleveland and was able to support a team of artists. They drew various Superman comics and other Superman illustration jobs. Yet for almost the first ten years of Superman, Joe inked every Superman face himself.

© DC Comics; Joe Shuster, Fifty Who Made DC Great

The address of Joe's studio was on my list of little mysteries to solve. If I found it, I hoped I'd be able to find a photo of it. Well, I did half of that, and not the half you think I did.

My friend and fellow research fiend Brad Ricca has also been researching Siegel and Shuster for some time and will be unveiling a documentary he made about them later this year. He's uncovered some important material. One scrap of info he found was the studio address.

When I was researching in Cleveland in January, 2007, I learned that the Cleveland Public Library has a large collection of city photographs archived by street in little boxes.
If you are searching for an address, you must go through every photo in the box for that street—no automated alternative exists.

These were photos taken when a building was found to be in violation somehow (look for the little X in each one, but power to you if you can figure out what any of the violations was). I was also told that the city photographed a building before demolishing it.
After that trip, I learned that the City Planning Commission also has copies of some or perhaps all of these photos. I asked a contact there to look up the studio address Brad kindly shared with me.

He came back with three photos of the location, from 1939, 1940, and 1970. The last is actually not a violation one or the "death row" one; it was a zoning photo taken when the building was approved for use as a dance hall. The first two photos are from the period when Joe worked there. Who knows
—maybe he was inside there when they were taken. (I'd speculate that maybe he is one of the pedestrians visible, but there are almost no pedestrians visible in either shot.)

In this 1939 shot, the building is on the far right, almost completely cut off. His entrance was the doorway with the rounded top (the only doorway of that building visible in the shot). 

photo courtesy of the Cleveland Public Library

In this 1940 shot, it's the building on the far left of the photo, again almost completely cut off. (I can't figure out why there is a shop called Lindsay's on both sides of the building.) 

photo courtesy of the Cleveland Public Library

In this 1970 shot, the building is front and center, right behind the trio of similarly cheesy cars. What was Joe's entrance is on the left.

photo courtesy of the Cleveland Public Library

Today, there is no studio and no dance hall there. In fact, there is no building—not this building, anyway. I'm told it's a hospital complex. I'm sure Superman is still there, though.

7/4/13 addendum: I was glad to receive the following correction from a gentleman named Eric Bravo, who gave me permission to post it:

My late grandfather, Sam Berkowitz, was also born in 1914 and attended Alexander Hamilton Jr. High with Joe. Im writing to point out a small mistake when listing the location of the art studio and office Jerry and Joe used on Euclid Avenue. While the location is always described as on Euclid between E. 101st and E. 105th Street, this is wrong. Brad Riccas book Super Boys notes the studios address to be 10609 Euclid, meaning that as addresses on Euclid increase go east, the studio was east of E. 105th Street, between E. 105th and E. 107th Streets. This is supported by the fact that the pictures noting the studios building, or a portion of it, all show a Euclid address at the bottom beginning with 105 or 106, followed by two digits. Finally, some of the pictures show a tall building at the extreme right, and this building, which still stands, is at the corner of Euclid and E. 107th. The mistake is common, and even appears at the map you show, created by others, which has the dot for the studio on Euclid to the left of E. 105th, when it should be just to the right of it.

1 comment:

Barbara Howard said...

As a Clevelander, I enjoyed your post about our legacy of Superman and the old photographs. I host several podcasts and during one of them I interviewed the Executive Director of the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage here in suburban, Beachwood, OH, where they have a permanent exhibit regarding the creators of Superman. If you are interested, the interview is at