Monday, February 14, 2011

Joanne Siegel, wife of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel, 1917-2011

The same day I learned my Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman editor Janet Schulman died, I learned that the widow of Jerry Siegel, co-creator and original writer of Superman, also died. (Janet died on 2/11/11 and Joanne today.) Two grande dames that did much for the cause.

Jerry said Joanne was the inspiration for Lois Lane. From what I hear, her real-life character bore out Lois’s combination of charm and tenacity.

Joanne with Jerry and their daughter Laura, 1976

Joanne at the Breman Jewish Heritage and Holocaust Museum in Atlanta; circa 2007; photo via Hogan's Alley

I never had the honor of meeting Joanne. I sent her a copy of my book, which (in a metaphor I am surprised I am using, even on Valentine’s Day) was my love letter to a phenomenon and my public thank you to the two young men who dreamed it up for us.

Joanne never gave an interview—or if she did, we don’t know about it yet. Since Jerry passed away in 1996, there are questions only she could’ve answered. (Jerry and Joe’s daughter Laura would certainly have great insight, too, but Joanne goes back the beginning of the character.)

The Siegel family has been involved in Superman-related litigation on and off for decades. They do not accept interview requests from any writers or journalists, even ones who are their friends. Like many, I want the family to receive a fair share of the profits from Superman. Yet I feel that the family also has an obligation to posterity, and one that would not undermine the actions they had to take on their own behalf.

Therefore, on 3/26/10, I meddled. I e-mailed the following to Joanne’s lawyer Marc Toberoff (with whom I’d already been in touch about other matters):
[Case Western professor] Brad Ricca is a good friend and [respected] academic who did a documentary on Siegel and Shuster called Last Son. It has been very well received on the circuit. The movie [helped get] him a deal to write a bio (already under contract with St. Martin's Press) on Siegel and Shuster. Brad has had friendly direct contact with Joanne and Laura and met them both last summer in Cleveland since he was a key organizer. I know Joanne and Laura have not talked with other writers and I understand why, but I'm hoping you'll consider talking with them about talking with Brad. He's a grade-A class act and if they are ever going to trust anyone with any anecdotes and memories that they have not yet shared, this is the time. I would hate for Joanne to not get the chance to tell her side of the story on record. I told Brad I would ask you this [meaning Brad did not ask me to ask you]. This has nothing to do with me other than that I would want Joanne's words to be in trusted hands and that is Brad.
I’m holding out hope that someone did conduct a secret interview and that it will surface eventually.

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