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Earliest version of Superman up for auction (he’s a villain)

September 21, 2018

Earliest version of Superman up for auction (he’s a villain)

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Five years before Superman debuted on the cover of “Action Comics” No. 1 Glenville High School students Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster featured a character named Super-Man in their self-published fanzine.

On Tuesday, RR Auction in Boston will auction off the first four mimeographed issues of “Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization” including “Reign of the Super-Man” in issue three.

And in it, “Super-Man” is a bad guy.

Fewer than 50 copies of “Science Fiction” were made and distributed, using the mimeograph machine at Glenville High School in 1932 and 1933. 

“They produced an ambitious fanzine,” said the auction house news release. “Their efforts resulted in only five issues, but the lead story in the third publication, ‘The Reign of the Superman,’ would serve as the springboard for their most popular and influential character.”

“The Reign of the Superman” is the text story of a a homeless man who agrees to be part of an experiment in exchange for ‘a real meal and a new suit.’ The experiment gives him powerful mental abilities which he uses to try to take over the world. The powers wear off by the end of the story and the character is back where he began. The story used spot illustrations by Shuster, depicting a bald character who looked more like villain Lex Luthor than Superman.

A short time later, Siegel and Shuster kept the name (losing the hyphen) and turned the character into the cape-wearing hero.

Bobby Livingston, executive vice-president of RR Auction, said the books are “museum-quality artifacts of the utmost desirability.”

In a telephone interview, Livingston said the fanzines are from an East Coast collector who bought then more than a decade ago.

“Of course, the issue containing ‘The Reign of Super-man’  is the jewel,” he said. “But the other issues are also significant.”

Livingston said a similar set sold for $50,000, they estimate the value of their set at about $35,000.

The gavel will fall on the winning bid at 1 p.m. Tuesday. Between now and then, people are permitted to bid on the website: www.rrauction.com. The current top bid is $10,000.

After Siegel an Shuster created Superman, they unsuccessfully shopped it around for five years, writing other comic books in the meantime, before it was bought by National Allied Publications (later to become DC Comics).

Michael Olszewski, president of the Siegel and Shuster Society, said the fanzine is a piece of Superman history.

“This is an amazing find,” said Olszewski. “There may be about a hundred known copies of Action Comics #1, but only a handful of these magazines are known to exist. Plus, keep in mind that they were printed by Jerry Sieigel on primitive copy equipment much like the old ditto machines. For anyone interested in the history of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster this is like finding King Tut’s tomb. These belong in the Library of Congress, and I hope whoever wins the bid looks far ahead to preserving these amazing artifacts.”

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