1940s Superman Too Gay, Said Editors

Illustration for article titled 1940s Superman Too Gay, Said Editors

Click to viewToday, fans may refer to the first decade of the Man of Steel's existence as his Golden Age, but back in those days, editors at DC didn't feel the same way. In fact, recently-released documents from that era show that they thought that Superman seemed a little too gay for their liking. Oh, and Lois should have an abortion so that her breasts can go down a size or two, as well.

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Going through the correspondence between DC (then called Detective Comics, Inc.) and Superman creator Jerry Siegel from 1939 to 1947 - made public as part of the ongoing lawsuit between Siegel's heirs and DC over the ownership of the character - comics historian Jeff Trexler uncovered some eye-opening remarks from the editors in charge of the Man of Tomorrow:

As the papers reveal, early in the history of Superman, co-creator and artist Joe Shuster was warned to tone down his depiction of Lois Lane by his editor Whitney Ellsworth, and make her less sexy. It was a warning that the artist chose to ignore for months, apparently, causing Ellsworth made an argument that seems shocking even almost seventy years later. Shuster's Lois was so "unpleasantly sexy" that her pulchritude made her seem a bit too heavy–a problem for which Ellsworth and Murray Boltinoff had an easy solution:
"[W]hy it is necessary to shade Lois' breasts and the underside of her tummy with vertical pen-lines we can't understand. She looks pregnant. Murray suggests that you arrange for her to have an abortion or the baby and get it over with so that her figure can return to something a little more like the tasty dish she is supposed to be."

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Perhaps more surprising was their take on Superman himself:

Another alleged problem with Shuster's artwork is that it made Superman look gay - or in the period slang of Ellsworth's January 22, 1940, letter, "lah-de-dah" with a "nice fat bottom."

(The letter in question is worth checking out for yourself in Trexler's online archive of the documents; Ellsworth doesn't just mention Superman's "nice fat bottom," but makes a point of saying that he likes it, even though the artwork in general isn't up to standard.)

Whether the documents actually prove either side's case in the ongoing ownership battle is unclear - certainly, the creators' bending to DC's numerous editorial complaints show that the authorship of the characters as we've come to know them wasn't solely Siegel and Shuster's - they definitely show a previously unknown history for one of the most famous fictional characters in the world. And maybe a more interesting one, as well.

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Hidden History: Lois' 'Abortion' and Superman too Gay? [Newsarama]

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DISCUSSION

@OMG! Ponies! Wicked Awesome Margaritas: I was referring to the presentation or "catish" tone. Otherwise I pretty much agree with you except black with navy doesn't really fly in real life (clothes) or in print (I'm a graphic designer by trade). They get lost together. Maybe a dark medium (60-70%) gray instead of black or a texturing to the black or blue to help differentiate.

Ugh, the superhero boots... because footwear is a mystery to comic book artists.

On topic though, just because the creators took advice/criticism from the publisher in no way indicates ownership one way or the other. Authors do it, freelance illustrators do it; anyone who wants a paycheck for their efforts does it. Ownership belongs to the creators unless they created the "product" while under employment by publishers. For instance, if I create an illustration for a client as freelance, unless there is a contract saying otherwise, I own the copyright for that illustration, I am just allowing the client to use it. If I were under the employment of a firm and through said employment created an illustration for a client, the firms owns the copyright.