Tags: Henry Ward Beecher’s Bowflex; what Batman, beefcake, birth control, and bootleg liquor have in common; “this looks like a job for Spicy Man.”
Secret origin? What’s so secret about it? You all know the story. Even if you’ve never read a comic book in your life, you’ve probably heard the tale. Gotham City, in the days of film-noir fedoras and Hupmobiles. A young boy–bookish, awkward, a dreamer–goes to see Douglas Fairbanks in The Mark of Zorro, and falls in love with the idea. A costumed hero who masquerades as a timid milquetoast, then bursts forth to battle crime and injustice with superhuman skill! Plot thickens: the boy loses his parents, shot dead in a mugging gone wrong. The crime is senseless, random. The boy’s life is shattered. He vows revenge, not on the thug that did his father in, but on crime itself. He vows he will become…
Hold on. Here’s the part you might not know. The city is not fictional Gotham but real life Cleveland. The boy is not millionaire Bruce Wayne but working class schlemiel Jerry Siegel. His father Michel, who immigrated from Lithuania in the first decade of the century, was murdered while closing his Woodland haberdashery in 1928. The police never found his killer. Ten years later, Jerry Siegel and his high school buddy Joe Shuster wrote and illustrated the first true “superhero” story for Harry Donenfeld’s Action Comics. This is not Batman’s secret origin, it’s Superman’s.