It turns out that Superman wasn’t always the superhero hunk that we now know and love. A character named "Superman" first appeared in a short story called “The Reign of the Superman,” written by 18-year-old Jerry Siegel in 1932. Siegel’s story featured a mad scientist who lures a vagrant from a bread line and gives him telepathic powers. But the scientist’s potion-fueled creation uses his newfound power for evil, and sets out to take over the world.
After doing away with the scientist, Superman later discovers that his power is only temporary. At the end of the story, readers find the deflated vagrant back in the bread line, a poor nobody once again.
The birth of a superhero:
- Siegel and his friend, illustrator Joe Shuster, later reworked the Superman character to be a good guy with an otherworldly back story, a secret identity, and a rockin’ cape.
- After years of pitching their stories, Siegel and Shuster finally struck gold when their 13-page story about the Man of Steel was published in 1938's Action Comics #1.
- Action Comics #1 went on to become the most valuable comic book of all time. One original copy sold for $2.16 million USD at an auction in 2011. But Siegel and Shuster weren't as lucky: They received no royalties, having signed away the rights to their character for $130 USD.