Roy Schwartz, author of the book “Is Superman Circumcised?: The Complete Jewish History of the World’s Greatest Hero,” has had an opinion piece published on CNN.com in which he looks back at Joe Shuster’s life, and how his love life was impacted by his own short-comings, even though he was Superman’s co-creator.
Schwartz tells the story of Helen Cohen, a young woman Joe Shuster was smitten with in the late 1930/early 1940s.
Shuster was smitten enough to write her love letters while they were both still living at home. The letters are excited and earnest, romantic, sometimes flirtatious. Their tone indicates a relationship still in its early stages but past casual, and serious enough that Shuster knew her family and regularly sent his regards.
With Superman was becoming a nationwide hit, Shuster had to move from Cleveland to New York to keep up with the demand required of his artist talents.
“I’ve been living, thinking, breathing SUPERMAN until it is almost a part of me!” Shuster wrote to Helen on Nov. 5, 1939, the day the Sunday page started. “After all these years,” he followed on Nov. 26, “success has finally come our way.”
Shuster was doing very well. Accounts vary, but he and Siegel were making between $38,000 and $75,000 a year ($780,000 and $1.6 million adjusted), more than Depression-era young men with a high school education dared dream of then. Shuster didn’t mention any of this in his letters. Perhaps, like Superman, who wooed Lois as Clark from the very first story, he wanted to win her over for who he was, not what he could do.
Sadly Shuster’s love went unrequited and Helen went on to marry someone else.