The secret sex art of Superman's creator

Superman isn't the only one with a secret identity—it turns out that Joe Shuster, the artist who co-created the Man of Steel along with writer Jerry Siegel when they were teenagers in the 1930s, had one of his own.

During the 1950s, when the partners were on the outs with DC Comics due to their attempts to regain the copyrights to their character, Shuster was unable get any comic-book assignments, and had to look elsewhere for work. So instead of illustrating the adventures of Lois and Clark, Shuster took to drawing the racy doings of decidedly different sorts of couples in images for Nights of Horror, a fetish magazine sold surreptiously in Times Square sex shops.

It doesn't take a great leap of the imagination to look at the cover of Craig Yoe's upcoming Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman's Co-creator Joe Shuster (Abrams, $24.95) and picture the young artist getting out his frustrations over what he'd lost, because the faces seem awfully close to those of the most famous famous couple in comics.

Shuster never signed any these images, but as Yoe discovered, many had been signed JOSH—a combination of the JO from Joseph and the SH from Shuster. To those in the know, however, no signature was necessary, as they were clearly Shuster's work.

Luckily for the artist, the general public did not share that familiarity, because though the publication was eventually banned by the U.S. Senate, and both the printer and the publisher were jailed, no one made the connection at the time between those erotic images and the creator of Superman.

Yoe, whose other books include The Art of Mickey Mouse and Clean Cartoonists' Dirty Drawings, connected the dots to uncover the full story behind Shuster's secret, and promises to reveal all in the pages of Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman.

Stan Lee, co-creator of quite a few superhero characters himself, will be writing the introduction. We'll just have to wait until the book's April release to see whether he plans on sharing any secrets of his own.

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