This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.
The first hero.
Superheroes are so common these days – on television and at the movies; in comics, books, and apps; alone and in teams – you would be forgiven for thinking they had always been around. Shuster would tell a different tale. In 1933, the Toronto artist and his writing partner, Jerry Siegel, were the first to create a comic book superhero – a mysterious figure who uses extraordinary physical powers to uphold good and fight evil. Yet they had to push their creation to publishers for nearly six years – suffering rejection after rejection – before Superman finally stepped out of the telephone booth in Action Comics No. 1 in June 1938, cover price ten cents. The next year, their Man of Steel earned his own series and took off like a speeding locomotive, selling more than half a million copies per month. The golden age of comic-book superheroes was underway – a welcome tonic to a world on the brink of the most destructive conflict in human history. Today, these heroes and heroines are just as popular. In 2014, a single copy of Action Comics No. 1 sold at auction for $3.2 million – an approving nod to Canadian Joe Shuster’s first hero.