The origin of a 'Superman'—Siegel and Shuster join forces in the early 1930s fanzine, Science Fiction
Fantastically rare set of the first four issues of Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization, Volume 1, a mimeographed science fiction fanzine self-published by Superman creator Jerry Siegel in late 1932 and early 1933. The lot is highlighted by the presence of issue No. 3 from January 1933, which features the short story ‘The Reign of the Superman,’ written by Siegel (under the pseudonym Herbert S. Fine) and illustrated by Joe Shuster; the 11-page tale marks the duo's first published use of the name Superman, a superhero they would more famously introduce in June 1938's Action Comics #1.
Issue No. 3 consists of 22 pages, 8.5 x 11, stapled, with missing front cover, the last two pages detached, and page 19 printed upside-down. The contents of the issue: The Reign of the Superman by Herbert S. Fine (pgs. 4-14, with tremendous illustrations by Shuster); About Amelia Reynolds Long by by legendary future sci-fi writer and agent Forrest J. Ackerman (pg. 14); The Dream Dimension [Part 3 of 3] by Eugene I. Frank (pgs. 15-18); and Science Fiction News, with last page listing books sold at the Smith Book Company in Lawrence, Massachusetts (pgs. 18-19). The opening contents page lists “Jerome Siegel” as editor and “Joe Shuster” as art editor and illustrator.
Issue No. 1, October 1932, 22 pages, 9 x 12, stapled, with missing front cover, and first two pages and last page detached. The contents: The Dream Dimension [Part 1 of 3] by Eugene I. Frank; Biography of Ed Earl Repp; The Green Plane by Carl Mann; Their Clean Record by Leon N. Franklin; and Snaring the Master by Herbert S. Fine; reverse of the back page annotated in blue pencil with the address of the Smith Book Company.
Issue No. 2 (errantly marked as “Number One”), November 1932, 24 pages, 9 x 12, stapled, with final three pages detached. The contents: Gods of the Nebulae by Hugh Langley; Super Science Satire by Forrest J. Ackerman; The Dream Dimension [Part 2 of 3] by Eugene I. Frank; and Editor’s Televisor; reverse of the back page annotated in blue pencil with the address of the Smith Book Company. The “Coming Next Month!!!” section on page 17 advertises Siegel and Shuster’s landmark ‘Superman’ story: “Herbert S. Fine returns with a smashing short story Reign of the Superman.”
Issue No. 4, 1933, 22 pages, 8.5 x 11, stapled. The contents: Dimension Doom [Part 1 of 2] by Raymond A. Palmer; New Forces in Literature by David H. Keller; and Vandals from Pluto by Bernard J. Kenton; an opening page contains the first printed image of King Kong with a short review for the 1933 film. In overall very good to fine condition, with toning, chips and tears to edges, and some pages partially detached.
Siegel and Shuster bonded over a love of science and adventure fiction while attending Glenville High School in Cleveland, Ohio. Already contributors to the weekly school newspaper, The Glenville Torch, the shy 18-year-olds used the school’s mimeograph to produce an ambitious fanzine called Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization. Their efforts resulted in only five issues, but the lead story in the third publication, The Reign of the Superman, would serve as the springboard for their most popular and influential character.
Originally written by Siegel in 1932, The Reign of the Superman told the story of a vagrant named Bill Dunn who, in exchange for ‘a real meal and a new suit,’ participates in an experiment that grants him telepathic powers. Intoxicated with his newfound abilities, Dunn seeks to take over the world, killing the chemist who created the formula. The story ends with his temporary powers worn away, and Dunn realizing that he will soon be forced to return to the bread line a forgotten man.
Siegel reconceived the character of Superman a year later, changing him from a bald villain (not unlike Lex Luthor) to a cape-wearing hero with an alter ego—Shuster modeled the superhero after Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., and his bespectacled alter ego, Clark Kent, on a combination of Harold Lloyd and himself. Unable to develop their idea into a comic strip, the duo found jobs at National Allied Publications (later to become DC Comics) in 1935, and debuted their Superman character in the first issue of Action Comics in June 1938.
Research indicates that no more than 50 copies of Siegel and Shuster’s Science Fiction fanzines were printed for distribution, and that the last auction to offer the coveted No. 3 issue occurred in 2010. Siegel and Shuster’s Science Fiction fanzine represents the very earliest incarnation of the Superman saga and looms as a veritable museum-quality artifact from the nascency of the comic book industry—a significant, essential work of the utmost desirability.