The cover of ‘Nights of Horror’ (volume one) illustrated by Joe Shuster.
In 1923 Joe Shuster and his family moved away from their home in Ontario, Canada to Cleveland, Ohio. There as a youth he crossed paths with another kid his age Jerome Siegel who went by “Jerry.” The two quickly bonded over their mutual love of comic books and science fiction. They spent copious amounts of time reading anything related to the world of sci-fi they could get their hands on as well as taking in movies anytime they could.
The boys’ lives would remain closely intertwined as they entered high school where they would collaborate on a fanzine they dubbed Science Fiction. The duo split the duties of writing and illustration with Shuster taking on the drawing part and Siegel composing the stories. In addition to their own work, the fanzine also published stories written by Ray Bradbury who was just a few years ahead of Joe and Jerome age-wise at the time and a man who earned many nicknames in his life (such as “Mr. Science Fiction” by coining the abbreviation “sci-fi”) Forrest J. Ackerman. Ackerman’s life is worthy of several posts here on DM but we will have to leave that for another day as the story concerning Joe Shuster involves the “holy grail” of comic books Action Comics No. 1, murderous neo-Nazis, lots of sadomasochist drawings and Superman, arguably the most famous comic book character of all time that was originally conceived of by Shuster and Siegel.
Superman evolved from a character who was originally a bad guy: after suffering side effects from secret science experiments he gained various superpowers such as flying, and being impervious to things like bullets. He was also overcome by the desire to rule the Earth. Later it seems that Siegel would get the idea to make Superman a do-gooder and after getting together with his pal Joe the story of Superman as we all know it was born. Sadly, the rest of the story concerning their partnership and an idea that should have left them filthy rich involves getting ripped off, lawyers, and bad times. So let’s jump to something much more pleasant that Joe Shuster did in later in his career, fetish art.
An illustration by Shuster from ‘Nights of Horror’ (volume three) of a couple getting stoned that bear uncanny resemblances to “Jimmy Olsen” and “Lucy Lane” from the ‘Superman’ comics.
Both Shuster and Siegel had lots of side-projects writing and drawing for different magazines and comics. But unlike his friend and business partner Shuster also illustrated scenes of soft and hardcore BDSM and giant-sized women for a porn magazine popular back in the 1950s called Nights of Horror though he never signed his name to any of the work. At the time Shuster was flat broke so when the opportunity presented itself he took it out of desperation. It’s also said that Shuster felt that the explicit artwork wasn’t what he wanted to be remembered for thus his reluctance to attach his name to it. The 1950s were a very different time when it came to the idea of actions that were considered sexually deviant and Shuster’s illustrations for Nights of Horror absolutely fell into that category and then some in the eyes of most people. Later Shuster’s illustrations would become a matter of extreme controversy resulting in a case heard by the Supreme Court centered around indecency. In yet another turn of unfortunate events for Shuster a scumbag gang of neo-Nazis in New York calling themselves the “Brooklyn Thrill Killers” blamed their horrific actions on comic books, specifically Nights of Horror and as many copies of Nights of Horror that the authorities could get their hands on were destroyed. Even at his lowest, poor Joe Shuster just couldn’t catch a break.
Another interesting tidbit about Shuster’s sexy surreptitious illustrations is that they look a whole lot like characters from Superman’s orbit. There’s even a rendering of what distinctly appears to be Superman’s goofball buddy, Jimmy Olsen getting stoned with his girlfriend Lucy Lane (Lois’ sister, pictured above). Thanks to the Supreme Court debacle issues of Nights of Horror are hard to come by and generally run as high as $600 for a lone copy. Thankfully, Shuster and his excellent R-rated illustrations have been the subject of several books. IVrecommend the 2009 book Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman’s Co-Creator Joe Shuster. The images from Shuster’s fetish phase below are absolutely NSFW.
One of Shuster’s giant girls and a whip.
Part one of a five part BBC series ‘The Comic Strip Hero’ on Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, 1981.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
How Superman singlehandedly thwarted the Ku Klux Klan
The drag adventures of Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen: Solving crime decked out in a dress back in 1966
Bizarre Top Of The Pops dance routine for ‘O Superman’