Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman’s Co-creator Joe Shuster

by Irma Arkus

Turns out, Joe Shuster, creator and animator of Superman, wasn’t the average “boy next door” after all, as the latest book by Craig Yoe, “Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman’s Co-creator Joe Shuster,” documents his BDSM work.

The book, available in bookstores and libraries (? Not sure on that one, but I am trying to get you to spend less and read more, yeey!), documents the rare and obscure samples of Shusters work in erotica.

Turns out, in the wee hours of the night, Shuster was drawing images for an independent magazine, “Nights of Horror.” The erotic nature of the magazine made it technically unavailable, sold under counters, until it was banned by rising movement towards censorship.

Shuster’s moonlighting as a creator of erotica, esentially labels him as a man with a “secret identity,” similarly to that of Clark Kent / Superman. One thing is for sure – after reading the “Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman’s Co-creator Joe Shuster” you will never be able to look at the Shuster’s characters the same way again.

That makes me kind of happy too, as the polished, uber-American-rah-rah-USA type Superman seems inadequate for contemporary audience. The latest cinematic incarnation of Superman fell short of my expectations, as it reproduced the images associated with Superman from the 1980s, rather than looking to transform the character and propel him into the future.

Even though the uncovered art has very little to do with Superman, it does allow us a peak at the mind who created him (or co-created him, better said). Perhaps the “Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman’s Co-creator Joe Shuster” will do just that, peeling away the layers of the innocuous, the corporatized and the infantile, and replacing those with the kind of characters that captivated audiences in the early stages of Shuster’s work.

Either way, the collection provides a grand overview of underground artist work that Shuster and his contemporaries were very much a part of, and will perhaps allow us to deconstruct and discard the illusory puritan imagery of the 1950s era with a more realistic picture of the time and its people. [Amazon]