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Writer Leads Fight to Save House Where Superman Was Invented

Seventy years ago, a new character emerged on the American scene. It was Superman. He was, we were told, "faster than a speeding bullet... Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound!" He caught on fast with the American public. Now the story behind Superman's creation has inspired novelist Brad Meltzer and launched a movement that saved the house where Superman was created. Susan Logue reports.

With his super powers and commitment to rid the world of criminals, Superman and his alter ego, Clark Kent, have captured the imagination of Americans for generations - first in comic books, then on television and in movies.

Superman was the creation of Joseph Shuster and Jerry Siegel. They were 17 when they created the character. How they came to create the super hero is what intrigued novelist Brad Meltzer.

"When they asked Jerry Siegel where did you get the idea for Superman, he never mentions that his father died during a crime," Meltzer notes.

The author has a theory. He notes that the first version of Superman came just one year after Siegel’s father died during a robbery. And the cover of that first non-commercial comic book shows Superman stopping a robbery.

"Just like how Jerry Siegel's father died,” Meltzer says, adding, “if you look at the picture, the victim is Jerry Siegel."

That was five years before the first commercial Superman comic book was sold in 1938.

Meltzer's latest novel, The Book of Lies, is partially inspired by the death of Siegel's father. Research for the book him to Cleveland, where Superman was created.

"I [thought], 'I've got to see the place where Superman was created if I'm going to write about this for the thriller.”

He was shocked to find the house was seriously deteriorating, with holes in the plaster and water damage from a leaking roof. “And I said this is not right."

“The house where Google was created is saved.” Meltzer says. “The farm where Hewlett Packard was founded is preserved.”

And so he set out to save what has become known as the Superman House.

Meltzer launched the non-profit Siegel and Shuster Society and a website, which held an on-line auction of original artwork and other items during the month of September.

The total raised, $101,744, was more than twice the figure he had anticipated.

But Meltzer shouldn't be surprised by the amount of support. As he noted before the auction began, “A comic book is not just a comic book when it comes to Superman. Superman matters."

Repairs on the house began October 2, two days after the auction ended.

The current owners, an elderly couple who could not afford to do the reparis themselves, have agreed to let the Siegel and Shuster Society buy the house when they decide to sell.