Sixty Five Years in the Making!
Original Great Rao 2005 article with 2006 Update below
Jerry Siegel, co-creator of Superman, wrote “The K-Metal from Krypton” script in 1940. According to comic book historian Will Murray, it was most likely originally intended for use in Superman #8, the January/February 1941 issue. (See Murray’s article in Alter Ego #37 for details) The story marked many radical shifts in the life of Superman. Murray argues that since Jerry Siegel had recently gotten married and that his life had gone through many other changes since his first Superman story, Siegel wanted to alter Superman’s life in similar ways. He also points out that the events in this story had been foreshadowed in earlier ones, and gives details of possible sequels.
Joe Shuster and his studio illustrated the complete twenty-six page script, but the tale was never published, most likely for editorial reasons. Gerard Jones, in Men of Tomorrow, explains how this marked the moment that creative control of Superman’s destiny was forever taken from Jerry Siegel. Jerry’s K-Metal story was quickly forgotten and languished in obscurity; his desired changes to Superman never taking place until decades later, some not at all. Joe Shuster’s twenty-six pages of finished artwork were lost as well.
The only evidence of the story’s existence appeared in 1970, when a small, grainy and barely legible reproduction of four pages appeared in Jim Steranko’s History of Comics, Volume One. However, neither the story nor its plot were mentioned, the pages were only identified as being from an unpublished Superman story.
Siegel’s script continued to remain completely forgotten and the story’s existence unknown, until 1988 when an ancient, faded, and blurred carbon-copy of the complete script was discovered in a dusty box in the back of the DC library archives by a young staff member named Mark Waid. Having read Steranko’s History of Comics as a youth, he recognized the story as being that unpublished tale mentioned in the book. He immediately read the entire script and was struck dumb by its incredible historical significance. He then painstakingly restored the crumbling document by re-typing an exact duplicate, typos and all, on an identical manual typewriter as had been used by Jerry Siegel. (See Mark Waid’s article in Alter Ego #26 for details)
Since Joe Shuster’s pages were no longer available; and whether or not they even existed, or where such pages might possibly be located, was all completely unknown; Mark made efforts to have DC hire a new artist to re-illustrate the story and to then publish it, finally making it available to the world. These efforts did not succeed.
In 1994, Mark Waid gave a copy of the script to Alex Ross who read it and was equally amazed. After the critical success that came with his work on Kingdom Come in 1998, Alex felt that his next project should be to illustrate Jerry Siegel’s K-Metal script in a style as close to Joe Shuster’s as was possible. The idea was rejected for editorial reasons, so he instead created Peace on Earth. (See Alex Ross’s article in Alter Ego #30 for more details)
In the summer of 2003, Mark Waid’s article describing the K-Metal story and his experiences discovering it were published in Alter Ego #26. Accompanying the article were reproductions of a few of Joe Shuster’s finished pages, and a handful of script excerpts. I reproduced those pages and put them online here at Superman Through the Ages! My goal was to eventually recover every page and present the complete story on the web. To fill in the missing gaps, I also scanned the few script excerpts from the issue, and then hunted down a copy of Steranko’s History of Comics, Volume One and added those four pages as well.
The current whereabouts of most of artist Joe Shuster’s original pages continue to remain unknown.
For the unbelievable true tale of the story’s discovery, don’t miss Mark Waid’s article in Alter Ego No. 26. The saga continues in Will Murray’s article in Alter Ego No. 37.
Soon after this all went online, I was contacted by artist Angel Criado, who wanted to complete the story by illustrating the missing pages–either by obtaining a copy of the original script, or by extrapolating and filling in the missing parts of the story. We began our attempts to track down a copy of the script.
Angel also began his work, starting with a pencil draft of the first page and a few cover concepts. I continued to add to the missing pages as new pages were discovered (another had been published in Alter Ego #37 accompanying Will Murray’s article, reproduced from a 1993 Sotheby’s comic art catalog), and Angel continued his artistic research while also attempting to fill in the plot for the missing pages.
Peter Jones, who owns the original artwork for page 20, came across the Superman Through the Ages! website and very kindly sent in a scan of his page, which I added.
Charlie Roberts had a rough, grainy and illegible photograph of page 7, which he sent in to Alter Ego. This was published in Alter Ego #45. The photo proves that the page existed at some point in time, and shows the general layout, but unfortunately, the dialogue is completely illegible.
It wasn’t until 2005, when Bob Rivard signed up for the restoration project, that progress kicked into high gear.
Angel and Bob really gelled as a team, the artwork looking fantastic and coming fast and furious. In addition, our ongoing efforts to hunt down a copy of the script finally panned out.
All the pieces were now in place: An excellent artist, an excellent inker, Jerry Siegel’s complete script, and ten of the twenty six pagesâ€”the only pages known to be in existenceâ€”already completed by Joe Shuster and other artists from his studio. There is strong evidence that the additional Shuster Studio artists who worked on the story were Paul Cassidy, Wayne Boring, and Leo Nowak. (See Alter Ego #37)
Where we had references for those original pages, of whatever quality, artist Angel Criado has used them as detailed guides in creating exciting new, full sized pencils. For the other completely missing sixteen pages, he has drawn them from scratch using his own layouts, in Joe Shuster’s style and following Siegel’s script to the letter.
With Bob inking over both Angel’s incredibly thrilling new pages and his Shuster-based artwork, we’ve achieved an un-interupted and consistent look for the entire story. Bob’s professional skills in inking, coloring, and pitching-in practically everywhere have also been critical to this project’s success. (See sample panels)
We are very pleased to finally be able to present Siegel and Shuster’s “The K-Metal from Krypton” in its entirety. Thanks very much for waiting, and we hope you enjoy reading the story as much as we enjoyed finishing it!
2006 Update: Since this article was written, people have continued to contact us to help with the project. Doctor Thomas Andrae has contributed a much clearer copy of page 7 than was published in Alter Ego, and has also helped us by providing a copy of the heretofore unknown page 12. The art style used for this page is radically different from any of the other pages and will undoubtedly prove fascinating to Superman historians.
Additionally, we are very excited to welcome three incredibly talented gentlemen (and all-around great guys) onboard the project:
Beginning with page 8, Shane Foley will be contributing inks and finishes; while starting with page 7, Sarge (aka Randy Sargent) will be pitching in with his masterful colors. Additionally, noted Superman scholar Bob Hughes will be lending his aid by contributing to the identification of which members of the Joe Shuster Studio worked on each of the original pages.
Wow! This is a great story. I would love to read it. I’m going to have to pop over to the website.
Michael Cohen says
When will Page 26 plus the additional page be at least at the restoration in progress mode if not completed?
Michael Cohen says
When do you think the last pages of the K-Metal From Krypton will be done? At least when will page 26 plus the additional page’s restoration be in progress?