The crime that created Superman: Did fatal robbery spawn Man of Steel?





On the night of June 2, 1932, the world's first superhero was born — not on the mythical planet of Krypton but from a little-known tragedy on the streets of Cleveland.
It was Thursday night, about 8:10 p.m., and Mitchell Siegel, a Jewish immigrant from Lithuania, was in his secondhand clothing store on the near East Side. According to a police report, three men entered. One asked to see a suit of clothes and walked out without paying for it. In the commotion of the robbery, Siegel, 60, fell to the ground and died.

The police report mentions a gunshot being heard. But the coroner, the police and Siegel's wife said Siegel died of a heart attack. No one was ever arrested.

What happened next has exploded some of the longest-held beliefs about the origins of Superman and the two teenage boys, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who invented America's best-known comic-book hero.

Past accounts suggest Siegel and Shuster, both 17, awkward and unpopular in high school, invented the meek Clark Kent and his powerful alter-ego, Superman, to attract girls and rise above their humble Cleveland beginnings.

But now it appears that the origin might have been more profound — that it was the death of Jerry Siegel's father that pushed the devastated teen to come up with the idea of a "Superman" to right all wrongs.

"In 50 years of interviews, Jerry Siegel never once mentioned that his father died in a robbery," says Brad Meltzer, a best-selling author whose novel, The Book of Lies, due Sept. 2, links the Siegel murder to a biblical conspiracy plot.

"But think about it," Meltzer says. "Your father dies in a robbery, and you invent a bulletproof man who becomes the world's greatest hero. I'm sorry, but there's a story there."


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