Group gets rights to Superman co-creator bio

Days after the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerome Siegel were rebuffed in a lawsuit against Warner Bros. (Daily Variety, July 9), co-creator Joe Shuster is at the center of a film deal.

The Gotham Group has optioned screen rights to “Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman’s Co-Creator Joe Shuster,” a book by Craig Yoe published earlier this year by Abrams ComicArts.

Gotham Group CEO Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Lee Stollman and Julie Kane-Ritsch will produce, and they are out to writers.

Book pegs Shuster as the secret artist behind “The Nights of Horror,” a 16-volume series of mob-financed underground comics depicting scenes that range from S&M to brutal torture.

The comics were sold covertly under the counters of Times Square bookshops — until they sparked a dragnet and crackdown on comics, several sensational trials and a Supreme Court censorship case in 1954.

All this came after the leader of a group dubbed the Brooklyn Thrill Killers pegged the comics as the inspiration for a crime spree that involved flogging women with whips, humiliating vagrants, the beating death of one man and the drowning of another.

Yoe, a comics archivist who stumbled across a cache of the underground comic at an estate sale and recognized Shuster’s stylistic signature, doesn’t reveal in the book how the late artist felt about the scandal. The film will use the crime spree and the artist to paint a period drama.

“Some people felt that when I discovered these books, I should have buried them in the back yard,” Yoe said. “To me, it’s part of his legacy, the idea that in addition to the great character of Superman, he had this whole different side to him, and did brilliant work, in secret.”

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