Joe Shuster (1914-1992) was a Canadian-born, American-raised comic book artist. He is best known for co-creating the DC Comics character Superman (1938). Shuster was involved in a number of legal battles concerning the ownership of the Superman character, eventually gaining recognition for his part in its creation.
Nights of Horror
In the 1950s, after severe legal issues with DC Comics, Shuster largely dropped out of sight. He is believed to be one of the anonymous illustrators for Nights of Horror, an underground sadomasochistic fetish comic-book series published in 1953-54 by Manhattan mobster-turned-smut-pedlar Eddie Mishkin.
Nights of Horror was produced under the Malcla (Maletta & Clancy) Publishing Company imprint, and was sold under the counter until it was banned by the U.S. Senate. The pamphlet-size 80-page booklet had a print run of 16 volumes. Each issue contained 10 ink illustrations. Prose and pictures tell stories about women who are captured, bound, and punished. Volume One includes “Book of Torture” by Rod Lashwell and “The Strange Loves of Alice” by Gar King.
The artwork, posthumously attributed to Shuster based on his artistic style, features scenes of bondage and M/F, F/F, and F/M spanking and whipping. Men dominate, but women also abuse. Some of the stories may have been loosely based on sensational damsel-in-distress tales found in detective magazines in the 1930s and 1940s.
Many of the characters bear an uncanny resemblance to Superman, his alter ego Clark Kent, and co-stars Lois Lane, bald villain Lex Luthor, and sidekick Jimmy Olsen. (See the examples below. Note that these images are out of copyright in the United States, but may still be copyrighted in other countries.)
In 1954 Nights of Horror was the subject of legal action involving a Manhattan bookstore. The mayor’s office prosecuted Kingsley Books for allegedly selling literature that violated decency laws. They lost at the trial level and on appeal. A small fine was levied.
This series was reprinted by Festival Publishers Ltd. (Los Angeles, Calif.) in 1971.
House of Tears
Shuster is also believed to have done the slightly better-known magazine series House of Tears. Similar to Nights of Horror, this is a digest-sized book (80 pages with 10 illustrations) printed in New York by Eddie Mishkin. It was published around 1955 under the fictitious imprint "Mandel Publishing, Chicago, Illinois". Harold Kane, the supposed author, may be a pseudonym created by Shuster (possibly based on Bob Kane, his former colleague at DC Comics).
The black and white drawings in House of Tears feature a cruel dominatrix who torments and humiliates a male and female captive. The victims bear a striking resemblance to Shuster's Superman characters Clark Kent and Lois Lane.
According to Craig Yoe, author of Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman's Co-Creator Joe Shuster, the print-run was about 1,000 copies for each title and Shuster was paid about $100 for the artwork per book.
In addition, Shuster apparently created artwork for three forgotten, one-shot sadomasochistic fantasy booklets, Rod Rule, Hollywood Detective, and Continental.
Brooklyn Thrill Killers murder trial
One of their avid readers was deranged delinquent Jack Koslow. He was so inspired by them that he and his gang horse-whipped girls in the park and set vagrants on fire. When the gang was caught, the court called in psychiatrist and anti-comics campaigner Dr. Fredric Wertham to determine whether Koslow was insane or could stand trial. Wertham confirmed the pernicious influence on him of Nights of Horror and the police promptly seized all copies from bookshops in Times Square. The publisher (Mishkin) fought the case all the way to the Supreme Court but lost in 1957.
In 2009, the rediscovery of this forgotten artwork led to the publication of the book Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman's Co-Creator Joe Shuster by Craig Yoe (Harry N. Abrams) ISBN 978-0-8109-9634-2. The book includes reproductions of these images and an essay that provides a detailed account of the scandals that resulted from the publication of this racy material.
Ed Mishkin was also the owner of the Mutrix Publishing Company which published bondage and spanking photo-booklets. In the early '60s the company was acquired by Irving Klaw.
- Joe Shuster on Wikipedia
- Brooklyn Thrill Killers on Wikipedia
- Category:Nights of Horror on Wikimedia Commons
- Spanking comic
- Spanking magazine
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