Posted on Tuesday, July 14th, 2009 by Russ Fischer
Comic book creators typically chronicle secret identities rather than harboring them. But earlier this year a book of fetish art created in the 1950s by Superman co-creater Joe Shuster was published, purporting to shed light on his ‘secret identity’ as an artist who did more than just Superman. According to Craig Yoe’s book Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman’s Co-creator Joe Shuster, Shuster was the man behind a series of fetish comics called Nights of Horror, produced while he was in dire financial straits due to lawsuits over Superman copyrights. Now, Variety says, The Gotham Group has optioned the book and is sending it out to writers to create a feature film.
Because the project is in early stages, we don’t know if it will be a straight adaptation of the non-fiction book, or if names and events will be changed. The story itself is certainly lurid enough, as Nights of Terror was cited in 1954 by four boys dubbed the Brooklyn Thrill Killers (they were neo-Nazi jews!) as inspiration for their two murders and other crimes. So you’ve got a bunch of ’50s drive-in movie angles: juvenile delinquincy, sex, violence, anti-comic book paranoia and (supposedly) the mob, which published the books and distributed them to shops in Times Square. (There has been a film made about the Brooklyn Thrill Killers, featuring Dan Fogler of Fanboys.)
Not that doing pin-up and fetish art was anything unusual: Until the internet made porn free and easy to find, comic artists could often make easy money doing erotic work. Even on a larger scale fetish comics were a big deal; much of the Fantagraphics label was supported by the back-shelf efforts of Eros Comix through the 1990s, so the revelation that Shuster was the man behind Nights of Terror hardly does anything to revamp his visions of Superman and related characters. It’s just a good old story of art and business.