Have we got any experts on pre-war Golden Age superhero artists out there? There’s got to be at least ONE, right?

When my grandmother passed away a little over a year ago, she left behind a home full of nearly nine decades of collected memories and miscellany. My mom thought this one would be particularly interesting to me, and boy, was she right:


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Here’s what Mom had to say about Ol’ Man Muscles:

“My Mom was a student nurse and taking care of a patient in the wards at Ravenswood Hospital on or about 1941. There was a male patient who was sketching Superman pictures and asked her if she wanted one, and he sketched it for her while she watched. I don’t remember much more than that, except that my Mom kept the picture, not knowing if the patient was famous or not! Unfortunately it was not signed. She remembered that the patient was not that old. So many years went by that she never mentioned the picture that any other helpful details have been forgotten, but every time we DID look through her keepsakes she would get all animated about this picture and was quite upset went it went missing. She always hoped that it would surface again!!”

(I have no idea why my father scribbled “C. 1942-1944” on there. I think maybe his obsession with WW2 just forces him to scribble numbers like that on things every now and then. Happens to a lot of dads!)

Now, it’s possible that whoever drew this thing wasn’t a paid professional Super-drawer at all, just some guy who could whip up a decent Super-sketch to impress his family. (The “Hey, Uncle Jack knows how to draw Snoopy!” Effect.) But it sure would be cool if it WAS a bona fide Golden Age comic artist.

As far as I can tell, there are about nine people drawing Superman professionally in 1941. There was Joe Shuster, Jack Burnley (the daily strip artist), Fred Ray (mostly a cover artist), and Shuster’s large team of assistants: Leo Nowak, John Sikela, Paul Cassidy, Wayne Boring, Dennis Neville (co-creator of Hawkman!), and Ed Dobrotka. Since all of these guys were working more-or-less anonymously and in the same style, doing a simple comparison between this sketch and various comic pages is… well, let’s just say “a frustrating experience at best.” Apparently it wasn’t uncommon for EVERY SINGLE ARTIST on Shuster’s team to work on EVERY SINGLE PAGE of a given comic. (Clicky HERE and HERE for an interesting look behind the scenes.) I can’t imagine that…

Using crazy Googly magic, I did manage to find Chicago/Midwest connections for a few of these guys. Wayne Boring was a former Art Institute of Chicago student. Leo Nowak was working in Wisconsin at the time (and producing some pretty impressive pin-up art, too). Being a native Chicagoan, my mind instantly zeroed in on the name “Dobrotka,” and indeed, there’s an “Edward Dobrotka” listed on this site as a painter of Chicago scenes before 1950.

The BEST match, however, is Paul Cassidy, noted for being the first to put a big “S” on Superman’s cape. Mr. Cassidy was born and raised in Illinois, worked in Shuster’s shop until 1940, and, in 1941, was making his living as an artist at World Book Encyclopedia in Chicago.

(Tragically, there does not appear to have ever been a Superman artist by the name “Ol’ Uncle Muscles.” SHOULD’VE BEEN, though.)

SO! Can anyone out there back up my “Paul Cassidy” guess? Or point me toward anyone who might? Looking for a few good Golden Age pros here!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to get in line for Antiques Roadshow. (Hang in there, PBS!)


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