Action Comics vol.1 #12 - Cover date May 1939
Sharing the comic racks with Superman during March 1939 (cover dated May 1939) was Detective Comics #27, the comic book which would launch the career of National Allied’s second great break-out character – Batman.
Although it would be several years before Superman and Batman teamed up outside the confines of cover appearances, the pair have been commonly compared and contrasted since the beginning – super-powers versus mortal muscles, bright sunlit streets versus brooding dark alleys, brash dynamism versus meticulous cunning and so on.
A real study in contrast, however, might be better had between their creators. Bob Kane and Jerry Siegel represent almost polar opposites in personality and drive – Kane was outgoing, opportunistic and cannily personable, while Siegel could be introspective, mercurial and difficult. Kane famously relied on ghosts to create his comics, while Siegel spread himself paper-thin to write as much of the original Superman comic material as time would allow. Much like their creations’ civilian alter-egos might do, Siegel slaved away at his typewriter while Kane socialized easily.
When rights and ownership issues plagued Both men, Siegel alternated between appealing to Jack Liebowitz’s sense of fair play and berating his National Allied boss in scathing personal letters – it was Siegel’s opinion that “fairness” was at the core of the conflict. Kane, however, walked away from an impromptu late Forties contract re-negotiation with partial ownership in his Batman character- a sweetheart deal all but unmatched in that era – after a clever fib told bluntly (See Gerard Jones’ excellent Men of Tomorrow for the details).
The greatest difference between the creators of two of the most famous orphans of the twentieth century (apologies to Annie, Little Orphan, of course) may be their fathers; Siegel’s was dead, having been the victim of a robbery turned violent when Siegel was still young. Kane’s father, however, was omnipresent, and helped influence and guide his son’s lucrative career - the irony being, of course, that Kane’s Batman was violently orphaned while Siegel’s Superman owes his powers and mission to the guiding hand of his father (both human and alien) …