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Joe Shuster’s Favorite “Ghost”: Wayne Boring!!! by Matthew Rizzuto

Wayne Boring by Michael Netzer
The legendary Wayne Boring was born on June 5, 1905 in Minnesota and though his name isn’t often trotted out these days when comic fans make “all-time greatest” lists, he played a hugely important role in the development of The DC Universe and created a look for Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman that would define the mighty superhero for the post-war generation and the many decades to come!!!!
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Wayne Boring learned to create such mesmerizing pieces of artwork by attending the Minnesota School of Art and the Chicago Art Institute. Originally brought on by Jerry Siegel, Boring began “ghosting” (drawing for hire without credit) for Superman’s other co-creator Joe Shuster in 1937, he worked on such comic book features as Slam Bradley and Doctor Occult for The Jerry Siegel-Joe Shuster Studio in Cleveland, Ohio. The reason that Boring was brought on was because of the workload that Shuster had to accomplish was quite overwhelming and exhausting, not due to Shuster’s failing eyesight, which would later be a problem for Shuster.
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In 1938, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman was published in Action Comics #1 for the DC Comics predecessor, National Allied Publications.  Boring was hired as a staff artist by National Allied Publishing in 1942 and started to ghost for Joe Shuster on the Superman newspaper strip and took over as the character’s primary artist, eventually becoming the credited artist and teaming him as penciler the following year with inker Stan Kaye. The two would work together for nearly twenty years during a period fans and historians call the Golden Age of comic books.
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Shortly after that, Boring started pencilling long runs on both Action Comics and the eponymous Superman series over the next decade-and-a-half, including the cover art for Superboy #1 (March–April 1949).  In 1948, following Siegel and Shuster’s departure from the company over a Superman rights lawsuit, Mort Weisinger, new editor of the Superman line, brought in Boring as well as Al Plastino and Curt Swan. During this mid-1940’s period, Boring often signed his work for rival Novelty Press Blue Bolt Comics under his pseudonym, Jack Harmon.
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In the process, Boring imbued The Last Son of Krypton with a finesse that he’d previously lacked, taking Shuster’s stocky circus strongman and molding him into an icon of classical heroism — replacing the square-jawed brawler with a larger-than-life figure with chiseled features, well-defined musculature and a movie-star smile.
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Wayne Boring – Superman and Mr. Mxyzptlk Sketch Original Art (1948). Wayne Boring’s vision of The Man of Steel was so distinctive and powerful, it eventually became the established version of the 1940’s and 1950’s, displaced only when the amazing Curt Swan assumed stewardship of this SUPER icon in the early 1960’s. This fabulous drawing from 1948 showcases the appeal of Boring’s approach. The mighty Superman’s massive chest and arms, thick waist and powerful, firmly set jaw, leave no doubt as to his incredible strength and noble bearing.
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This new portrayal proved key to the reinvention of Superman as an increasingly powerful and grandiose figure, less “man” and more “SUPER”.  No longer content with juggling hoodlums, he could now combat intergalactic threats without batting an eyelash. While this remove from reality made Superman less relatable, it also helped set him apart from his peers and probably contributed to the feature’s survival.  The late 1940’s and early 1950’s were an odd time for comics, when superheroes were in a slump, their titles being replaced and repossessed by new styles of genre fiction. Romance, westerns, crime, horror, sci-fi and humor were the order of the day.
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National Periodical Publications (today DC Comics), like most publishers, was trying to figure out the new status quo and experimenting with all manner of different approaches.  When noted jackass Dr. Frederic Wertham’s moron campaign against comic books started to gain widespread notice and the accompanying congressional hearings on comics and juvenile delinquency took place, the few titles that maintained their identity were scrubbed to a squeaky-clean finish, removing any traces of real world content in favor of spectacular (and often silly) larger-than-life stories and Boring’s elegant line was essential to making all these elements fit together and keeping the Superman franchise afloat, depicting both the silliness and solemnity of The Silver Age with immaculate draftsmanship and perfectly-rendered faces, bringing a new illustrative beauty to the trials and travails of The Man of Steel.
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Wayne Boring Superman sketch, 1986.
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Boring was the primary Superman comic book penciller through the 1950’s. The great Curt Swan succeeded him the following decade, though Boring returned for sporadic guest appearances in the early 1960’s and then again in late 1966 and early 1967.  As one critic wrote of Boring’s 1950’s Superman art, “Comics legend Wayne Boring played a major role in visually defining the most well-known superhero in the world during the peak of Superman’s popularity. Another writer echoed, “Boring’s bravura brushwork defined many of its key elements and made Superman look more powerful and imposing, now standing a heroic nine heads tall and brought a fresh realism, a sleek sci-fi vision and a greater seriousness of tone.”
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Boring would also draw some of the most iconic elements of mid-century Kryptonian, becoming the first person to draw The Fortress of Solitude, Superman’s Atlantean love interest Lori Lemaris and Htrae, the unfailingly contrary Bizarro World.  Though he established himself as a productive and stylish artist, he rarely ventured out from his comfort zone, spending nearly his entire career working on Superman and affiliated titles, including World’s Finest, Superboy and Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane.  In the early 1960’s, Boring moved away from comics and into other fields, passing the Superman torch on to penciler Curt Swan. Boring was unceremoniously let go from DC Comics in 1967 along with other longtime artists by DC editor and everybody’s favorite ray of sunshine, Mort Weisinger. From 1968 to 1972, Boring ghosted backgrounds for Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant Sunday comic strip and took over the art on writer Sam Leff’s 1961–71 United Feature Syndicate strip Davy Jones.
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Wayne Boring – Superman, Lois Lane and Clark Kent Sketch Original Art (undated). Superman has his arms around both Lois Lane and Clark Kent. How is this possible?! Perhaps, one of DC’s famous “imaginary stories”? More likely, Wayne Boring has illustrated the famous love triangle of Lois Lane, Superman and The Man of Steel’s own alter-ego, mild mannered reporter, Clark Kent.
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Afterward, Boring would return only occasionally for spot gigs, including drawing the three-issue run on Marvel’s cosmic hero Captain Marvel in 1972, then left the field to semi-retire as a bank security guard, though he would continue to draw commissioned work producing commissions for fans. He briefly returned to DC Comics to pencil some stories in All-Star Squadron Annual #3 (1984), Superman #402 (Dec. 1984) and Action Comics #561 and 572 (Nov. 1984 and Oct. 1985). In 1985, DC Comics named Boring as one of the honorees in the company’s 50th Anniversary publication, Fifty Who Made DC Great. Shortly after returning to his signature character, The Man of Tomorrow for a number of special projects, Boring unfortunately died on February 20th, 1987.
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He died in Pompano Beach, Florida of a fatal heart attack, following a brief comeback announced in one of his last published works, penciling a Golden Age Superman story written by Roy Thomas and inked by Jerry Ordway in Secret Origins #1 (April 1986). Boring’s final work was All-Star Squadron #64 (Dec. 1986), a recreation of Superman #19. Boring was posthumously inducted into the prestigious Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2007. Today, I’m very happy to pay tribute to Wayne Boring’s creativity and artistic contributions. Superman may have been known for leaping tall buildings in a single bound, but it was with Wayne Boring at the helm that he truly took flight!!!!!
Thank You. \S/
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