Joanne Siegel

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Joanne Siegel
Joanne Siegel 1976.jpg
Joanne Siegel in 1976.
Born Jolan Kovacs
(1917-12-01)December 1, 1917
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
Died February 12, 2011(2011-02-12) (aged 93)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Nationality American
Spouse(s) Jerry Siegel (m. 1948–1996, his death)

Joanne Siegel (December 1, 1917 – February 12, 2011) was an American model who in the 1930s worked with Superman creator Joe Shuster as the model for Lois Lane, Superman's love interest. She later married Superman's co-creator Jerry Siegel and sued for restoration of her husband's authorship copyright in the Superman character.

Life and career[edit]

Siegel was born Jolan Kovacs in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1917, the daughter of Hungarian immigrants.[1] In 1935, while still attending high school, Kovacs placed an advertisement in Cleveland's The Plain Dealer offering her services as a model.[1] The ad stated: "Situation Wanted — Female ARTIST MODEL: No experience."[2] Joe Shuster, who was working on a new comic character, Superman, responded to the ad. Prior to the modeling sessions, Shuster's co-creator, Jerry Siegel, had developed an idea for a journalist to be Superman's love interest, Lois Lane. Shuster hired Kovacs as a model for Lane, and his depiction of Lane was based on his drawings of Kovac's hairstyle and facial features. Interviewed in 1996 by The Plain Dealer, she recalled, "I remember the day I met Jerry in Joe's living room. Jerry was the model for Superman. He was standing there in a Superman-like pose. He said their character was going to fly through the air, and he leaped off the couch to demonstrate."[2][3] The New York Times wrote, "Ms. Siegel was the first in a long line of Lois Lanes, who have included Phyllis Coates, Noel Neill, Teri Hatcher, and Erica Durance on television, as well as Margot Kidder in the movies."[1]

Following her modeling work for Shuster, Kovac worked as an artist's model, sometimes using the professional name Joanne Carter. She worked for a ship builder in California during World War II. After the war, Kovacs moved to New York, where she ran into Jerry Siegel at a costume ball to raise money for cartoonists.[1] Both had been married and divorced previously, and the two were married in 1948.[2] They lived in Connecticut and New York before moving to California in the 1960s. They remained married until Jerry Siegel's death in 1996 and had a daughter, Laura, who later recalled, "My father said she not only posed for the character, but from the day he met her it was her personality that he infused into the character. She was not only beautiful but very smart and determined, and she had a lot of guts; she was a courageous person."[2][4] In a profile of Siegel, NPR noted, "Though a number of actresses played [Lois Lane] on television and in the movies over the years, Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel always said that his wife, Joanne ... inspired the character of Lois Lane."[5]

Despite the success of Superman in comic books, television and motion pictures, Siegel and Shuster had sold the copyright to Detective Comics for $130,[1] and the Siegels led a modest lifestyle. Their daughter recalled, "My mother and father lived in complete poverty for many, many years."[2] Joanne Siegel worked for a time as a car salesman in Santa Monica, California, to help support the family. Siegel lived in the Marina Del Rey section of Los Angeles in her later years.[2]

Photo taken in 1976 of Jerry Siegel, Joanne Siegel and their daughter, Laura Siegel Larson (photograph by Alan Light).

Siegel devoted herself to reclaiming the original Superman copyright. At one point, she called the publisher of Superman and said, "How can you sit by and continue to make millions of dollars off of a character that Jerry co-created and allow him to live in this unbelievable poverty?"[2] In the late 1970s, DC Comics agreed to pay both Siegel and Shuster a stipend of $20,000 per year for life, but Joanne Siegel was not satisfied and continued the fight, even after her husband died in 1996. She filed a lawsuit in 1999 seeking partial ownership of the Superman character.[6] In 2006, Siegel won partial summary judgment in a lawsuit with DC Comics. The Court found that Joanne Siegel and her daughter had successfully recaptured the Superboy copyright in 2004 and opined that the television program Smallville was infringing the Siegels' copyright.[7] In 2008, Siegel secured a further ruling from a federal court in Los Angeles restoring her husband's co-authorship share of the original Superman copyrights.[8][9] In a 72-page decision, the Court ruled that Jerry Siegel was entitled to claim a share of the United States copyright to Superman, while leaving intact DC Comics' international rights to the character.[8] Following the ruling, Joanne Siegel told the press, "We were just stubborn. It was a dream of Jerry's, and we just took up the task."[8]

Siegel died on February 12, 2011 at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica.[4][6] Following her death, Siegel's lawyer noted, "All her life she carried the torch for Jerry and Joe — and other artists. There was a lot of Lois Lane in Joanne Siegel."[1]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Bruce Weber (February 15, 2011). "Joanne Siegel, the Model for Lois Lane, Dies at 93". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Dennis McLellan (February 18, 2011). "Joanne Siegel dies at 93; model for Superman character Lois Lane". Los Angeles Times. 
  3. ^ Michael Sangiacomo (October 29, 1996). "Finding a Tribute to Super Creator: Widow of Superman Co-Creator Works on a Man-of-Steel Memorial in Cleveland". The Plain Dealer. 
  4. ^ a b "Lois Lane model dies". UPI.com. February 20, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Joanne Siegel, Model For Lois Lane, Dies At 93". NPR. February 16, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Michael Sangiacomo (February 14, 2011). "Joanne Siegel dies, widow of Superman co-creator, model for Lois Lane". The Plain Dealer. 
  7. ^ Brian Cronin. "JUDGE SAYS SIEGELS OWN SUPERBOY. WILL IT AFFECT "SMALLVILLE?"". Comic Book Resources. 
  8. ^ a b c Michael Cieply (March 29, 1998). "Ruling Gives Heirs a Share of Superman Copyright". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ Sherri Okamoto (April 2, 2008). "Heirs of Co-Creator Reclaim 'Superman' Copyright: District Court Allows Widow, Daughter of Jerome Siegel to Resume Control of Half of Character". Metropolitan News-Enterprise.