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The woman who served as the model for Superman's soulmate has died. Joanna Siegel was the inspiration for the comic book reporter Lois Lane. She passed away on Monday at the age of 93.

From member station WCPN in Cleveland, David C. Barnett reports.

DAVID C: A number of actresses played her on television and in the movies over the years, but Superman creator Jerry Siegel always claimed that his wife Joanne inspired the character of Lois Lane.

It all began with the dreams of a teenage Cleveland girl who wanted to be in show business, a tall order for the daughter of a steelworker in the midst of the Depression. But popular culture historian Brad Ricca at Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University says that didn't faze her.

BRAD RICCA: She wanted to be a model, so she put an ad in the paper advertising herself as a model.

BARNETT: Jerry Siegel and his artist buddy Joe Shuster answered that ad and invited Joanne to come to Joe's home for a modeling session, under the watchful eye of Joe's mom. As Joe sketched some images, the boys told her about their dreams for a comic-book superhero and how they wanted to give him a love interest. The three of them became fast friends, and Jerry and Joanne would eventually marry.

Brad Ricca says that in later years, Joanne was a strong advocate for her husband's royalty rights. He got little compensation for the millions that the Superman character generated.

RICCA: She was this really unique person in the history of American comics not only for what she did but for the fact that she was a woman. She got in there as a model but stayed through as a businesswoman.

BARNETT: Two years ago, on a rainy summer afternoon, Joanne Siegel was on the porch at the house where her late husband dreamed up the guy in the red cape and his girlfriend. The 91-year-old recalled attending a Superman convention with Jerry in Sweden.


JOANNA SIEGEL: We met people from China and Germany and Australia and New Zealand, all over. It was amazing because "Superman" is known everywhere.

BARNETT: And thanks in part to Joanne Siegel, so is the man who created him.

For NPR News, I'm David C. Barnett in Cleveland.

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