MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
From member station WCPN in Cleveland, David C. Barnett reports.
DAVID C: 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: 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.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED AUDIO)
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: For NPR News, I'm David C. Barnett in Cleveland.
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