Arts & Culture Editor
“Superman” is considered to be the first comic book superhero and one of the most iconic figures in all of pop culture. Even his own creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, are considered legends in the comic book world. However, Jerry and Joe started off as two teenage friends in Cleveland, Oh., who stopped at nothing to make their dreams a reality. Their tale of love, hope and the creation of Superman was chronicled in the Citamard Players’ production of “Tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow” was directed by Allison Wray and written by Millersville University student Joseph Eck who wrote the play as part of his independent study. According to Eck who is a fan of comic books and especially Superman, “[‘Tomorrow’] is the story of two friends with nothing but their dreams who together create a character that will outlive us all.”
The play opens with the older versions of Jerry Siegel (Aaron Dake) and Joe Shuster (Michael Garland) with the support of Jerry’s wife and Joe’s ex-girlfriend Jolan (Nikki Jeck) in the midst of a legal battle with DC Comics and Warner Bros for the rights of their childhood dream. Though there is still plenty of personal and professional tension between the two, they start to reminisce about their childhood, how they met and how they created “Superman.”
From there, the play goes back about 30 years into the past, during the Great Depression, to the fateful day where Joe (Philip Rooney) and Jerry (Josiah Ackley) met. Upon realizing their common interests and backgrounds – both are children of European-Jewish immigrants, both are fans of comic books and science fiction – they become instant friends, and Jerry even encourages Joe to join their school newspaper, The Torch, as a cartoonist.
The play does a great job not only exploring Joe and Jerry’s friendship but the trial and error of creating something that would someday become iconic. They start to publish a science fiction magazine called “Science Fiction,” with Jerry writing the stories and Joe illustrating them.
When these magazines, which featured Superman as a bald, telepathic villain bent on world domination, fail to sell, they start to rethink their dream. However, the pair also deals with personal and creative difficulties along the way. Jerry is not only rejected by his crush Lois (April Wray) but his father Michel (Dake) dies suddenly of a heart attack brought on by a robbery at his store. This tragedy brings a spark of inspiration though, as a few years later, he creates “Superman” as the powerful man of steel that the world now knows and loves.
The play also goes into depth about the love lives of the two main characters, their struggle to get their work published, and the importance of being themselves. When Jerry and Joe decide that Superman needs a love interest, they hire Jolan as a model for Lois Lane. However, Jolan, being the feisty and spunky girl that she is, has her own ideas for her initially underdeveloped character, and inspires the two young men to give her a personality and career.
Their publisher becomes bankrupt and is bought by a bigger company, though the two are so eager to get their work published that they neglect the fact that they won’t be getting the full rights to Superman, hence the legal turmoil they find themselves in at the beginning of the play.
Jolan realizes that she needs to leave Ohio if she wants to further her modeling career. Then, flashing forward again, the older Joe, Jerry and Jolan make amends.
“Tomorrow” is more than the true story of two friends who created one of the most iconic superheroes in all of pop culture. It is also the story of friendship, love, perseverance, and the hope that tomorrow will always be one step closer to realizing one’s dreams. Through this play, Jerry and the audience realize that while the world may look up to extraordinary beings like Superman, the world also needs people like Clark Kent: seemingly ordinary people who do extraordinary things.
“Tomorrow” proved to be a well-crafted narrative and with great acting, story and direction.