Paul H. Cassidy, the first ghost artist for “Superman” comics in the late 1930s, credited with adding an S to the superhero’s cape, died of natural causes May 15 at a senior facility in Milwaukee. He was 94.
Cassidy was a graphics arts teacher at the Milwaukee Vocational School when he was offered the chance to join Superman comic book artist Joe Shuster’s studio in Cleveland in 1938. Shuster’s workload had increased with the addition of a newspaper strip version of his and writer Jerry Siegel’s superhero.
Assigned to do the inking and detail work, Cassidy provided what has been described as a more fluid line to Shuster’s style, a bolder, darker line that filled in various details. In addition to adding the S to Superman’s cape, he also made the cape more dynamic, adding folds and wrinkles to it.
Cassidy eventually got to do entire stories by himself. But with a salary that was insufficient to support his wife and family, he quit working for Shuster in 1940.
Over the years, Cassidy had no idea that his uncredited contributions to “Superman” had been recognized by comic-book fans.
That changed about three years ago when his son, Dick, and granddaughter, Katy, visited him in Milwaukee and Katy asked if he had ever run a Google search of his name and Superman on the Internet.
When Katy searched, Dick Cassidy recalled Thursday, she turned up “zillions” of references.
For his technologically “unwired” father, it was a revelation.
“When Katy showed him this on the screen, I think it was astounding to him,” recalled Dick Cassidy, of Addison, Texas. “He probably knew there were Superman movies, but he had no idea of this kind of interest in comic books that seems to be going on.”
Since Cassidy’s death was first reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on June 22, the newspaper’s obituary has been widely reprinted in other papers.
“We got a copy sent back from Australia,” Cassidy’s other son, Larry, of Costa Mesa, said Thursday. He added that a number of “Superman” fans have asked if any of his father’s original “Superman” artwork is available.
“He kind of did it for the love of it, and he didn’t keep hardly anything,” Larry Cassidy said. “He was just an unassuming guy.”
Born in 1910 and raised in Cherry Valley, Ill., Cassidy earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine arts from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he was a cartoonist for the school newspaper. He later moved to Milwaukee as a graphics arts teacher at the Milwaukee Vocational School.
After leaving the Shuster studio in 1940, he landed a job at Field Enterprises in Chicago, where he worked as an artist for the World Book Encyclopedia and served as art director and managing director for its ChildCraft books.
He later worked for Grolier’s Book of Knowledge in New York City. In 1964, he returned to Milwaukee, where he headed the graphics arts department at his former vocational school, which later became Milwaukee Area Technical College.
About a decade after leaving the Shuster studio, Cassidy tried unsuccessfully to develop his own comic strip, a science fiction adventure tale called “Fantasy, the Moon Boy.”
In addition to his two sons and granddaughter Katy, who lives in Morningside, Australia, Cassidy is survived by three other grandchildren and a great-grandson. His wife, Inez, died in 1996.