Looking into the possible inspiration behind Jerry and Joe’s Daily Planet

What came first, Superman or the Daily Planet? In this investigative article Zack Benz takes a deep-dive into the surprising possible secret origins of Metropolis’ greatest news source.

8 mins read

The Daily Planet is a place where heroes are born and the story continues. When I first established this tagline, I was at home in northern Minnesota on the Benz Farm located within the heart of the Mesabi Iron Range.

Inspired by numerous Superman titles, most notably “Smallville,” I started @DailyPlanetDC on Twitter. I didn’t expect it to pander into a legitimate news organization at the time, but I guess that result was only natural given that bringing the Daily Planet forth from the pages of DC Comics into the realm of reality has always been my dream. 

But was the Daily Planet once real already? 

Reading, watching and absorbing any other form of Superman always reminded me of why I wanted to achieve this noble dream. There are so many stories that need to be told in this world, and many often go unheard. 

In comics the Daily Planet has always stood against tyranny and injustice, and it was inspiring. This fabled paper was housed in a weathered, downtown Metropolis brownstone highrise with an enormous golden globe on its rooftop, and every citizen knew what the ringed sculpture in the sky represented — truth and justice.

This classic symbol of art-deco ideals gone bye housed a towering ambition. Each reporter, editor, photographer, printing press operator, publisher, news carrier and more all strived for excellence. They not only reported the news, they aimed for a better world by exposing the evil in it.

Working among heroic individuals all chronicling the history of the globe while exposing the bad to the good, resulting in a just outcome is my lifelong dream. Sometimes things fall through the cracks, but if one person is inspired to make waves, this publication would be a success.

The Daily Planet wouldn’t be opinion-based, but fact-founded. All reports would be solidified by first-hand accounts and unwavering documentation, leaving the world’s citizens with everything they need and deserve to know. It would be ethical, responsible and as unbiased as possible.

Since 1938, Superman has been inspiring generations, and since 1940, when the Daily Star was renamed the Daily Planet by Joe Shuster and Jerry Seigel, the Planet that chronicled Superman’s fantastic adventures has inspired countless journalists. It possesses a more complicated history than I once believed. 

History of the Daily Planet

A wrongfully accused woman faces the death penalty, a group of gangsters kidnap the illustrious Lois Lane and a smashing green vintage 1937 DeSoto meets its final fate. What do they all have in common? They all played a vital role in the first appearance of Superman in “Action Comics no. 1.” 

Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the Man of Steel leaps to the rescue in this iconic comic book that started it all, and which broadsheet newspaper captured all the action and excitement? Well, it’s not the one you’re thinking of.

Joe Shuster, seated, and Jerry Siegel at work on Superman, in their studio, in 1942.

When Siegel and Shuster first conceptualized the popular version of Superman, his alter ego, Clark Kent, and gal pal Lois Lane, worked for the Daily Star, which was under the tenure of Editor-in-Chief George Taylor. 

Siegel grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. Joe spent most of his childhood in Toronto, Ontario. The two met when Joe and his family moved to Ohio. The rest is history. 

The original name choice for Superman’s favorite newspaper was believed to stem from Shuster’s childhood Canada-based newspaper, the Toronto Daily Star (now known as the Toronto Star), where he worked as a newsboy growing up. 

The decision for the name change to the Daily Planet came years later from possible copyright issues with real-world newspapers. However, upon further investigation, I’ve surmised this to be only part of the story. I’ve found some pretty surprising documentation that supports another theory.

Now, given that most people present during Superman’s conception, the Daily Planet’s name change, and the Man of Steel’s early years, have passed away, all of this is hypothesized speculation. 

With that being said, I’d like to admit that all the evidence I’ve collected points to a surprising outcome — the Daily Planet came before Superman, and it was a real-world newspaper. 

The Chatham Daily Planet

Nestled in the heart of Canada’s Kent County, the city of Chatham holds some possible significance when it comes to Superman’s origins. 

Besides sitting as the county seat for Kent County (the name’s irony is not lost on me), it also once played host to The Chatham Daily Planet, which was housed in the real world Daily Planet Building at 202 King Street West, Suite 300. 

According to the building’s current residents, Soar Innovation, the Daily Planet building housed the iconic Chatham Planet Printing and Publishing Company. 

“As per local legend, people used to associate this building to ‘The Daily Planet building’ in the Superman series,” Soar Innovation’s website reads. “In fact, since many Canadians have contributed to the creation of the Superman series, we do not know for sure if any of them were inspired by this building.”

In 1891 The Chatham Planet, which started as a weekly paper in 1841, began publishing daily, making it The Chatham Daily Planet. 

Sitting comfortably in-between both childhood hometowns of Superman and Lois Lane co-creators Jerry (Cleveland) and Joe (Toronto), Chatham’s possible influence in the origins of Superman’s lore can not be ignored. 

Megan Cowan, the Circulation Services Librarian at the Chatham-Kent Public Library, said the publication was a culmination of two major Chatham area newspapers.

“It began as a weekly publication in 1851 and began publishing daily in 1891,” Cowan said. “It continued publication until the end of 1922 when it was absorbed by the Chatham Daily News. The paper in prominence was managed by the prominent Stephenson family — Rufus and his son Sydney.”

Soon after it ceased publishing under that familiar masthead, The Chatham Daily Planet seemingly disappeared into the annals of history.

“The Planet today ceases publication,” wrote the Chatham Daily Planet’s editorial team for the paper’s final issue in December of 1922. “This is the last edition. And as the bells are about to ring out the last hours of the old year, may we be allowed to make our last word a fervent wish that all of our friends and subscribers and patrons may enjoy a bright, happy and prosperous New Year. We hope that the sentiment of our wish will follow on, through all the years to come.”

The Chatham Daily Planet merged with another local newspaper and became the Chatham Daily News, which is still in circulation. 

From Chatham to Clark

A lot of Superman history took place since The Chatham Daily Planet stopped circulating in Kent County. Between the paper’s final issue in 1922, and 1978 when inspiration took on more modern roots, the Metropolis Marvel had witnessed a lot. 

The overall look of the broadsheet Canadian newspaper holds a similar feel to that of the Daily Planet featured in “Superman: The Movie” (1978) and its subsequent sequels. The font (Engravers Old English) used as the masthead of the publication was startlingly similar, except one thing, the famed ringed globe. This is the more popularized letterhead used for live action versions of the Metropolis Daily Planet and, in part, inspired our own version. 

(Left) A Dec. 1, 1904 issue of The Chatham Daily Planet. (Center) A prop newspaper used in “Superman II” from 1980. (Right) An online edition for the real-world interpretation of the Daily Planet. 

Much of the modern-age Superman mythos takes root from “Superman: The Movie,” the Daily Planet included. The logo and masthead used in DC’s first blockbuster went on to be used in many of the most influential Superman titles in the character’s history. Titles like “Smallville,” “Superman Returns,” and “Man of Steel,” all of which later rebranded the decorative banner in a fresh way, took the 1978 flick’s prestigious design and adapted it to their own productions.

1942-1943: The Daily Planet logo featured in the Fleischer Superman cartoons, which aired in the early 1940’s. The series was the first to popularize the Daily Planet globe, both in print and atop the fabled Metropolis high-rise. Jerry and Joe both held creative rights to Superman and all related characters at this time.

1978-1987: The Daily Planet logo used in the Christopher Reeve Superman saga and the earlier seasons of “Smallville.” This logo became the mainstream example for the Planet’s prestigious reputation in the world of journalism. 

2005-2011: The Daily Planet logo shown in the later seasons of “Smallville.” It modernized the classic logo with soft colors and softer swatches. 

2006: The Daily Planet logo utilized in “Superman Returns” (2006). Like the film itself, this updated logo drew inspiration from the classic Christopher Reeve series from the late mid twentieth century. A crisper version of this was also used in Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel” (2013).

Present Day: The Daily Planet masthead used by our Daily Planet. The logo featured in this banner was designed by Jason Sweers for Zack Snyder’s “Batman v Superman” (2016) and later reused throughout the rest of the DCEU. Our font style is the same as Chatham’s. 

I reached out to Dr. Christine Schreyer, PhD, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan campus, where she teaches courses in linguistic anthropology, for her expert opinion. Schreyer is also a professional language creator, responsible for the creation of the Kryptonian language used in “Man of Steel” (2013) and the Atlantean language in “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” (2021).

“I am not a font expert by any means, but yes, these are very similar to me, with the exception of the ‘Y,’” Schreyer explained. “The Chatham paper also has more ‘spurs,’ I think this is what these are called, that extend into small lines of the ends of the other letters making it look more intricate. But the ‘D’ and ‘P’ are almost identical. The top of the ‘l’ is also a bit different — more middle split in the superman ones, but higher to the right on the old paper.”

Jim Bowers, the editor and curator of CapedWonder Superman Imagery, said he’s not sure if Jerry and Joe had any creative input on the 1978 flick. 

“I have thousands of documents and photos from the Donner Years’ production, and there is no indication from that material that Jerry and Joe were brought in to assist or advise,” Bowers stated.

Considering this, I consulted my Graphic Designer friend Becka Kottke. Kottke currently works as a designer for Garven, an “Industry leader in the production and sales of gift packaging and other paper goods.”

Kottke assisted in the design work of our publication, but remained unbiased and objective when I asked for her expertise. 

“Well, it’s very hard to know what someone’s internal thoughts were and where their inspiration came from without talking to them,” Kottke responded. “But I think it would be likely that they saw or knew about the previous versions and based their design on those.”

According to Kottke, basing designs on past work from other artists is common practice. 

“That is a common professional practice for anyone working in design — to see what came before you and to be inspired by it,” Kottke said. “Or, sometimes to completely revamp something because you hate the old design, it can really go either way. It would not be far-fetched for me to think they found inspiration in the old designs though.”

Kottke pointed out the one exacerbating fact that always haunted me when writing this article, only Jerry and Joe could tell me for sure. 

“Obviously no one can say for sure, apart from the person who did it,” Kottke said. “But it’s kind of like tracing clues over time, you can see the correlation visually, and you can see the dots connecting.”

Unfortunately Joe Shuster passed away on July 30, 1992, in Los Angeles, California. Jerry Siegel followed on Jan. 28, 1996 in Los Angeles, California. 

To my knowledge, the duo never truly discussed their inspiration behind the Daily Planet of Superman lore. Not in great detail anyway. But with all of the evidence I’ve gathered to support my theory, I believe that Canada’s Chatham Daily Planet played a vital role in the creation of Superman’s favorite news source. 

Almost exactly one century ago, The Chatham Daily Planet ceased publication — ending their noble pursuit for truth. Wouldn’t it be beautiful irony if we legatimized our version of the Daily Planet 100 years later? 

Zack Benz

Zack Benz has been a fan of the Daily Planet since he was eight years old. The Daily Planet has always been a beacon of hope for him and it’s his life’s mission to make it shine in a similar light to so many around the world. Zack graduated with a degree in journalism and art from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2019.

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