Last Updated on March 16, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 906
In Brooklyn in 1939, Sammy wakes to find that Josef has pasted elaborate drawings carefully over his own comic landscape. He is impressed, and they decide to partner up, as Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay, to make “big money.” Bubbie, Sammy's Czech grandmother, sits quietly in her chair. Ethel, Sammy’s mother, serves breakfast, and Sammy tells her that his plan is to draw comic books with Josef, as the comic-book market is booming. He says it will make them $50 a week.
At Empire Novelty, Sammy’s boss is Sheldon P. Anapol, a “likable and cruel” businessman with marital difficulties. Sammy makes an appointment with him. In the meeting, Sammy shows Anapol a drawing of Joe’s. Anapol demands to know who the illustrator is, and Sammy says it is his cousin, who is looking for a job. At the same time, Joe is outside the office, drawing.
Sammy suggests to Anapol that establishing their own Superman would be a sound business move for Empire Novelty. Anapol then asks Joe to come into the office, and he tells Joe he is hugely impressed by his drawing. The drawing depicts the Golem, and Joe explains that he views Superman as an American Golem. He says that he has studied at the Academy of Fine Art. Anapol’s colleague, Jack, arrives and declares Joe’s work beautiful. Anapol suggests the boys go home and produce a twelve-page story featuring their equivalent to Superman by Monday. Joe seals the deal by offering to fix the company's broken radio handsets for free.
Joe and Sam, desperate to impress Anapol, convene and to create their characters, defining their identities and roles. Sammy lists several existing comic-book characters. The pair consider animal-people and special powers, but they decide the first question is: why is their character fighting crime? They are seeking a compelling origin story, like Batman’s, when they encounter a young man Sammy introduces to Joe as Julie Glovsky. Julie’s brother is “making good money in comics.”
Sammy tells Julie he is “art director in chief” of their comics venture and asks if Julie would like to come and work for him. Sammy agrees he will also hire Julie’s brother, provided that they can work in the cramped studio quarters they call “the Rathole.”
Sammy’s father, “the Mighty Molecule,” or Professor Alphonse von Clay, came home when Sammy was thirteen, having abandoned their family soon after Sammy’s birth. As a child, Sammy had been curious about him: he learned that his father was a stage performer and was only five feet two. Alphonse married Sammy’s moher, Ethel, when she was almost thirty. When he returned, Alfonse swore frequently and rarely slept, not content to stay in one place for long.
Sammy begged to be taken with his father when he left for his apartment on Sackman Street after a day of job hunting. But Alphonse explained that he couldn’t bring Sammy along because of the nature of circus work. Sammy had polio as a child, which meant he would struggle to do physical work.
One day at the steam baths, the hammam, Sammy was struck and embarrassed by the physical impressiveness of his father’s nude body. The Molecule said that after Sammy had polio, it was he who forced Sammy to walk again until he succeeded in doing so. After much further begging on Sammy’s part, Alphonse said he...
(The entire section contains 906 words.)
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