Columbus Alive, one of Columbus, Ohio's "alternative" weekly papers--now part of the same local media empire that owns a TV station, an AM and an FM radio station and the town's daily newspaper--features as it cover story this week its list ranking "The 100 Greatest Ohioans." Of interest to the readers of this blog are the persons ranked at #91, #82, and #28. They are, respectively, Jerry Siegal, Harvey Pekar, and James Thurber. (In order to make the list, you had to have been born in Ohio. Thus Siegal's creative partner, Joe Shuster, a Canadian by birth, was ineligible.)
Having noted that, now comes the part--as you knew it would--where I bitch about the rankings. I have no complaints about Thurber cracking the top 30, but Pekar and, especially, Siegal deserve to be higher on the list.
Just above Pekar, at #81, is a collective listing for "Ohio's U.S. Presidents (except Grant). These include Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft, and Warren Harding. Even Alive acknowledges that they don't know what these guys actually accomplished while in office. I can't really help them there, although I do know that Harding is most remembered for the Teapot Dome Scandal, which led to a member of his cabinet going to prison.
So, according to Alive, a group of non-entity, placeholder Presidents are somehow greater than Pekar, who lifted autobiographical comics out of the underground and into the comics mainstream, or Siegal, the man who co-created Superman, a character once ranked second only to Oprah Winfrey among American pop cultural icons in a VH-1 Top 200 list. I have a tough time buying that.
Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster didn't just create a character when they created Superman, the first true super-hero, but an entire genre that quickly moved beyond comic books to radio, movies, television and prose fiction. The influence of Siegal and Shuster's creation on the pop culture landscape of 21st century American cannot be underestimated. Not to mention that the character of Superman himself has become a powerful symbol of the American ideal, embodying, as the intro of the old Adventures of Superman TV show put it, the "...neverending battle for truth, justice and the American Way."
Contrast that to William McKinley, whose main claim to fame is being assassinated while in office.