Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: John Sikela

John Joseph Sikela was born on December 1, 1906, in “Kosmalevecz”, Czechoslovakia. The birth date is from the Social Security Death Index. Sikela’s birthplace was recorded on a passenger list which listed his first name as “Jan”.

Sikela and his mother, “Marie”, were passengers on the S.S. Manchuria which sailed from Antwerp, Belgium on December 25, 1920. They arrived in the port of New York City on January 6, 1921. Their final destination was 1309 Redman Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio, where Sikela’s father lived.

In the 1930 U.S. Federal Census, Sikela was an advertising sign painter. He lived with his parents in Lakewood, Ohio at 12717 Plover Avenue.

The 1940 census was enumerated in April and recorded Sikela as a “cutter” at a paper box manufacturer. He continued to live with his parents in Lakewood on Plover Avenue.

Regarding Sikela’s art training, Superman: The Man of Tomorrow Archives, Volume 2 (2006), said

While largely self-taught, he had taken a correspondence school art course during the 1930s. Answering a magazine ad from Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Sikela joined Shuster’s Cleveland studio in 1940. Initially hired to draw backgrounds, Sikela was soon working on Superman comic-book stories. He would also illustrate several covers during his career…. 

In The Funnies: 100 Years of American Comic Strips (1994), Ron Goulart said Jerry Siegel’s and Joe Shuster’s Superman comic strip was handled by the McClure Syndicate.

The initial dailies look to be the work of Shuster himself, but a number of other artists drew the feature in the funnies. They included Paul Cassidy, Dennis Neville, John Sikela, and Wayne Boring. Boring would inherit the strip in the late 1940s when Siegel and Shuster were legally separated from their creation.

According to the Ohio, County Naturalization Records at, Sikela became a naturalized citizen on March 13, 1942.

The Women’s Section of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Ohio), October 4, 1942, listed some of the October brides including “…Mrs. John Sikela (Margaret Miller, 2156 Westbury Road, Lakewood)…”

The Department of Veterans Affairs Beneficiary Identification Records Locater Subsystem Death File said Sikela enlisted in the Army on December 8, 1942. A 1943 issue of Army Life and U.S. Army Recruiting News noted Sikela’s arrival: “John Sikela is the artist who has helped panel ‘Superman’ and other comics’ characters.” The Sandusky Register (Ohio), March 24, 1998, said Sikela served in Europe in the Battle of the Bulge.

A military passenger list for the 745th Tank Battalion, Company J included Private Sikela. The group sailed aboard the S.S. George Washington from Marseille, France and arrived in New York City on October 26, 1945. Sikela’s file said he was discharged October 29, 1945.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Siegel and Shuster created Funnyman which ran from October 11, 1948 into Fall 1949. Ron Goulart’s Encyclopedia of American Comics said Sikela ghosted a good deal of Funnyman. Alberto Becattini said Gerald Altman and Dick Ayers assisted Shuster. The strip was produced for the Bell Syndicate. In Insider Histories of Cartooning: Rediscovering Forgotten Famous Comics and Their Creators (2014), Robert C. Harvey said

In May 1948, Shuster was writing John Sikela, one of his Cleveland studio crew who was still in his Ohio hometown. The letter reveals a good deal about the working methods Shuster had evolved through the Superman years as demand for material increased. After asking if Sikela had “received the pencil roughs of the Funnyman dailies,” Shuster goes on: “I thought they might help with the initial layouts. . . . You can use your own judgment as to following my sketches—if you can visualize any scene differently, that’s okay too. . . . We’ve been getting wonderful reactions on the strip thus far and expect it to receive a deluge of publicity.”

According to Superman: The Man of Tomorrow, Sikela moved from the Superman comic book to Superboy.

Although he was involved with Superman at a very early point, Sikela is perhaps best remembered for his later work on Superboy, his style defining the look of the character form the late 1940s through the 1950s. Much of Sikela’s post-war efforts were as a penciller, and he would eventually pencil and ink his own material for Superboy until his departure in 1960.

The Chronicle Telegram (Elyria, Ohio) July 17, 1976, reported the marriage of Sikela’s daughter and said “…The former Joan Theresa Sikela is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Sikela, 34443 Detroit Rd., Avon.”

Sikela’s wife passed away February 29, 1992. On March 23, 1998 Sikela passed away at New Life St. Joseph Hospice in Lorain, Ohio. Sikela’s death was announced in DC Comics’ June publications.

Further Reading and Viewing
Grand Comics Database
Superman Homepage
Who Drew Superman?
Siegel and Shuster’s Funnyman: The First Jewish Superhero, from the Creators of Superman
Heritage Auctions: Unpublished Superman pageFunnyman page

—Alex Jay

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