Brad Ricca, Author
2014 EMERGING ARTIST PRIZE IN LITERATURE
Photo by Rob Muller
As a young boy, Brad Ricca enjoyed reading comic books. Then, as a grown man, he figured out that his superpower was writing. He suspected this for many years, but he finally confirmed it in the year 2012, when he authored the book Super Boys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster – The Creators of Superman. Today, he is a SAGES fellow who teaches classes on comics, popular culture, and narrative biography at Case Western Reserve University, along with comics and science fiction/fantasy classes at the Cleveland Institute of Art.
Oddly enough, his adventures into writing started after a brief, but serious flirtation with medical school while an undergraduate at Miami University. By his junior year, he realized that he was kidding himself. “I switched from a microbiology major, where I was getting not good grades, to an English major where I had straight As,” he says.
Upon completion of his BA in English, he took a job at the new Borders in Westlake, but ended up spending most of his paychecks on books. He moved on to graduate school at Ohio University. He was a little intimidated by his teaching assistantship duties at first, but he immediately enjoyed the interactions with students.
He finished his MA degree in two years, and then, hearing Cleveland calling, he enrolled in the PhD program at CWRU. After completing his doctoral thesis on Emily Dickinson and 19th century astronomy, he graduated in 2002, and CWRU hired him as a lecturer. “It was great, because I get to stay here, which is what I wanted to do,” Brad says. “It’s a great place, and I get to work in a college atmosphere, which is really invigorating every year.”
“Brad is highly dedicated to giving the best classroom experience possible,” says Mary Grimm, author, associate professor and chair of English at CWRU. “He goes out of his way to make the teaching of writing exciting.” This spring, he won a Richard A. Bloom, MD Award for distinguished teaching at CWRU, which is an honor given by students.
Secretly, he had started writing poetry while working on his PhD, but gradually, he started sending his poems to small publications, and to his surprise, they began to get published. He entered a contest in which his work was chosen to be published, and he won the St. Lawrence Book Award for his first book of poetry, American Mastodon, which would go on to be featured on A Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor.
Brad felt that he wanted to do a different type of writing, and there was an idea rolling around his head. His father had driven him and his brother around downtown Cleveland when they were boys, showing them the beautiful architectural buildings like the Terminal Tower as well as the empty storefronts and burned out factories. He told them the story of two young men from Cleveland who had created their comic book hero, Superman. Brad had read several books about Siegel and Shuster, but found them inadequate. First, he made a documentary about the two, Last Son, which screened all over the world and won a Silver Ace Award at the Las Vegas International Film Festival. An agent in New York saw a quote from Brad in an article, and that led to his book contract for Super Boys.
“I was able to uncover information that no one had looked for here before,” says the Vice President of the Siegel and Shuster Foundation in Cleveland that restored the two creators’ houses in Glenville. “Other people come in for a few days here and there, but I lived here, so among other places, I was in the Cleveland Public Library every Saturday for four years.”
“Brad did a really impressive job,” says his friend Michael Sangiacomo, news reporter for The Plain Dealer. “He managed to uncover a lot of new and interesting facts about the creators of Superman and Superman himself.” The book was named a Top 10 Book on the Arts by Booklist.
To the rumors of a possible film based on his book in the works, Brad only allows: “It would be great for Cleveland. It would be cool, too, because we don’t get enough stories of young people accomplishing great things.”