Action Comics 1

action comics

Action Comics #1 (June 1938) features the first appearance of Jerry Siegel/Joe Shuster creation Superman. Published on April 18, 1938 by National Allied Publications, a corporate predecessor of DC Comics, it is considered the first true superhero comic; and though today ‘Action Comics’ is a monthly title devoted to Superman, it began, like many early comics, as an anthology. Copies have sold at auction for $1.5 million.

The first issue had a print run of 200,000 copies. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were paid $10 per page, for a total of $130 for their work on this issue. They effectively signed away millions in future rights and royalties payments. Starting in 1978, Siegel and Shuster were provided with a $20,000 a month annuity which was later raised to $30,000. Liebowitz would later say that selecting Superman to run in Action Comics #1 was ‘pure accident’ based on deadline pressure and that he selected a ‘thrilling’ cover, depicting Superman lifting a car over his head. It has been compared ‘Hercules Clubs the Hydra’ by Antonio del Pollaiolo.

In 1933, Jerry Siegel wrote a story entitled ‘The Reign of the Super-Man.’ Siegel and Joe Shuster then created a comic book entitled ‘The Superman’ later that year. A Chicago publisher expressed interest, but did not follow through, and in frustration, Shuster tore up all the pages of this comic except for the cover. Later, in 1934, Siegel had trouble falling asleep and decided to pass the time creating dramatic elements for a comic strip. Building on his previous ideas, he envisioned a child on a far-off planet named Krypton, where all the residents had super-powers. Because Krypton would soon explode, the boy was sent to Earth by his father, where he became Superman.

Siegel and Shuster shopped Superman around as a comic strip, but were continually turned down. National Publications was looking for a hit to accompany their success with ‘Detective Comics,’ and did not have time to solicit new material. A National Publications editor found the rejected Superman comic strips, and told Siegel and Shuster that if they could paste them into 13 comic book pages, he would buy them. The original panels were rewritten and redrawn to create the first page of Action Comics #1.

In the story, baby Superman is sent to Earth by his scientist father in a ‘hastily-devised space ship’ from ‘a distant planet’ which ‘was destroyed by old age.’ After the space ship lands on Earth, ‘a passing motorist, discovering the sleeping baby within, turned the child over to an orphanage.’ The baby Superman lifts a large chair overhead with one hand, astounding the orphanage attendants with ‘his feats of strength.’ When Superman (now named Clark) reaches maturity, he discovers that he can leap 1/8 of a mile, hurdle 20-story buildings, ‘raise tremendous weights,’ out-run a train, and ‘that nothing less than a bursting shell could penetrate his skin.’ Clark decides that ‘he must turn his titanic strength into channels that would benefit mankind, and so was created ‘Superman,’ champion of the oppressed….’

The next 12 pages showed Superman attempting to save an innocent woman about to be executed while delivering the real murderess, bound and gagged, and leaving her on the lawn of the state Governor’s mansion after breaking through the door into his house with a signed confession; coming to the aid of a woman being beaten up by her husband, who faints when his knife shatters on Superman’s skin; rescuing Lois Lane (who also debuts in this issue) from a gangster who abducted her after she rebuffed him at a nightclub (and after Clark had refused to stand up to him, earning Lois’s ire) which leads to the cover scene with the car; and going to Washington, D.C., instead of South America, to ‘stir up news’ as his editor wants, to investigate a Senator that he suspects is corrupt, and prompting a confession by leaping around high buildings with the terrified man, which leads into the next issue. All the while, Clark tries to keep Superman out of the papers.

There are six known Comic Guaranty LLC (CGC)-graded copies with a grade above VG (CGC 4.0), with a single issue having the best grade of NM (CGC 9.0). [15] There is one known uncertified copy in higher grade, the Edgar Church/Mile High copy. EC and Mad publisher William Gaines, whose father was also a comic book publisher and had business dealings with DC Comics at the time Action Comics #1 was published, claimed in a Comics Journal interview that he at one point had dozens of copies of the issue around his house, but they were probably all thrown out.


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