Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Comic Book that started it all- Action Comics #1

Along with being a comic book hunter and gatherer, I also consider myself a comic book historian. I have been collecting for over 35 years and have also taught history classes base solely on comic books. Oh,that was a lot of fun.

I have always been interested in the stories of the characters history, their creators and the publishers who made them. One of my favorite stories from the comic book Golden age, is actually the comic book that itself started the Golden Age when it was released. That comic is Action Comics #1.

It has been considered the most valuable comic book, selling for as much as $2 million dollars, we will go into that in another post. It is the first appearance of arguably of the most recognizable super hero ever created, Superman. It literally changed the word by starting e superhero genre. Here is its story.
Published on April 18, 1938 (cover-dated June), by National Allied Publications, DC comics before they were DC comics (could never understand why they didn't name it Action Comics), it is considered by most to be the the first true superhero comic. Like most comics at the time Action comics was an anthology, which means it contained many different unrelated stories, one of them being Superman. The first issue of Action  Comics sold out of its initial print run of 200,000 copes. Sales would quickly approach 1,000,000 a month, in comparison the biggest selling comic of last few years was Walking Dead #100 it sold 335,000 copies. 
Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were paid $10 per page, for a total of $130 for their work on this issue.It has been said 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. Prior to Action Comics #1 Siegel and Shuster had pitched Superman for a number of years.

Here is how Superman ended up in Action Comics:

Following the success of Detective Comics Jack Liebowitz, co-owner of National Publications, asked editor Vin Sullivan to create another comic book but he was on a the tight deadline. Sullivan decided to search through old inventory and stockpile pages but he needed a lead for the new title. Sullivan reached out to former coworker Sheldon Mayer for help. Mayer found the rejected Superman comic strips, and Sullivan told Siegel and Shuster that if they could paste them into 13 comic book pages, he would buy them. The rest, as they say, is history.
Seigel and Shuster rewrote and redrew the original pages they had to create the first page of Action Comics #1:
  1. 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".
  2. After the space ship lands on Earth, "a passing motorist, discovering the sleeping baby within, turned the child over to an orphanage".
  3. The baby Superman lifts a large chair overhead with one hand, astounding the orphanage attendants with "his feats of strength".
  4. When Superman (now named Clark Kent) reaches maturity, he discovers that he can leap 1/8 of a mile, hurdle 20-story buildings, "raise tremendous weights", outrun a train, and "that nothing less than a bursting shell could penetrate his skin".
  5. Clark decides that "he must turn his titanic strength into channels that would benefit mankind, and so was created 'Superman', champion of the oppressed...."
Two new panels offering a "scientific explanation of Clark Kent's amazing strength" were added. The panels do not identify Superman's home planet by name or explain how he was named Clark Kent.

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. All this has become a story for the ages.

Current figures suggest that there are fewer then 100 copies still in existence. The highest graded version is 9.0 which sold for over $2,000,000, more on this copy and other copies in future posts.

I am personally on a search to just see a copy of Action Comics #1 in person as sadly I can not currently afford a copy.

Good luck on your hunt!

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