April 1938 ( June)- A new era in Comics is born as the first makes his debut appearance. Action Comics #1 is composed of 64 pages, containing several different stories including: Adventures of Marco Pollo, Sticky-Mitt Stimson Story, The International Jewel Thief and many more. But of course we all know that none of them made as much impact as: “ , champion of the oppressed. The physical marvel who had sworn to devote his existence to helping those in need!” Heh. Gotta love the Golden Age. ^_^
This is considered by many as the most valuablein existence.The lowest appraisal I found (for a near- ) was at $440,000USD. Not bad for a comic book eh?
Action Comics #1’s cover has been solidified as one of the most iconic images in the Geekiverse, making numerous appearances in comics as well as movies. These are some of my favorites:
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Action Comics #1 Original Cover (Reprint), Kal-L vs. Kal-El ( #5), Bizarro: Escape from (Action Comics #857), Superman Returns (2006)
In June, 1938, Superman, the most famous, and first, superhero of them all made his debut in the pages of Action Comics #1 and so launched the Golden Age. His story however, begins much earlier.
Picture it: Cleveland, 1933. One hot summer night in Cleveland, Jerry Siegel, still a child, unable to sleep, lie awake fantasing, not of girls or cars, but of a new breed of comic. Inspired by Philip Wylie’s 1930 novel Gladiator and science-fiction pulps, he dreamed of a futuristic man with incredible powers. As Jerry tells it, the Superman concept came to him piece by piece over the night. He would rise from bed and scribble down each detail as it came to him, and when morning came, he had a complete story. Having now fully realized his hero, Jerry quickly ran the 12 blocks to his buddy Joe Shuster‘s home at first light. Joe quickly became just as excited, and they immediately began developing the script.
The early Superman seems heavily drawn from Gladiator, where the hero has superstrength, is able to leap 40 feet high, and watches bullets bounce off his chest. He also was inspired by the pulp hero Doc Savage, who was advertised at the time at “Superman Doc Savage, man os Master Mind and Body.”
Over the rest of the year Joe continued to draw more of Jerry’s scripts and the character, originally conceived as a villian hellbent on conquering the world, evolved into a hero, though he still had no name. He was eventually named and his appearance refined, with the duo immediately settling upon the initial costume design.
The conception finished, and the strips done, Joe and Jerry now set out to sell their new creation to newspapers, planning on syndication. The road was not a smooth one. Both frustration and rejections began piling up. Being a radical new idea, editors were reluctant to try it. Bell Syndicate told them, “We are in the market only for strips likely to have the most extra-ordinary appeal, and we do not feel Superman gets into this catagory.” United Features responded that Superman was “a rather immature piece of work.”
The strip made it’s way into the hands of McClure Syndicate editor Sheldon Mayer who immediately fell in love with it. About the same time, Harry Donenfield of DC Comics, looking to publish a new anthology title, he contacted Gaines, Mayer’s boss, looking for additional material. Having listened to Mayer praise this new strip idea, Gaines took it to Donenfield. Donenfield had already bought some work from Siegel and Shuster, particularly Federal Men, Slam Bradley, and Dr. Occult, so he wasn’t completely unfamiliar with Joe and Jerry. He bought the strip and signed them to a standard release of rights. He told them to rewrite some of what he had seen and gave them just three weeks to complete the thirteen page story and paid them $10 a page. Those thirteen pages would be Superman’s first appearance. Action Comics No. 1. Finally, five years after his conception, Superman was born.
Needing to save space, Donenfield ordered that the beginning of the story be cut, making it appear as the story was starting in the middle when published in Action Comics. The following year, in Superman No. 1, the pages would be reprinted completely.
Superman continued to appear in Action Comics, but only appeared on the covers of No. 7-10, 13, 15, and 17 after DC was told people were looking for the comic with Superman in it. Sales approached 500,000, double the average 250,000. From No. 19 onward, he has been on nearly every cover. His powers have changed since his first early appearances. It first he could not fly, only leap tall buildings in a single bound. He could outrun a train. Though not invulnerable, bullets merely bounced off his chest. He had no X-ray power.
On January 16, 1939 Superman first appeared in a newspaper strip. By 1941, over 300 newspapers were publishing the daily Superman strip. Shuster continued drawing Superman until 1947. After those few early issues, they were paid $500 per 13 page story as well as a small part of merchandizing royalties. Siegel began a lengthy and bitter right for the rights to Superman, ending with DC attaching “created by Siegel & Shuster” to all Superman stories and paying them an annual stipend. Joe Shuster died in 1992.
Thanks to Derek for this!