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Sunday, 9 January 2011

Yesterday's Papers - Action Comics Issue 1

I picked up a facsimile of Action Comics issue 1 which was originally published in 1938 at a Boot Sale in Cardiff this morning. It is noted for the debut of Superman. I love things like this and I was surprised to discover that the original Superman was a far different character than the one we know today - for a start his powers were much less than those he is now famous for.

The main difference is that he couldn't originally fly but was able to leap over large distances. The first story seems very quaint today given the more realistic style (if a man who can fly can be considered realistic) of modern comics. The comic gives an explantion of his powers (see image) and likens him to a Grasshopper - I wonder if he would have had the same success had he been called Grasshopper-man? Hey it worked for Spider-man!

It opens with Superman breaking into a governors house with proof that a woman due to be executed is innocent. From there the man of steel goes onto battle corruption while his alter ego Clark Kent is sent to get a story on this sensational Superman.

Superman may still be around today but what I found more interesting are the characters featured in the comic that are now forgotten. When the comic was published the western was still the most popular genre around and there are two cowboy based comic strips in this issue.

First up we have Chuck Dawson which is the story of Chuck Dawson, the fastest gun in the West who seems to be on an eternal quest to discover the crooked ranchers responsible for his father's murder.

It's all thrills and spills and made me nostalgic for the days when western comic strips were common in boy's adventure comics. Unlike Superman though Chuck Dawson is largely forgotten. Indeed until picking up this collectors edition I had never heard of the character.

Next up was Zatara the Master Magician - a story about a crime fighting magician. He does tricks and then battles gangsters while dressed in his stage get up which includes a top hat and cape.

A text story follows and then comes a comedy strip about a character called Sticky-mitt Simpson.

Action Comics is an American comic book series which introduced Superman, the first major superhero character as the term is popularly defined. The publisher was originally known as Detective Comics, Inc., and later as National Comics and as National Periodical Publications, before taking on its current name of DC Comics, a subsidiary of Time Warner.

Following on from the mis-adventures of Sticky-Mitt readers were treated to an educational strip that told the story of Marco Polo. And this in turn was followed by Pep Morgan, a sports strip centring on a boxer and his crooked manager. After that it was the adventures of Scoop Scanlon, master reporter and amateur crime buster. And the comic's final story was another western based adventure about a character called Tex Thompson.

 It's interesting to look at these old comics, knowing that from this an important icon of popular culture was born, and of course Action Comic is still running today though I believe that it is now primarily a Superman title.

Action Comics is the second-longest running DC Comics series after Detective Comics; however, it cannot claim to have had an uninterrupted run, due in large part to two separate occasions on which the title was put on a three-month hiatus. The first of these occurred during the summer of 1986, with issue #583 bearing a cover date of September, and issue #584 listing January, 1987. The regular Superman titles were suspended during this period to allow for the "post-Crisis" revising of the Superman story through the publication of John Byrne's six-issue The Man of Steel limited series.Publication was again suspended between issues #686 and #687 (February and June 1993) following the "Death of Superman" and "Funeral for a Friend" storylines, before Action Comics returned in June with the "Reign of the Supermen" arc. (The two "Funeral for a Friend" issues, #685 and #686 featured the cover announcement of "Supergirl in Action Comics" highlighting the passing of Superman.)

 I'm unsure what an original copy of this comic would be worth today but it is a fair bet that it would be a crazy amount of money. Indeed there can't be many copies of this issue still in existence. A Google search came up with the following information - The Original Edition of this historic masterpiece was once sold at an auction for the large sum of $317,200 and spread news across the world. There were only 100 copies sold.

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