Each day in February, Dibbs is showcasing iconic comic book issues that you should REALLY care about! Today’s comic is Action Comics #1, otherwise known as the birth of Superman! Read on to learn about this legendary first!
More comics are coming to the collectibles digital marketplace in the coming months, but be sure to grab some fracs of The Incredible Hulk #181, the first appearance of Wolverine now available on Dibbs!
The Champion of The Oppressed
Superman was originally created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster to be a short story about a bald villain with telepathic power. The two adapted the story into a comic strip about a man with superpowers, who was forced out of his home planet as an infant. But try as they may, their pitches failed to garner attention from any publications.
Hot off the success of Detective Comics, National Publications wanted to quickly capitalize by releasing a new comic series. The editors had to rely on old and rejected stories, but failed to find anything worthy of the book's lead feature. Sheldon Mayer was asked to help find something they could use and stumble upon the rejected Superman comic strips. Siegel and Shuster were asked to condense their strip down to 13 pages. Agreeing to those terms resulted in Superman making its debut as the featured story in Action Comics #1!
Action Comics #1 is an anthology of eight separate stories by various writers and artists. While this inaugural issue features the first appearance of many different characters, we’ll only be covering Superman, Champion of the Oppressed. You’ll thank us later. Trust us!
With his planet on the brink of extinction, an alien scientist locks his infant son in a capsule and launches him towards Earth. The child is brought to an orphanage where he’d later be named, Clark Kent. The orphanage attendants immediately notice the infant's superhuman-like strength. As Clark matures, so do his abilities. He’s now able to leap over tall buildings, raise tremendous weights, and run faster than an express train. The writer also makes note of Clark’s impenetrable skin. Clark realizes he must use his powers to benefit mankind, and thus declares himself Superman!
This introduction to the caped hero showcases his powers through several run ins with bad guys. The first being a last minute pardon of an accused murderer on Death Row. Superman ties the real murder to a tree outside the Governor’s estate, and proceeds to gain entry into his mansion. The Governor’s Butler refuses Superman, but he barges in anyway. After ripping through the steel door of the Governors’ bedroom, Superman pleads for him to pardon the framed female who only has 15 minutes till her execution. The Governor is swayed and Superman disappears, only leaving a note explaining that the real murderer was outside on their lawn.
Weird way to introduce Superman, but okay…..
We later join Clark at The Daily Planet, where he works as a reporter. He’s tipped off of a “wife-beating” happening down the street. He runs off to go report about it? Anyway, Superman shows up and beats the husband into submission. Superman changes back into Clark Kent, and explains to the police that Superman had saved the day.
Back at the Daily Planet, Louis Lane agrees to go on a date with Clark. While the two are dancing, a gangster tries to cut in. In order to not draw suspicion Clark chooses to not interfere. In awe, Louis slaps the gangster and walks out on them both. The gangster and his crew decide to follow Louis’s taxi, and force it to pull over. They kidnap her for a moment only to be promptly handled by Superman, who was observing from afar the entire time. He rescues Louis, and asks her not to report about it in The Daily Planet.
Lastly, Clark is given an assignment in the war-torn South American country of San Monte. But instead of going to the country, Clark heads to Washington where he kidnaps a lobbyist who has been conspiring with a congressman to start a war. Superman threatens to drop the man from a tall building but before he can, readers are hit with a “to be continued”.
How’s that for a first appearance with seven additional stories packed in?
How do you define the legacy of the first superhero? Superman was the mold for every superhero story for generations to come. His origins, his secret identity, and even his costume are woven into the very fabric of superhero comics. Without the inclusion of Siegel and Shuster's rejected comic strip, the entire history of comic books looks vastly different or even non-existent. The legacy of Superman lives on in comics, televisions shows, action figures, cartoons, and movies as a beacon of hope and an ideal to strive towards.
Action Comics also went on to influence the comic industry. In 2018, Action Comics officially surpassed 1,000 issues, making it the 2nd longest running series next to Detective Comics.