What was the First Superman Comic?

Superman remains the definitive costumed superhero, the archetype by which all other figures of his ilk are judged. The last survivor of a doomed alien world, he was sent to Earth in a rocket ship by his father Jor-El, then raised as a mortal in the town of Smallville before discovering his wondrous powers. Adopting the disguise of mild-mannered newspaper reporter Clark Kent, he seeks out trouble and injustice, using his amazing abilities to defend the weak and innocent. The comic book that started it all has become almost as well known as he is, and today remains a valuable collector's item.

Siegel and Shuster

Superman was the creation of two men from Cleveland, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. They originally conceived of him as a villain but redesigned him as a heroic figure in 1933. It took six years for them to find a buyer for the character; publisher Max Gaines finally bought him in order to include him in a new comic book he was producing called "Action Comics."

Action Comics #1

"Action Comics #1" first hit newsstands in April 1938. Though it is now known mainly as the first appearance of Superman, it actually included a total of 10 different stories spread out across 64 pages. The Superman story constituted the first 13 pages; Siegel and Shuster were paid $130 for their work.

The Cover

More than the story itself, the cover of "Action Comics #1" has become a cultural icon. It depicts Superman, in his blue tights and bright red cape, lifting a car over his head to smash against a rock. Publisher Jack Liebowitz claimed he had no idea how successful the book would be, and selected Superman for the issue based solely on the pressures of a deadline.


"Action Comics #1" proved a huge hit, mostly due to the popularity of Superman. He was the first figure of his kind, with brightly colored spandex tights modeled after Flash Gordon and an earnest devotion to the cause of right. His own comic book, "Superman," appeared in 1939, and numerous imitation superheroes soon sprang up in rival comic books.


Original copies of Action Comics #1 are extremely valuable, not just because they feature the first appearance of Superman. Though the first run produced over 200,000 copies, less than 100 survive today. The others were thrown out by parents, destroyed by poor preservation techniques, or ignored by those who didn't know its value. A pristine copy today can fetch as much as $1 million (though those interested in reading the story can find numerous reprints available for a more modest price).

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