Action Comics #1

Action Comics #1
Author: Jerry Siegel
Illustration: Joe Shuster
Original Release: 1938

Digital Release: 2013
Publisher: DC Comics
Purchased on iBooks

I was finally able to get my hands on the very first comic book that Superman appeared in. To me, this comic is the genesis of what we know and love about comic books today. It is also considered the most valuable comic of all time. It was so fulfilling to see for myself what Superman looked like, how he acted, and to observe his super powers in action in his grand debut. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster put together an interesting story with simple illustrations that tell the origins of one of the world’s strongest heroes.

It was refreshing to read about the Superman that I first became a fan of in Kindergarten – the Superman that stands for wholesome values, looking for the good in mankind, and always trying to do the right thing. I feel that versions of this hero have been seen in comics and movies since 1938, but it is getting dimmer as the demand for more “anti-heros” and gritty versions of comic book characters are becoming the new norm. We have the Bronze Age (circa 1970 to 1985) and Modern Age (1985 to present) of comics to thank for that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of the darker comics i.e. Frank Miller. However, I feel that Superman resembles the light that we all can become, if we choose to do so.

On the first page is a description of Superman, stating, “Superman! Champion of the oppressed. The physical marvel who had sworn to devote his existence to helping those in need!” This is followed by images and statements depicting his home planet, him as an infant on Earth, and him running faster than an express train as an adult. It also has two frames about ants and grasshoppers titled “A Scientific Explanation of Clark Kent’s Amazing Strength.” It relates these creatures with super-strength who are found on our planet, with Superman’s powers. It’s as if Jerry Siegel is trying to explain that Superman’s strength is no different than the insects who have lived on this planet for eons. I can appreciate what Siegel is doing by explaining Superman’s powers to the average reader. Superhero comics were just beginning to be published, which meant this was all new to everyone. Sure, the reader could have been exposed to Hercules or other classical mythical individuals, but this was the first comic strip about a super-powered alien who lives to protect Earth. Action Comics #1 is a great piece of comic book history and pop-culture.

The story flowed very well and was entertaining, but it wasn’t what I expected. It was better than I thought it was going to be. First, Superman literally knocks down the Governor’s steel door to speak with him about stopping an execution of a woman that he can prove is innocent. In this scene you will see how strong he is, and how bullet proof as well. Second, Superman rescues a woman who is in the process of being beaten by her husband. As the man ignores Superman and attempts to hit his wife again, Superman picks him up and throws him into a wall and proclaims “You’re not fighting a woman, now!” Third, Clark Kent plays hookie and goes to the Nation’s Capital in an attempt to get to the bottom of political corruption. He was supposed to go to South America and report on a war going on in a small country for the Daily Star (wasn’t the Daily Planet yet). As Superman, he is able to get to the bottom of the crookedness in Washington D.C. These events in which Superman is involved are very applicable today. It was fun to see him take down the wrongdoers and protect the innocent. I felt empowered to do the right thing after reading.

Lois Lane makes her debut as well in this comic, as does her annoyance with Clark Kent. She gets very irritated with him for not standing up for himself as a bunch of men pick on him and push him to the side while he is on his first date ever, in the history of comics, with Lois. As expected, Clark doesn’t want to blow his cover as Superman and plays the weakling role. He eventually gets back at the guys as Superman. But it isn’t out of revenge that he goes after them; it’s because they forced Lois to go with them in their car after forcing hers off the road. The results – look at the front cover of Action Comics #1!

The Pros: Everything! It was awesome to read about his original upbringings on Earth. It wasn’t with two loving adoptive parents in Smallville, Kansas. I love how simple the color and illustrations are. They aren’t bright and glossy, but appear as they did in 1938. It gives you a glimpse into what “the good old days” must have been like.

The Cons: No Jimmy Olsen.

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s… super fun to read this comic!

Jer gives it 6/5.

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4 thoughts on “Action Comics #1

  1. Michael J. Miller says:

    I love how anchored in social justice Superman was in the beginning! The archetype of all superheroes, the mightiest of them all, was conceived as a champion and protector of the oppressed. As you said, it’s very timely. It’s also inspiring to know this is where Superman comes from – a defender of social justice. I love it!

    Liked by 1 person

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