Welcome into the Hypertime. The Hypertime to Podcast! Since this is our first podcast starting it all, we figured what better place to start…than where a lot of this is attributed to starting. ACTION COMICS #1!
Below our my notes for the show.
– At the time, Action Comics was the fourth series published by National Allied Publications. They are more recognized now as DC Comics after rebranding in 1977 after calling themselves Superman-DC or just DC for quite some time. That’s a story all to itself about debt, bankruptcy, mergers, and more. Probably better suited for a different podcast.
National Allied Publications first produced the comic book “New Fun” (later re-titled “More Fun”) in 1935 that served as an anthology book. It left it’s impression by being entirely new stories as opposed to reprints of comic strips and instead of being funded by companies they decided to feature advertisements. It was in this series that characters such as Doctor Occult, Superboy, The Spectre, and more would make their debuts.
It’s second title called “New Comics” also released in 1935 and would eventually become the more recognized “Adventure Comics”. Originally a comedy book, it would change into something less-so and also included a Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster story in issue #12 revolving around a character named Jor-L, a detective in the future that would later be changed to Supermans father. This story released a year prior to Superman’s first appearance. Other characters that this series would introduce include Sandman, Starman, and Hourman.
The third title is probably the most well known in Detective Comics that came out in 1937, although it’s main claim to fame in Batman wasn’t introduced until issue #27 in 1939. Also an anthology book featuring the detective genre. This also saw Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster prior to Superman with their character Slam Bradley (two years prior to Superman). Less known characters were featured in this book prior to Batman, and many are now considered racist and xenophobic.
Now for the main topic and Action Comics #1:
– Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had the idea of Superman since 1933 and had been trying to sell him to a number of newspapers as a comic strip but failing. They originally envisioned Superman as a nobody who obtains powers from a scientist and decides to become a telepathic villain (Reign of the Superman short story) attempting to take over the world, but it felt too sci-fi in an already overly abundant sci-fi world. So they had to reinvent who their character was. They settled on the one we mostly know today who was more heroic.The villain idea would later return as Lex Luthor in Action Comics #23 in 1940.
It has never been confirmed, but Joanne Siegel believed heroic Superman was designed after the death of Jerrys father in 1932. During a robbery of his clothing store, Jerrys father had a heart attack and died. Jerry would soon be drawing sketches of a superhero thwarting a robbery and saving a man who looked much like Jerrys father.
They decided to sell their strip to National Allied Publications who used the various strips to form a story. Although there were concerns of a lawsuit (too similar to a character in a Philip Wylie novel in 1930), National Allied Publications gave it a chance knowing it could easily be cancelled if need be.
On May 3, 1938, the first issue of Action Comics was released and is still the second longest running comic book in history, only trailing Detective Comics that started a year earlier.
The rights of Superman were sold to National Allied Publications for $130 along with a contract to supply content to the publisher. This would become a repetitive legal battle over the years due to Supermans success. Much better as a separate podcast.
Superman’s Origin – Different than What Most Know:
– Not Krypton, but instead a distant planet that died of old age.
– Not found by the Kents, but by a passing motorist who gave the child to an orphanage.
– The sun didn’t provide his great powers, but instead had genetics millions of years advanced from normal human beings.
– Was showing strength as a child, but upon maturity was able to have advanced powers.
– Couldn’t fly, but hurdle a 20 story building or leap an 1/8th of a mile
– Advanced super strength
– Run faster than a train
– Nothing weaker than a bursting shell could damage his skin.
The Superman Story “Superman, Champion of the Oppressed” – Starts out with his origin as noted above. An example was given as to how his strength isn’t unusual based on genetics. They note that ants can lift things hundreds of times their own weight and how grasshoppers can leap far distances based on it’s size as well. It moves to a moment where Superman is trying to save an innocent woman named Evelyn Curry who is expected to be executed within 15 minutes. He goes to the governors estate so he can make the call, only to be hounded by the governors butler. Superman doesn’t take lightly to that and carries the butler with one arm up to the room where the governor is sleeping. For whatever reason, outside of a story contrivance to show Superman’s strength, the governor sleeps behind a solid steel door which Superman easily disposes of. The butler surprises Superman with a gun only to have the bullet bounce off his chest. Superman shows the proof to the governor who makes the call and saves Evelyn. During the call, Superman escapes and leaves a note saying he left the real criminal bound on the governors lawn.
The next day at the newspaper The Daily Star, reporter Clark Kent reads the paper of Evelyn being freed and is happy that there was no mention of Superman. However his editor wants him to look in on this Superman fella and Clark happily obliges to find the info. Upon walking out, Clark is notified of domestic abuse and shows up to the address as Superman. He quickly throws the perpetrator at the wall only to have him come back and attempt to stab Superman. The knife obviously breaks leaving the man to faint at the sight. Police sirens can be heard and Superman quickly switches to his Clark Kent persona and gives the credit to Superman for stopping the man. Awkward transition to Clark asking fellow reporter Lois Lane to a date that night and a quick fast forward to them dancing. A man named Butch is attracted to Lois and tries to butt in. Giving in to her persona of a wimp, Clark backs down to allow the man to dance with Lois who has none of it. She slaps the man which pisses him off and he gets in the face of Clark before Lois decides to split telling Clark off for being a coward. Butch is upset and follows Lois in another car with Superman watching from a distance. Butch and his buddies crashes into Lois’s car forcing her into a ditch and then abducts her. As they drive off, Superman stands in the way and Butch has every intention of running her over. But Superman leaps over the car and then chases it down as it speeds away. This is the moment the iconic cover comes into play as Superman lifts the car up and smashes it into a rock after dumping out the people inside. Superman grabs Butch and hooks him to the top of a electrical pole before introducing himself to Lois and taking her home.
More awkward transitions as Lois tells the editor about Superman who doesn’t believe her, Clark apologizing to a silent Lois Lane, and Clark getting his new assignment to go report on a war in South America. He instead goes to Washington DC where he discovers a lobbyist named Greer convincing senator Burrows to push through a bill that embroils the US with Europe for exchange of money. Unfortunately for them, Superman hears this (after keeping tabs on them all day) and confronts Greer. With Greer not revealing anything, Superman pulls what Batman is best known for and intimidates Greer by carrying him and running along an electrical wire teasing that he may get electrocuted if he “accidentally” grounds himself. Superman and Greer go to the capital building next and asks Greer if they should leap to another building from there which Greer is absolutely against. Superman leaps and misses which ends the issue.
Other Stories from Action Comics 1:
Chuck Dawson “The 4-G Gang Part 1” – A revenge story about a man named Chuck Dawson who is seeking his fathers killers after a range war. These same men took what should have been left to him in the Circle-D Ranch in Texas. Chuck makes his presence known in Red Gulch during his search by getting in a fight with a man named Notch Logan and is told to leave town by the sheriff. Two men are told to kill Chuck by John Burwell, the owner of A-G Ranch, and meet him at a cafe. Attempting to make it look like a typical fight, one of the men (“Trigger” Holt) gets bumped into and prepares to shoot Chuck. Chuck instead shoots the pistol out of Trigger’s hand and uses “juijitsu” to stop him. However, the second man (Butch) fires his gun and grazes Chucks head resulting in him blacking out only to awaken in a jail cell. Chuck tricks the deputy into drawing near, steals the gun, and forces the deputy to release Chuck before being tied up. Chuck finds his pistol but hears footsteps approaching as the comic draws to a close.
Zatara “The Mystery of the Freight Train Robberies” – Zatara the Magician (more known as the father of Zatanna) seeks the Tigress thinking she is responsible for crimes taking place. Zatara and assistant Tong board a train along with two detectives. One of the detectives is shot but saved by Tong. Zatara investigates only to see the second detective being thrown out of the boxcar dead. Tigress surprises Zatara and shoves him off the train, but is saved with the use of his magic by floating to the ground. Tong is able to have the train stopped and Zatara catches up with it along with the police. The train inspector Babcock accuses Zatara to being an
accomplice and triggers Zatara into thinking Babcock has something to do with it all. Zatara and Tong find a shack where some suspicious people entered. Zatara is ambushed by Tigress knocking him out and she has her henchmen set the shack on fire before going to rob a train. Zatara escapes, has Tong take Babcock to the police, and then boards the train. Zatara prevents the valuables from being stolen but Tigress confronts him. Zatara transforms her pistol into a bullet, and Tigress escapes. Zatara lays out the plans and how Babcock was involved whom also confesses to the crimes.
Sticky Mitt Stimson – A thief tries to steal an apple from an outside market, but is discovered. He dartsb off trying to escape the police. He loses his apples by bumping into someone, tries hiding to no avail, and then tries disguising himself. The last page I can find is the police mistaking someone who looks like him for him and he comes out from hiding in a trashcan.
The Adventures of Marco Polo (Part 1) – Marco Polo, his father, and his uncle travel to China but is sidetracked to Acre to visit the pope. The pope instructs them to go to Tartary with priests and gifts, but the ship they are traveling in is a ship at war with Babylon – who discovers them. Marco and his family escape through an Armenian port and continue until they reach Karghar Pass. The party splits after fears of savage tribes (and some bribery to keep them going along). Marco leads one group and his father and uncle lead the other. Marco travels through the hills but is attacked by people of the tribes. In defense, Marco and his crew rolls rocks onto the tribesmen.
Pep Morgan “The Light Heavyweight Championship” – Pep Morgan is a boxer facing off against a man named Sailor Sorenson. Sorenson cheats (by way of his manager Doc Lowry) by blinding Pep with some liniment on his gloves. However, Pep is still able to win. Doc gets away scott free after hiding the evidence. Later on, Doc Lowry resurfaces with a new boxer named Boomerang. Pep is suspicious and watches one of the matches. The match seems straight enough until the opponent appears drugged and loses the match, causing Pep to suspect more cheating on Doc’s part. Pep challenges the champion to his next fight. Before the match, Doc speaks with Pep about how he is eager to get his revenge for the accusations of cheating, and then Pep and Boomerang face off. Pep also begins to feel woozy during the match, but is able to knockout Boomerang. Doc tries to escape, but is captured and it’s discovered that Doc sewn a hypodermic needle into the gloves of Boomerang to drug the other fighters. Doc is sent to jail.
Scoop Scanlon “The International Jewel Thief” – Reporter Scoop Scanlon and his photographer Rusty are notified that the international jewel thief named Arnold has been captured at the docks. During their time at the docks, Rusty and Scoop notice some men carrying guns around the cargo crates. Arnold gives them the go-ahead and the men get ready to open fire but is surprised by Scoop attacking one from behind. All but one are taken down, and the one who makes it out escapes with Arnold with Rusty hitching a ride on the back of the car too. The pursuit is on with Arnold’s henchmen trying to stop the police and Scoop. They catch up and Scoop lays into the car with a tommy gun taken from one of the criminals that ultimately stops the vehicle. The police arrest Arnold and his getaway driver while Scoop helps Rusty. Rusty takes pictures while Scoop calls in the story. Rusty suggests he gets credit after poking holes in the gas tank while on the back of the car.
Tex Thomson “Murder in England” – Tex is visiting England and runs into a boy named Robert. While traveling together, they run across a murdered man. Tex stays there while Robert runs off to get the police. However, a woman strolls by and accuses Tex of the murder leaving Tex to run after the sherriff appears. Tex discovers however that the woman is involved in the murder along with a gang who have captured Robert. Tex is able to free Robert but is captured in doing so. Thankfully, Robert saves Tex and the sheriff shows up to arrest the gang.
According to the Comics Buyer’s Guide in 2021, less than 100 original copies of the comic still exist.
The full issue has rarely been reprinted, but the 13 page Superman story has been printed a number of times through single issue reprints or included in collections of Superman stories such as “Superman: The Golden Age Volume 1”, “Superman Chronicles Vol. 1”, or “Superman in the Forties” as a few examples.
The cover features Superman lifting a car above his head and smashing it into a rock. with a man in the foreground holding his head, one man running away to the left, and a man on the ground behind Superman. It is one of the most re-interpreted or parodied pieces in comics both as covers (Chris Burnham Cap Carrot variant cover for Multiversity 1, Superman 124) or as in-story panels (Man of Steel 80, Infinite Crisis 5).
The book was originally sold for 10 cents back in 1938 which would put it at just under $2.00 from inflation. However, it sells for very much more if the condition is good enough. One of the more recent cases occurred in 2018, where a copy of Action Comics #1 sold for $2,052,000 graded at 8.5 by the Certified Guaranty Company. Other copies included an 8.0 graded Action Comics 1 selling for $1 million in 2010 (the first time a comic hit the million mark), Nicolas Cage sold his copy for $2,160,000 in 2012 graded as a 9.0 (highest price paid for a comic at that time), and then a different copy graded 9.0 was purchased by ComicConnect and Metropolis Collectibles for $3.2 million in 2014 before being sold to a private collector.
One copy was graded as a 1.5 and sold for more than $100,000 in 2013 after being discovered in a fixer-upper house they bought for $10,100. While removing a wall, the copy was found being used as insulation. Unfortunately, the value would have been higher if not for a tear on the back cover that without it would have given it a value of at least a 3.0 and probably close to $100,000 more in value.
The original sketches of Lois were based on Joanne Siegel, wife of Superman creator Jerry Siegel.
Clark Kent was a reporter because that was a dream Siegel had growing up.
Inspiration for Superman? Strong characters like Hercules). John Carter of Mars (soldier who goes to Mars and is stronger due to weaker gravity)? Action star Douglas Fairbanks (mannerisms)? Circus strongmen (costume design)? Quarterback Benny Friedman (spit curl).
https://youtu.be/N1lSTjClKfs – Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics
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Intro and Outro Music: “RetroFuture Clean” by Kevin MacLeod
RetroFuture Clean Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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