Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Action Comics (1938) #1

Action Comics (1938) #1
Issue #001
If chronology is the plan, then the oldest book in my collection is DC's Action Comics (1938) #1, published in April of 1938, which I purchased last year for all of 99¢ on*
*[Please note that this version of the comic has only the Superman story and not the other stories that were originally part of the anthology.]

Most Amusing Panels Prize:
Superman dumps nameless bound & gagged woman on the Governor's lawn. Tells her to "make yourself comfortable." WTH?
Action Comics (1938) #1 Page 2 Panels 1 & 2: Superman deposits a nameless bound woman on the Governor's lawn.

I must confess, this will be my first time reading many of the "classics" in my collection. Yet, when I do read them, I am invariably confounded and amused, often in equal measure, and Action Comics #1 was no exception.

Surprising Details:
Action Comics (1938) #1 Page 1 Panel 3: Infant Superman lifts recliner above his head.
In Superman's first appearance in comics, this alien baby who has crash-landed on earth is not adopted by Jonathan and Martha Kent as I had always believed him to be.

Rather he is "turned in" to an orphanage after his discovery at the crash site by a "passing motorist." (An alien spacecraft with a child therein was apparently not that shocking of an event back in 1938.)

Siegel and Shuster establish Superman's bona fides as a classic hero by having him complete astounding feats as an infant, much like the Greek Hercules who strangles two snakes whilst but a babe in his crib.

Action Comics (1938) #1 Page 4 Panel 5: The Governor and his butler read Superman's note explaining who the bound woman on the Governor's lawn is.What really cracked me up with this issue, though, was the bound and gagged woman at the beginning of the story. Upon my first reading, I could find absolutely no explanation for her state of bondage nor for Superman's unceremonious depositing of her on the lawn at the governor's estate.

It was only on the second reading that I realized the note Superman leaves behind to explain himself contains the secret as to the bound woman's identity: She's the bad guy!

(I clearly breezed by that little detail.)

Action Comics (1938) #1 Page 7 Panel 2: Lois Lane refuses to put up with the boys' sexist shit at a dance.
The other totally amusing reading error I made was when Clark Kent, as Superman, attempts to rescue Lois Lane from Pushy Guy (who has kidnapped her because she had turned him down when he had tried to cut in on her and Clark on the dance floor).

After catching up to them at super-speed, Superman elects to violently shake the bad guys out of the getaway car -- the same car, alas, in which they are holding Lois hostage. (Poor girl!)
Action Comics (1938) #1 Page 9 Panels 1 & 2: Superman rescues Lois Lane by shaking her (and the bad guys) out of the main bad guy's car.

But, upon closer inspection, I realized that the red I had mistaken for part of Superman's cape was, in fact, Lois' red dress as she falls from the car into superman's waiting arms (or, more accurately, his waiting left arm as he has to use his right one to shake the car).

Action Comics (1938) #1 Page 9 Panel 3: Superman does some serious property damage to the bad guy's car.
Dang, talk about heroes causing property damage...!

The Cliffhanger:

Action Comics (1938) #1 Page 13 Panel 6: Superman terrorizes corrupt Washington, DC lobbyist by jumping him off the top of the capitol building.In addition to rescuing Lois from her would-be kidnappers, Superman saves the innocent woman on death row (by depositing the real culprit on the Governor's lawn), stops a random wife-beater (after a phone tip to the newspaper where Clark Kent works), and threatens a Washington lobbyist who is trying to corrupt a Senator.

The issue ends on a literal cliffhanger in which Superman is nonchalant about missing his jump between buildings in our nation's capitol with the terrified Lobbyist dangling in his arms. "Doggone it!"

Last Notions:

I find it difficult to bring a sophisticated modern reading to material as dated as this. Crafted in a different era to an audience with radically different experiences and expectations, I might as well be a human alien commenting on Martian artistry to the Poet Laureate of Mars.

Instead I intend to read the classic comics in my collection to better understand the legacy that informs the contemporary comics that I love.

Action Comics (1938) #1 Cover
Released: 18-April-1938
Series: Action Comics (1938)

Issue: #001

Copyright: DC Comics

Cover Date: June 1938

Cover Price: 10¢

Page Count: 13 pages + Cover*

Story Title: "Superman: Champion of the Oppressed"

Jerry Siegel: Writer
Joe Shuster: Pencils
Joe Shuster: Inks
No Artist Listed: Color
Joe Shuster: Cover Pencils
Cover Pencils
Joe Shuster: Cover Inks
Cover Inks
Jack Adler: Cover Colors
Cover Colors

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