Action Comics

Action Comics Action Comics started out in 1938 mainly as an all-purpose anthology title featuring various adventure stories and characters - hence the title; much like Detective Comics by the same company, which featured primarily crime-fighting and sleuthing characters. But the first issue of this series boasted something rather new in the world of comic books - the first real costumed supehero, in the form of Superman. The character had been derived from such pulpy origins as Doc Savage, but it managed to combine science fiction, fantasy, high adventure, and the visual medium of comics to create an entirely new genre.

Writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster saw their creation Superman launched in Action Comics #1 in April 1938 (cover-dated June). Siegel and Shuster had tried for years to find a publisher for their Superman character (originally conceived as a newspaper strip) without success. Superman was originally a bald madman created by Siegel and Shuster who used his telepathic abilities to wreak havoc on mankind. He appeared in Siegel and Shuster's book Science Fiction. Siegel then commented, "What if this Superman was a force for good instead of evil?" The writer and artist had worked on several features for National Periodical Publications' other titles (Slam Bradley in Detective Comics, for example) and were asked to contribute a feature for National's newest publication. They submitted Superman for consideration, and after re-pasting the sample newspaper strips they had prepared into comic book page format, National decided to make Superman the cover feature of their new magazine. The dynamic 'Man of Tomorrow' was an instant hit, and he permanently changed the medium of comic books and comic strips by formalizing a new fantasy subgenre. Action Comics was soon followed by the Superman comic book series in 1939, along with a wealth of other comics starring numerous costumed superheroes.

Originally, Action Comics was an anthology title featuring a number of other stories in addition to the Superman story. Zatara, a magician, was one of the other characters who had their own stories in early issues. (Zatanna, a heroine introduced in the 1960s, is Zatara's daughter.) The Vigilante also enjoyed a lengthy run in this series. Sometimes stories of a more humorous nature were included, such as those of Hayfoot Henry, a policeman who talked in rhyme. Gradually the size of the issues was decreased as the publisher was reluctant to raise the cover price from the original 10 cents, so there were fewer stories. For a while, Congo Bill and Tommy Tomorrow were the two features in addition to Superman (Congo Bill eventually gained the ability to swap bodies with a gorilla and his strip was renamed Congorilla), but soon after the introduction of Supergirl in issue #252 (May 1959) the non-Superman-related strips were crowded out of Action altogether. Since then, it has generally been an all-Superman comic, though other backup stories such as The Human Target occasionally appear.