Superman #1

By Jacobus Dixon

Now what’s better than one story starring Superman? Try four. And that’s exactly what readers got with Superman #1 in June 1939. Ever since he exploded onto the newsstand scene in 1938, Superman was a big seller, and giving the guy his own book was the best way to honor that achievement. As great as his appearances were in Action Comics, fans just couldn’t wait a whole season for only one Superman story. So National gave their readers what they wanted: more Superman!

The book didn’t have as many stories as Action Comics, but the stories were longer. And as an added bonus, Superman’s first story was also reprinted for readers just hopping on the bandwagon. Because, unlike today, comic books were generally thought of as cheap items to be bought, read, and thrown away like a newspaper. Not everyone did this of course, but most did, and so publishers just assumed everyone threw out their old comics and would often reprint famous stories as a result.

Now just what are we left to look at? Well, unlike his first appearance, Superman seems somewhat jollier this turn around. Maybe this is to cement the idea that he’s not the potential menace we first see in Action Comics #1. This guy looks like he’s genuinely enjoying himself doing what he does. And what does he do? Well…he does super things like lifting cars, withstanding bullets, running real fast, oh…and leaping over tall buildings like a grasshopper- let’s not forget that!

It’s this leaping that is on display for the readers. Look! There are the tops of what look like skyscrapers. So this guy can really spring into the air. Today, we think of Superman and flying the way we think of French fries and ketchup. How can you have one without the other? In the 1930s, however, Superman did not fly. He could leap over tall buildings (which is still really cool), but he did not fly. However this image seems to tell us otherwise. Look at the way his arms and legs are positioned. It looks as if he’s just gliding through the air without any sort of lower body exertion. And the fact that he seems to look more at home in the air only adds to his god-like attributes and appearance.

But what does this image have to do with the stories inside? Honestly, nothing. Hopping around the city was Superman’s usual means of transportation. So yes, technically he does this in all four stories, but it’s also something he would do in all upcoming Superman stories (at least until his power was switched to flying). It would be like a picture of you getting into your car, or buying coffee. Not necessarily something that defines your day, but something commonplace that you do all the time. That is what this image is, it just happens to be a dynamic shot that captures Superman and how he appears to regular guys. So, it’s really quite photogenic.

Now as I mentioned before, Superman was not the first hit in funny book circles. But whenever characters were showcased on the cover of a comic book magazine, the image usually had something to do with an event or an image from the story inside. Sometimes there would be an exaggeration in the imagery to ready the reader’s mindset for the story. But mostly, it was a pretty straightforward scene from the story. It usually took a while before publishers were confident enough to just have their main character posing in “a day in the life of…” scenes on covers. So to have Superman in this everyday pose in his first issue really highlights the publisher’s confidence in the character’s marketability to readers.

As a result, National was rewarded for their faith. Superman #1 was a hit and readers could now follow Superman’s adventures in both Action Comics and Superman. Readers just loved seeing him take out crooked businessmen, scheming starlets, and just outright saving people from vicious gangsters. The actions spoke to an inner wish they felt towards their own harsh living conditions in a modern world. So just how popular was Superman? Let’s just say that even his most casual appearance was all it took to get comic readers excited. And that’s precisely what we get on the cover of Superman #1. But what endears this image is the truth within its depiction as Superman as a character that hovers above us in a larger-than-life fashion.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the writer, and not Midtown Comics.  Additionally, Midtown Comics makes no representations as to the accuracy of any of the information expressed herein.

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