Celebrating Superman: The History of Action Comics’ Early Years

Article written by Jordan Christein

Today is the release of the longest running comic book in existence! ACTION COMICS #1000 hits the shelves of your local comic book shops, as well as your digital retailers today! To honor such a tremendous feat, I have started a five post extravaganza on the amazing, astounding, Super history of ACTION COMICS!

In this article, I wish to reflect back on the early years of Action Comics and some of the characters that were brought to life..


The Beginning of A Legacy



This is a cover art for an unpublished comic proposal by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for “Superman”, which they submitted to Humor Publications in 1933 (they were rejected). The cover was torn off the book, so this is probably a restoration.

The collective idea of both Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Superman took the world by storm in his debut comic, Action Comics #1 – Cover dated to June 1938 but published in April of ’38. Siegel and Shuster had tried for many years prior to the release of Action Comics #1 to shine the light on Superman in the form of a newspaper strip. Originally being a bald villain (sound familiar?), Superman had telepathic abilities and used them to destroy mankind as he saw fit. This version of Superman, albeit short-lived, was seen in Siegel and Shuster’s book Science Fiction. Afterward, Siegel simply made the comment “What if this Superman was a force for good instead of evil?”

The creative duo had already seen their work published in National Allied Publications with titles such as Slam Bradley from Detective Comics and were asked to make a contribution to National’s newest publication. Submitting Superman to the company for consideration by re-pasting the old samples of newspaper strips they already made into comic book page format, National then decided to place Superman on the cover of their newest magazine. Publisher Harry Donenfeld however, was not impressed with the first outing of our beloved hero and ordered Superman to never be on a cover of the magazine again. Reports of sales quickly changed his mind as it was discovered that Superman was indeed the reason for the sky-rocketing sales, quickly returning him to the covers and christening him as a mainstay in issue 19.

Iconic Characters

Throughout the early issues of Action Comics, we can see the first appearances of characters who have lasted to this day within the Superman mythos. Characters such as Lois Lane, the fiery reporter who never took no for an answer first appeared in Action Comics #1 along with Superman. An unnamed “office boy” with a bow tie makes a brief cameo in Action Comics #6 (November 1938), which several reputable sources claim to be the very first appearance of fan-favorite Jimmy Olsen.

Lex Luthor, one of the most recognizable villains in all of history was created to be Superman’s arch-nemesis and first appeared in Action Comics #23 dated April 1940.


1943 saw the inaction_comics_vol_12c_23troduction of another one of Big Blue’s most known villains: The Toyman. Created by writer Don Cameron and artist Ed Dobrotka, Toyman came to life in issue #64, released in September of ’43.

Under editor Mort Weiseinger, Action Comics expanded the mythos by creating a place for our hero to collect his thoughts.

Taking on a life of its own was Kal-El’s Fortress of Solitude. Created by writer Jerry Coleman and artist Wayne Boring, The Fortress first appeared in issue #241 (June 1958), with another major villain making his debut just one month after the Fortress, Brainiac, as well as the Kryptonian Bottle City of Kandor.

This concludes part one of five on “THE HISTORY OF ACTION COMICS

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