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Comic Book / Action Comics

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Action Comics first saw publication on April 18, 1938, though its first issue was cover dated June 1938. It's most famous for having the debut of Superman in its first issue. What many people do not realize, however, is that Action Comics, like most Comic Books of its day, was an anthology containing multiple unrelated stories. As such, Action Comics #1 also marked the debut of Zatara the magician, perhaps better known today as the father of Zatanna.

As times changed, comics began to drop the anthology format, and now Action Comics is mainly just another Superman title. The book returned to the anthology format for awhile in the 80s, becoming Action Comics Weekly, but that was short-lived.

The book reached issue 904 before being renumbered with a new #1 for DC's 2011 New 52 relaunch. As part of the DC Rebirth initiative, the old numbering was restored, with issue #52 followed by #957 (Vol. 2 0-52 counting as #905-956).

In April 2018, just in time to celebrate its 80th anniversary, Action Comics reached its 1000th issue, officially making it one of the longest-running continual comic series ever published.

For several decades now, Action Comics has held the honor of being the Holy Grail of comic book collecting: an original edition of a number 1 issue in good shape is worth well over a million dollars. Not bad considering that the original cover price in 1938 was ten cents.

If you were looking for the British comic serial named "Action!", see here.

Action Comics story arcs with their own pages include:

Tropes found in other issues of Action Comics include:

  • Alone Among the Couples: In #325 "Ugly Duckling Teacher of Stanhope College", Teacher Elizabeth Sparrow feels sorry during a college chaperone dance because all female teachers have gotten a dance partner...except for her, who is considered an old maid.
  • Already Met Everyone: In issue #358, Superboy accidentally ends up on Argo and meets his cousin Kara, one decade prior to her arrival on Earth.
  • Anthology Comic: Until Superman just flat-out took over. It still often featured a backup story of some sort featuring other characters, up through the Bronze Age. The series went back to a full anthology format in 1988 with Action Comics Weekly, running from issues 601-642 before Superman took over again, and the comic returned to the monthly format.
  • Artifact Title: Sort of. It certainly still has a lot of action, but its generic title suggests its anthology roots, not a book starring a particular character.
  • Awe-Inspiring Dinosaur Shot: In Action Comics #259: "The Cave-Girl of Steel" (1959), Supergirl travels to the prehistoric age to find dinosaurs, and becomes fascinated by the ferocious countenance of a looming Ceratosaurus and the sheer size of a Brontosaurus.
  • Breakout Character: The Man of Steel himself, believe it or not. He started out as just one of many characters in the comic, but he became so popular that by issue #14, he was placed on the cover on a permanent basis. Eventually, the book became entirely about him and dropped the anthology angle for good.
  • The Bus Came Back: The Rebirth edition of Action has the return of the Superman Revenge Squad, including a freshly restored Cyborg Superman, along with Blanque, Mongul, The Eradicator, Metallo and General Zod.
  • Continuity Cavalcade: The Peter Tomasi story "Never-Ending Battle" from #1000 has Vandal Savage trapping Superman in a device that weaponizes Hypertime, forcing him to experience multiple incarnations of his life in an endless time loop, such as the early Golden Age adventures, Superman and the Mole Men, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Superman: The Animated Series, and more.
  • The Discovery of Fire: In Action Comics #259: "The Cave-Girl of Steel", Supergirl travels back in time and meets prehistoric humans, whom she teaches to create fire and to use it to ward off an attacking sea serpent.
  • Distaff Counterpart: In issue #252 Trope Codifier Supergirl first showed up.
  • Droste Image: The cover of Action Comics #500: The Life Story of Superman features Superman staring at Supergirl and Lois Lane holding the cover of Action Comics #500 featuring Superman staring at Supergirl and Lois Lane holding the cover of Action Comics #500 featuring Superman staring at Supergirl and Lois Lane holding the cover of Action Comics #500 featuring...
  • Dumb Dinos: In Action Comics #259: "The Cave-Girl of Steel" (1959), Supergirl travels to the prehistoric age and finds dinosaurs, depicted as sluggish and slow-witted creatures which are easily fooled and scared away. A Brontosaur even hurts itself as trying to shake Supergirl off his neck.
  • Forgotten First Meeting: In issue #358, teenager Clark met Kara during an incident where he accidentally ended up on Argo. The fact that he didn't recognize his cousin when she arrived on Earth years later was explained to be the result of Laser-Guided Amnesia.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: In #756, a retired super-villain announces that he was once known as the Molester. The reactions of his friends force him to point out that back in the day, "molest" meant "to bother" (and he couldn't pick "Joker" or "Prankster" because they were already taken).
  • Heroes Fight Barehanded: It had... uh... fist air fight: Supermobile.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In #399, an overloading nuclear reactor threatens to "turn the Earth into a ball of flame", requiring Superman to carry it into space and hurl it into the sun. Then, Superman's drawn through a portal several centuries into the future, where scientists are testing a device that has not only brought him to the future, but George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and George Custer. Superman is, much to their regret, the only one able to escape the containment field they are held in, and quickly learns a rather skewed (to him) version of his own death, where he perished saving the world from the very disaster he was just attempting to stop. (The other three historic figures had also been pulled to this place mere hours before their deaths in order to prevent a Grandfather Paradox.) Superman at first has second thoughts about going back, but then does so - only to discover, to his shock, that he manages to survive. Eventually, he starts to realize that he wasn't in the future of his Earth, but an alternate one, where history is similar, but not identical. (However, the final panel makes this very cold comfort for him, as he realizes that world's Superman died, and the citizens of the Earth he saved are now mourning for him.)
  • Later-Installment Weirdness: Issues #584-642 were a weird era for the title. From #584 to #600, the title was a team-up book akin to the old Marvel Team-Up with Superman allying himself with a different hero each issue. From #601-642, the title returned to its Anthology Comic roots, but it proved to be such a failure that the title was put on hiatus for six months.
  • Limited Special Ultimate Collector's Edition: In 1974, DC reprinted the entire first issue in giant sized comic form, billing it as a "Famous 1st Edition, Limited Collector's Golden Mint Series" issue.
  • Rise from Your Grave: Superman did this in #469-470 after having apparently been killed (and insta-buried) by Terra-Man. Since he retained his powers, it was not a very surprising feat. The twist set up by the villain was that he came back looking like Terra-Man, leading him to be hunted by other superheroes for obvious reasons.
  • Scene Cover: See that image up there? That scene happens in the story. The full context is that villains are trying to escape from Superman so he stops their car, turns it sideways to dump them out, and then smashes it.
  • Sleazy Photoshoot: Exaggerated in issues #592 and 593. Sleez, a former associate of Darkseid, manages to get both Big Barda and Superman under his mental control. Along with humiliating Barda, he works with an adult film producer in one of Metropolis' slums to have Barda filmed doing something indecent, and later tries to have Superman and Barda filmed having sex. However, Barda's husband Mister Miracle, tipped off to what's going on by Darkseid, interrupts the shoot and breaks them free of Sleez's control before things can get farther than them kissing.
  • Solar System Neighbors
    • During the course of his job as a Planeteer Tommy Tomorrow helps out some Jovians on Jupiter.
    • Giovanni Zatara once thwarted a planned Saturnian invasion by tricking the shapeshifting Saturnians into thinking magical powers like his own were commonplace on earth.
  • Team-Up Series: It was a Superman team-up book for a while Post-Crisis after DC Comics Presents ended.
  • Unwitting Pawn: In issue #267, Lex Luthor plucks Hercules out of the past and tricks him into breaking him out of prison by claiming he was unjustly jailed by a king who lusted after his gold.
  • Variant Cover: #1000 takes it up to eleven as there are eight covers depicting Superman in the style of each decade: Steve Rude (The '30s), Michael Cho (The '40s), Dave Gibbons (The '50s), Michael Allred (The '60s), Jim Steranko (The '70s), Joshua Middleton (The '80s), Dan Jurgens (The '90s)note  and Lee Bermejo (The Noughties).

Alternative Title(s): Action Comics Weekly