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.
Action Comics story arcs with their own pages include:
- Action Comics #1: Superman, Champion of the Oppressed
- Action Comics #252: The Supergirl from Krypton
- Action Comics #775: What's So Funny About Truth, Justice and The American Way?
- The Black Ring
- Grant Morrison's Action Comics
- The Great Phantom Peril
- Last Son
- The Oz Effect
- Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes
- Superman: Brainiac
- The Unknown Supergirl
- Two for the Death of One
- Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?
Tropes found in other issues of Action Comics include:
- Anthology Comic: Until Superman just flat-out took over.
- The series went back to an 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.
- Belly Dancer: In issue #592, Big Barda was temporarily hypnotized by Sleez and was forced to dance for his own entertainment.
- 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.
- Distaff Counterpart: In issue #252 Trope Codifier Supergirl first showed up.
- Heroes Fight Barehanded: It had... uh... fist air fight: Supermobile.
- Limited Special Ultimate Collectors 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).