Saturday, 29 October 2011

Sheffield's Most Wanted. Part 11: DC Famous 1st Edition #C-26, Action Comics #1.

DC Famous 1st Edition, C-26, Superman in Action Comics #1
While the world holds its breath awaiting the outcome of our poll to find the Avengers' greatest enemy, it's time for Steve Does Comics to bring back the Internet's most demanded feature, as I once more ramble on about a comic I've never read but always wanted as a kid.

I have to admit that, even now, I've never read Superman's debut tale. But that's all right, as I've managed to divine his origin from other places. Thus I know that Clark Kent was a nerdy reporter until bitten by a radioactive spider, whereupon he took to dressing up as a bat to fight crime.

Of course I'd have known all this sooner if I'd had the catchily titled DC Famous First Edition #C-26 which reprinted Action Comics #1 in all its glory. I was never, as a child, in any doubt that, being very old, the contents would be crude compared to what were then modern standards but, still, the chance to see how it all started was a severe temptation for me.

One thing that does strike me is that, looking at this title's entry on the Grand Comics Database, Action Comics #1 would appear to have had seventy two pages. Was it normal in the 1930s for comics to have that high a page count? I always knew old comics had more content than their modern equivalents but I was assuming it was something like fifty pages. If seventy two was the norm, they certainly believed in giving you value for your 10 cents back then.


Pat said...

Well, my copy of Action #1 only has 68 pages, Steve. ;)

Actually the FFE has 72 pages because they are counting that outer cover that identifies it as an FFE. As is well documented, there are many, many cases where somebody has removed that outer cover and sold the rest as a genuine Action #1. In fact, I'd be surprised if somebody isn't doing it on ebay right now.

Comics generally started out as 68 pages, then went to 60, 52, 44 and finally settled at 36 pages. As a general rule, the number of pages is always 8 times some number plus 4. This is because the printers actually print 8 interior pages on one sheet before the sheet is cut and folded to make the comic.

Incidentally, while that Action #1 had 68 pages, they did cheat a little bit; 14 pages were black and white (including the inside covers). On the other hand, there were no ads other than the back cover.

Steve W. said...

I see. Thanks, Pat.

Kid said...

I've got two copies of this edition - honest. Don't you just hate me? (Plus two copies of the Superman one.)

Mars Will Send No More said...

Superman's first adventure took up far less than the original page count of this comic. It had a ton of other short stories in it - featuring a wide array of characters - and some educational features if we remember correctly. You can find a fair scan of it with a bunch of old Action Comics at Cross Eyed Cyclops (unless its been removed as sometimes happens...)

But honestly we don't think you were missing much. Typical golden age tripe. If we had a copy of the original, we'd for sure sell it for the cool million or so and go buy some comics that totally rule.

Anonymous said...

In 1938, ten cents would have bought either a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs, a quart of milk, a gallon of gas, or a movie ticket. In Great Britain, bread was 2p a loaf, and milk was 2p a pint. So don't give the publishers (or distributors, or retailers) too much credit for generosity. And the average annual salary in the US at the time was about $1700. Comics stayed at a standard ten cent cover price until the early 1960's, when they went to twelve cents, then to fifteen cents sometime around 1968. Since then, cover prices have steadily increased, usually in five cent increments. From the 1940's to the early 1960's, they tried to cope with rising costs by reducing page count rather than raising prices. By 1962, they probably decided that if they cut any more pages, they wouldn't have enough to hold the covers apart.

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