Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Documented newsstand buyers of Action Comics #1

"From the dreams and the planning boards; from the works that were required to put the ballclub together; from the long work in spring training; everything now bursts on the scene and becomes a reality."

Thus mused New York Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy prior to the first pitch of the Mets' very first game in April 1962.  And so this web log, or "blog" (as they're more commonly known), bursts on the scene and becomes a reality. As it says on top, we plan to offer really deep thoughts about comic books, ballparks, stamps, coins, or whatever else comes to mind.

As the stage announcer at Woodstock said when he made the warning about the brown acid that was circulating not being too good, take it with however many grains of salt you wish. And with that, we present Installment No. 1 of "Gary's Blog."  And since this is Installment No. 1, I thought it would be fitting and proper to discuss another, more famous No. 1 - Action Comics #1.

Documented newsstand buyers of Action Comics #1.
Superman is so iconic that I don't have to explain who he is. That's just one reason why Action Comics #1, the magazine in which he first appeared, is the single most valuable comic book in history - a copy sold for over $2,000,000 in 2011.

It's hard to believe that there was a time when "Superman" was so new that the publishers actually had to advertise it, to let people know it was out there. Yes, even Action Comics #1 had to be promoted. Here's a house ad from More Fun Comics #31, May 1938, one month before Action #1 came out... it's the first published image of Superman anywhere.

I remember a TV commercial for the New York Times featuring a jaded "been there, done that" editor grilling a new guy on his knowledge of sports. The idea was to show that the Times' sportswriters knew their stuff. In the spot, the editor asked the kid how many people attended the first Super Bowl. The kid gave the correct answer (61,946), and the commercial ended on the editor's follow-up - "What were their names?"

There's no way of knowing the names of everyone who attended what would later be known as Super Bowl I.  But when it comes to Action Comics #1, we actually have a list of 25 people who bought the very first appearance of Superman as a current comic. I know I was blown away when I discovered it.

One of the great things about periodicals with letter columns is that in certain cases they can offer bragging rights above and beyond the ego boost of having your letter published. The fans whose letters appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #3 (July 1963) have proof that they were there when everyone's favorite wallcrawler made his debut. The handful of people whose letters were published in Fantastic Four #3 (March 1962) were there when the Marvel Age of Comics as we know it was born. Even I'm part of that club - I had a letter published in Simpsons Comics #1, 1993.

So when I found out that a similar list existed for the debut of the grand-daddy of all superheroes, I was stunned - especially when you consider that back in those days, comic books didn't have letter columns. But Action Comics #1 did have a "color-page contest," where you had to color a specific page, send it in, and you could win a dollar. The ad promoting the contest appeared on the inside front cover, and it looked something like this:

Well, a contest has to have winners, and a list of this contest's winners was published three issues later, in Action Comics #4 (September 1938).

Underneath the 'here are the winners' headline, this text: "A prize of $1 has been sent each of these winners for having submitted the best colored pages in the contest held in the June issue of ACTION COMICS."

That's "June" as in "the June [1938] issue of ACTION COMICS," as in Action Comics #1. And there you have it - iron-clad proof that the people listed as winners bought Action Comics #1 on the newsstand when it orignally came out. You can see the winners' names in the scan, but for the sake of the historical record, let's give them their due and make it so their names can be easily found should anyone want to do an Internet search. And so...

The below named individuals are documented to have purchased Action Comics #1, June 1938, the publication in which Superman made his very first appearance, on the newsstand as a current issue:

Judson G. Banks, Jr., Sedalia, Missouri
Edward Bielski, Saginaw, Michigan
Roland Chin, San Francisco, California
Kitty Connelly, Brooklyn, New York
June Dunn, Lowell, Massachusetts
G. Preston Hatcher, Texarkana, Texas
Ralph Kay, Honolulu, Hawaii
J. D. Johnson, Baron Rouge, Louisiana
Jim Tom Jones, San Antonio, Texas
George Lebarton, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Marguerite Maker, Windsor, Canada
Sam Maurizio, Los Angeles, California
Jimmy McEntee, Newark, New Jersey
David McLaughlin, Toronto, Canada
Alfred Oakes, Arlington, Virginia
Bill Peckham, Little Rock, Arkansas
Doris Peterson, Winterset, Iowa
Marjorie Robinson, Bismarck, North Dakota
Harold Silverman, Brooklyn, New York
Jane Smith, Seattle, Washington
Stanley Stanilewicz, New York, New York
James Traylor, Montgomery, Alabama
Harold Van Gorden, Middleburg, Ohio
Bill Whitelaw, Jacksonville, Florida
Richard Wimmer, St. Cloud, Minnesota

The "color-page contest" required entrants to color the first page of the "Chuck Dawson" feature, which was printed in black and white...

...and they had to tear it out in order to submit it. So right away, those copies are incomplete - normally a deal-breaker in the world of back issues. But due to the historic nature of Action Comics #1, potential buyers might be more forgiving. Even a damaged copy is still an opportunity to own an original first printing of the very first appearance of Superman.
Unfortunately, in the case of Action Comics #1, fate is, indeed, a cruel mistress. On the flip side of that first page of "Chuck Dawson" - the page that readers colored, tore out of the book and submitted to the editors as their entry in the color-page contest...
...was the last page of the very first Superman story.

Gary's final thought.

And so we conclude the first installment of our "Blog."  The next one will be completely different.  I hope you will be here for Installment No. 2 of "Section 538, Row 1."