Today marks seventy-five years since a pair of Cleveland teenagers created the first superhero and one of America’s most prominent fictional characters.
The two teenagers were Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who created Superman as a symbol of goodness who would stand up for the common man. Their character made his appearance in a comic book called Action Comics, and the first issue was published on April 18th, 1938 by a company known as National Allied Publications. (Although the cover dates it as debuting in June.)
Siegel and Shuster were originally paid only $10 a page for a grand total of $130, but they signed a ten year contract with the company which allowed them to keep writing new stories for the character. However, the contract also stipulated that they sell the rights to the character.
Superman wasn’t the only character featured in the original copy of Action Comics, but it soon became clear to the publishers that he was by far the most popular and the one responsible for the high sales of the book. Historians consider the original Action Comics issue to be the origin point for the superhero subgenre and the character of Superman as the first superhero. Original copies of the book have become rare and highly valuable. To date, Action Comics #1 is the only comic book to be valued at over $2 million.
The character of Superman has seen a great deal of change since Siegel and Shuster first created him. At first he was a much rougher vigilante who had no qualms about using his amazing strength to harm people. The very first issue has him attack a wifebeater. Over time, the editors over the book decided to soften the character by giving him a strict moral code, having the character work within the law alongside the police, and eventually developing him into the character that we know and love today. The scale of his powers has fluctuated to incredible highs and more realistic levels throughout his history.
This achievement makes Superman one of the longest running characters still in print today, and cements his legacy as the most important superhero ever created. He has become a symbol of the values the character is meant to represent, as well as a symbol of the United States of America. Though some criticize the character as being an invincible Big Blue Boy Scout, there is no denying his importance to the history of superheroes, and the overall impact on popular culture. These qualities have brought the character to an unprecedented seventy-fifth anniversary, and will keep him around for decades to come!
The emergence of Superman in 1938 would later coincide with Superwoman, Enid Blyton’s move into the Green Hedges house in Beaconsfield; an aspect that was to make her the legendary children’s writer that she has become.
Stephen Isabirye, author of a book on Enid Blyton, tittled, The Famous Five: A Personal Anecdotage (www.thefamousfiveapersonalanecdotage.blogspot.com). Stephen Isabirye