Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Action Comics is the comic book series that introduced the world to Superman, the first major superhero character as is popularly defined. The publisher was originally known as Detective Comics, Inc., and later as National Comics and National Periodical Publications, before taking on its current name of DC Comics, a subsidiary of Time Warner.
Teenagers Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster launched their creation with Action Comics #1 in June of 1938. The character of the dynamic "Man of Steel" was an instant hit, and he permanently changed the medium of comic books and comic strips.
Action Comics was soon followed by the Superman comic book series, and a wealth of other comics starring numerous costumed superheroes.
As of 2005, Action Comics is still in publication, having passed its 800th issue. It is the highest numbered and second-longest running American comic book after Detective Comics, however it cannot claim to have had an uninterrupted run as it went on hiatus for 3 months twice, in 1986 (the regular Superman books were suspended during the publication of John Byrne's The Man of Steel miniseries) and in 1992 (the Superman books went on a 3-month hiatus following the "Death of Superman" and "Funeral for a Friend" stories). In 1988, DC Comics tried unsuccessfully to return the format of the comic to an anthology and publish it on a weekly basis, but it soon returned to a monthly format less than a year later. Another departure from a strict monthly schedule was the giant-size Supergirl reprint issues of the 1960s (published as a 13th issue annually).
Originally, Action Comics was an anthology title featuring a number of other stories in addition to the Superman story. Zatara, a magician, was one of the other characters who had their own stories in early issues. (Zatanna, a heroine introduced in the 1960s, is Zatara's daughter.) Sometimes stories of a more humorous nature were included, such as those of Hayfoot Henry , a policeman who talked in rhyme. Gradually the size of the issues was decreased as the publisher was reluctant to raise the cover price from the original 10 cents, so there were fewer stories. For a while, Congo Bill and Tommy Tomorrow were the two features in addition to Superman (Congo Bill eventually gained the ability to swap bodies with a gorilla and his strip was renamed Congorilla ), but soon after the introduction of Supergirl in issue #252 (May 1959) the non-Superman-related strips were ultimately crowded out of Action altogether. Since then, it has usually been an all-Superman comic, though other backup stories have made occasional appearances.
- Note: Action Comics should not be confused with Action, the controversial British comic of the 1970s.
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