"Superman, Champion of the Oppressed": As a distant planet is destroyed by old age, a scientist places his infant son in a space capsule and launches it toward Earth. The capsule is found by a passing motorist, who brings the baby to an orphanage, where the chil
- ...And nothing less than a burst shell could penetrate his skin!
Appearing in "Superman, Champion of the Oppressed"
- John Kent (First appearance) (Mentioned only)
- Mary Clark (First appearance) (Mentioned only)
- Lois Lane (First appearance)
- George Taylor (First appearance)
- Bea Carroll (First appearance)
- Butch Mason (Single appearance)
- Senator Barrows (Single appearance)
- Alex Greer (Single appearance)
- Evelyn Curry (Single appearance)
- Krypton (First appearance)
- Kryptonian Rocket (First appearance)
Synopsis for "Superman, Champion of the Oppressed"
As a distant planet is destroyed by old age, a scientist places his infant son in a space capsule and launches it toward Earth. The capsule is found by a passing motorist, who brings the baby to an orphanage, where the child astounds the attendants with his superhuman powers. The child, who is named Clark Kent, can jump over buildings, lift enormous weights, and run faster than a freight train. Furthermore, his skin is impenetrable. Realizing that he has powers far beyond normal humans, Clark dedicates himself to serve humanity as Superman, the champion of the oppressed.
Superman learns that an innocent woman named Evelyn Curry is to be executed for murder. He captures the real murderess, and delivers her, bound and gagged, to the governor's mansion. He breaks through the door to confront the governor, and convinces him to call off the execution at the last minute.
At the Daily Star, where Clark works as a reporter, he's given the assignment to cover the stories about a man with amazing strength named Superman. He hears a tip about a wife-beating, and rushes off to cover it -- then changes into Superman, and stops the man before he kills his wife.
Returning to the Daily Star, Superman asks fellow reporter Lois Lane out on a date; she accepts out of pity. A thug named Butch tries to cut in while Clark and Lois are dancing. To protect his secret identity, Clark pretends to be a cowardly weakling. Convinced that Clark is a spineless worm, Lois slaps Butch and walks out. Enraged, Butch and his friends leave the club and take Lois prisoner. Superman spots them and gives chase, smashing the car with his bare hands. He picks Lois up into his arms and carries her to safety. She's astonished, and the next morning, she tells her editor about her experience with Superman -- although she's even more cold to Clark than before.
Clark is given an assignment to go to San Monte, a war-torn South American republic. First, he goes to Washington, D.C., where he spies a slick lobbyist, Alex Greer, trying to convince Senator Barrows to involve the US in a war with Europe. Superman grabs Greer, and demands to know who he's working for. Greer refuses to talk, so Superman jumps up to the top of the Capitol building, and threatens to smash Greer to the ground.
Appearing in Chuck Dawson: "The 4-G Gang (Part 1)"
- Chuck Dawson (First appearance)
- Blacky (First appearance)
- John Burwell (First appearance)
- Butch (First appearance)
- "Trigger" Holt (First appearance)
- Notch Logan (First appearance)
- Dan Dawson (Single appearance)
- Sheriff of Red Gulch (First appearance)
- Deputy sheriff of Red Gulch (First appearance)
Synopsis for Chuck Dawson: "The 4-G Gang (Part 1)"
Several years ago, Charles Dawson owned the Circle-D Ranch near Red Gulch, Texas, and was killed in a range war. His son Chuck went to live on his uncle Dan's ranch in Wyoming. Chuck, now a man, decides to take up the fight against his father's killers who fraudulently took the land that was his birthright.
Chuck rides his horse, Blacky, into the town of Red Gulch and stops at the local dance hall to ask a few questions. As he approaches, the door suddenly flies open with a man calling himself Notch Logan running out and firing his pistol inside. Logan picks a fight with Chuck, swearing revenge after the newcomer bests him. After witnessing the brief fight, Red Gulch's sheriff tells Chuck to leave despite Chuck telling him of his business in town.
As Chuck eats at a local cafe, John Burwell, owner of the A-G Ranch, orders "Trigger" Holt to take Butch into town with him and kill Chuck. Holt reveals that Burwell's orders are to make the murder look like a fight as he and Butch arrive at the restaurant. As Chuck leaves, he bumps into "Trigger" who then draws his pistol. Chuck shoots the gun out of his would-be assailant's hand and subdues "Trigger" using "jiujitsu," not knowing Butch is lying in wait around the corner. Butch shoots, grazing Chuck's head, and knocking him out. The sheriff arrives and has the unconscious newcomer taken to jail.
When Chuck wakes up in his jail cell, he convinces the deputy to come over and a struggle ensues. Chuck takes the deputy's gun and orders him to unlock the cell. The deputy is then tied up and our hero finds his pistol in a table drawer. Just as he's about to leave, Chuck hears a footstep in the adjacent office.
Appearing in Zatara: "The Mystery of the Freight Train Robberies"
- Zatara (John Zatara) (First appearance)
- Tong (First appearance)
- The Tigress (First appearance)
- Train Inspector Babcock
- Detective Brady (Only appearance; dies)
- Detective Brown
- State Police Captain Kennedy
- Freight Train
Synopsis for Zatara: "The Mystery of the Freight Train Robberies"
Suspecting the Tigress to be behind a recent crime wave, Zatara and his assistant Tong contact Detective Brady upon learning of another robbery attempt. Late that night, Zatara and Tong silently board the train with Brady and Detective Brown. The train gets underway and soon enters a tunnel. After leaving the tunnel, Brown is shot and nearly falls, but is quickly saved by Tong. Determining the detective is only stunned, Zatara conjures a first aid kit for Tong to use as he continues forward. As the magician advances, he sees a dead Detective Brady being thrown out of a boxcar. The Tigress then sneaks up behind him and shoves him off of the train. Zatara uses his magic to float gently to the ground, landing in some underbrush next to the tracks.
The train continues on as Zatara walks back toward the freight yard where he finds Brady's body. After Tong warns the train's engineer, the train is stopped and the state police soon arrive to investigate. Brady is deemed guilty by State Police Captain Kennedy, but Zatara isn't convinced. Zatara then meets Train Inspector Babcock who accuses Zatara of being an accomplice to the train crimes. The master magician muses that Babcock is the key to solving the mystery. The police arrive and Zatara tells them that he'll capture the robbers and prove Brady's innocence.
With the train scheduled to depart at midnight, Zatara arranges for valuables to be distributed all over the train. Tong tells his master that he saw several "evil looking" men enter a shack. Zatara enters the shack and hypnotizes the men only for the Tigress to pistol whip him into unconsciousness, which breaks the hypnotic spell. The Tigress has a henchman douse the shack with kerosene and then leaves with the rest of her men to rob the train. Zatara wakes up and easily unties his bonds, escaping from the burning shack.
Teleporting his assistant to him, Zatara has Tong capture the crooked train inspector Babcock and take him to the police station. Flagging down an oncoming express train, Zatara convinces the engineer to catch up to the freight train. Eventually catching up, Zatara boards and dodges gunfire from the Tigress' henchman. Zatara returns fire using Babcock's pistol and hits the thug.
While a truck arrives to collect the boxes of valuables thrown off of the train, Zatara magically closes the boxcar door but is confronted by the Tigress. Quickly, the magician gestures and turns the femme fatale's pistol into a bullet. Enraged, the villainess leaps off of the train and vanishes.
Police arrive and arrest the remaining henchmen. Zatara tells Captain Kennedy how Babcock marked boxcars containing valuables for the Tigress. At the police station, Babcock confesses to the crimes.
Although the Tigress has escaped, the case is now closed. Zatara is eager to begin the search for his arch-foe but Tong wants to get some sleep before hunting anew.
Appearing in "Sticky-Mitt Stimson"
- Sticky-Mitt Stimson
Synopsis for "Sticky-Mitt Stimson"
A produce thief makes efforts to elude police.
Appearing in "The Adventures of Marco Polo (Part I)"
- Marco Polo (First appearance)
- Niccolò Polo (First appearance)
- Maffeo Polo (First appearance)
- Niku (First appearance)
- The Bararri Men
- King of Armenia's emissary (Single appearance)
- King of Armenia (Behind the scenes)
- Pope Gregory X (Behind the scenes)
- The Khan of Tartary (Behind the scenes)
- 13th Century
- Armenian galley
- Babylon warships
Synopsis for "The Adventures of Marco Polo (Part I)"
In the year 1271, Marco Polo, his father, and his uncle set out from Venice to China. On the Armenian coast, an emissary asks that the group visit the pope at his home in Acre. The pope gives them instructions to travel to Tartary with priests and gifts. Again, the adventurers set out for the far reaches of Asia. The ship the men sail on is owned by a country at war with Babylon and is set upon by one of Babylon's warships. Luckily, our heroes escape to safety in an Armenian port. They ignore the warnings of Armenian nobles and continue their travels. After traveling through Turkey, they reach the port of Dora and continue on to the Karghar Pass. The porters are afraid of the savage tribes who inhabit the area and are only prodded to go on by the promise of more pay by the Polos. The party splits in two, with Marco in charge of one half and his father and uncle in the other. Marco's group hides in the hills, while the other group goes through the narrow mountain pass. The tribesmen swarm down from the hills, but Marco's men begin to roll boulders onto their foes.
Appearing in Pep Morgan: "The Light Heavyweight Championship"
- Pop Burkett (Single appearance)
- Doc Lowry (Single appearance)
- Boomerang (Single appearance)
- Sailor Sorenson (Single appearance)
- O'Rourke (Single appearance)
Synopsis for Pep Morgan: "The Light Heavyweight Championship"
Pep Morgan is fighting a boxing match against Sailor Sorenson. Sailor's manager, Doc Lowry, is a known cheat, and when it appears Sailor was losing, Doc covers his gloves in liniment. In the next round, Sailor swipes Pep in the eyes, blinding him. But Pep gets lucky on a blind swing and knocks Sailor out. After the fight, the police question Lowry, but the Doc removed the liniment already, so without any evidence, they allow him to walk free.
Months later, Pep and his manager, Pop Burkett, hear about Doc Lowry's new rising champion, Boomerang. Pep is suspicious of Doc using illegal methods to win those fights, so he and Pop buy tickets to watch Boomerang's next match. What starts out as a straightforward fight, suddenly turns odd when Boomerang's opponent begins acting groggy, as if he were drugged. One knockout later and Boomerang is the clear winner, though Pep smells a rat. The next fight will be against Pep himself, so Morgan and Pop return to the gym to get ready.
Later, before the big fight, Doc threatens Pep that he's been waiting for a chance to get back at him since he accused him of cheating. The bell rings, and Pep Morgan and Boomerang face each other in the ring. At first, everything is normal, but just a little after Boomerang lands a blow, Pep begins feeling woozy. Despite this, Pep wills himself to fight on. To Doc's surprise, Boomerang is hit with a knockout punch and goes down. Before Doc Lowry can make an escape, Pop intercepts him with two detectives blocking his way. He noticed that Doc had sewn a hypodermic needle into the gloves, which Boomerang would then use to dope his opponents. Lowry is taken away to prison.
Appearing in Scoop Scanlon: "The International Jewel Thief"
- Scoop Scanlon (First appearance)
- Rusty James (First appearance)
- Arnold (Single appearance)
- Police Officers
Synopsis for Scoop Scanlon: "The International Jewel Thief"
Scoop Scanlon, ace reporter, wakes up his companion and photographer, Rusty, after receiving word of a scoop. Together, they drive over to the docks, where an international jewel-thief, by the name of Arnold, has been caught by authorities. Rusty focuses his camera, and then sees some suspicious men hanging out by the cargo crates. He points it out to Scoop, who notices the bulge in the men's coats look an awful lot like machine-guns. He circles around while the police, unsuspecting, escort Arnold to their patrol car. After a quick nod to the suspicious men, Arnold ducks to the ground as they pull out their tommy-guns. But they're taken off guard when Scoop tackles one of them from behind. The police officers spot Arnold's goons and open fire, taking down all but one, who escapes in a getaway car with his boss, Arnold. Of course, Rusty manages to hop onto the back of the car as it breaks away from the scene, clinging to the spare tire to keep himself from falling off.
Scoop and the police follow behind in their cars, until the police are blocked off by a truck being driven by more of Arnold's cronies. Scoop manages to get through, however, and continues the pursuit. Swerving to get beside Arnold's car, Scoop opens fire on the vehicle with a tommy-gun he recovered, bringing it to a halt. The police catch up and arrest Arnold and his man, while Scoop helps Rusty off the vehicles rear. Rusty takes a few good photos of Arnold being led away, while Scoop phones in the story he was just a part of.
Rusty mentions that he hopes the credit goes where it's due. After all, they never would have caught the car at all if he hadn't been poking holes in the fuel tank while he was hanging on...
Appearing in Tex Thomson: "Murder in England"
- Tex Thompson (First appearance)
- Sergeant Smith
Synopsis for Tex Thomson: "Murder in England"
Tex Thomson visits England and takes a stroll through the lush green country. He meets a young boy, Robert, who is fascinated by the cowboy life, and invites him along as a traveling companion. The two of them stumble upon a murdered man in the road. Robert goes to find the police while Tex stays behind.
Sonja, a nearby woman, encounters the scene and accuses Tex of the murder, forcing the cowboy to run from the sheriff. Secretly, he trails the girl, learning that Sonja is working with the killer and his gang. They have captured young Robert, the only witness to Tex's innocence!
Tex frees the boy and sends him for help. In the meantime, Tex finds himself captured. Robert returns in time to free Tex, but both men are still in danger from the gang, until the sheriff arrives to round them up.
- This book was first published on May 3, 1938.The first "Superman" character created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster was not a hero, but a villain. Their short story "The Reign of the Superman" concerned a bald-headed villain bent on dominating the world. The story did not sell, forcing the two to reposition their character on the right side of the law. In 1935, their Superman story was again rejected by newspaper syndicates wanting to avoid lawsuits, who recognized the character as being similar to a lead character from Philip Wylie's 1930 novel. DC decided to take a chance with Superman, figuring if any lawsuits were filed, they would just drop the feature.
The revised Superman first appeared in Action Comics #1, June 1938. Siegel and Shuster sold the rights to the company for $130 and a contract to supply the publisher with material. The Saturday Evening Post reported in 1941 that the pair was being paid still a fraction of DC's Superman profits. In 1946, when Siegel and Shuster sued for more money, DC fired them, prompting a legal battle that ended in 1948, when they signed away any further claim to Superman or any character created from him. DC soon took their names off the byline. Following the huge financial success of Superman: The Movie in 1978 and news reports of their pauper-like existences, Warner Communications gave Siegel and Shuster lifetime pensions of $35,000 per year and health care benefits. In addition, any media production which includes the Superman character must include the credit, "Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster".
During a multimedia career spanning over sixty years, Superman has starred in nearly every imaginable situation, and his powers have increased to the point that he is nearly omnipotent. This poses a challenge for writers: "How does one write about a character who is nearly as powerful as God?" (Superman's Kryptonian name, Kal-El, resembles the Hebrew words for "voice of God") This problem contributed to a decline in Superman's popularity, especially during the 1960s and 1970s under the editorship of Mort Weisinger and then Julius Schwartz, when Marvel Comics brought a new level of character development to mainstream comic books. By the early 1980s, DC Comics had decided that a major change was needed to make Superman more appealing to current audiences. Writer-artist John Byrne joined Superman and re-started with his The Man of Steel retelling of his origin. This 1986 reboot brought substantial changes to the character and met huge success at the time, being one of the top-selling books. The re-launch of Superman comic books returned the character to the mainstream, again in the forefront of DC's titles.
- Superman, Champion of the Oppressed was reprinted with added material in Superman #1. The story was reprinted in its original form in Superman: The Action Comics Archives Vol. 1, Superman in the Forties, Superman Chronicles Vol. 1, Superman: The Golden Age Omnibus, Volume 1, Superman: A Celebration of 75 Years and Lois Lane: A Celebration of 75 Years.
- The entire issue was reprinted in Famous First Edition #C-26 and Millennium Edition: Action Comics #1.
- Lois Lane is kidnapped for the first time in the first Superman story.
- Although the Chuck Dawson story in this issue has been designated "The A-G Gang" by several sources (most notably the Grand Comic Book Database), the name of the gang is the 4-G Gang according to the second part of this story in Action Comics #2.
- "The 4-G Gang" is presented entirely in black and white.
- The inside cover of this issue directs the reader to use crayons to color the first page of this story, tear out the page, and send it into a contest where the best 25 submissions would win $1. The entry deadline was midnight, June 6, 1938.
- Also appearing in this issue of Action Comics was:
- "South Sea Strategy, Part I" (text story), by Frank Thomas
Original price for $0.10, in 2010, this issue sold for $1,500,000 online.
- Zatara writer/artist Fred Guardineer is also credited as "Gene Baxter" on his Pep Morgan story, in this issue.
- Russell Cole is credited as Edwin Alger in this issue.
- The cover has been copied, parodied, and reinterpreted several times, including:
- Action Comics #800
- The Multiversity #1
- Superboy/Risk: Double Shot #1
- Superman (Volume 2) #124
- Superman (Volume 2) #136
- Superman (Volume 3) #19 (variant cover by Al Jaffee only)
- Superman: Tales of the Bizarro World (Collected)
- A panel on Kingdom Come #1
- A panel on Justice League: A Midsummer's Nightmare #2 (with an unknown metahuman)
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- Cover gallery for the Action Comics series
- Images from Action Comics Vol 1 1