Comic Legends: Was Superman Banned From Action Comics Covers After #1?

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the six hundred and seventy-sixth week where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.

NOTE: I noticed that the the CSBG Twitter page was nearing 10,000 followers. If we hit 10,050 followers on the the CSBG Twitter page then I'll do a BONUS edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed during the week that we hit 10,050. So three more legends! Sounds like a great deal, right?

Click here for Part 1 of this week's legends.


Superman was initially barred from Action Comics covers after issue #1


Seems true enough for a true

There are two main things that you have to keep in mind while discussing the early days of Superman in Action Comics #1.

First, everything was done very quickly. Action Comics #1 was thrown together on the fly.

Second, we know very little in terms of explicit details about how everything precisely happened in the early days of Action Comics, as there are very few original resources from the era (there are SOME, of course), with most of the details coming from later recollections which, naturally, are tinged by people wanting to remember their place in the history of a major character as being perhaps more important than they originally were. Of course, somebody had to be involved in the early days, so some of these people WERE remembering their places correctly. The question then becomes, who?

Anyhow, this all ties into why Superman did not appear on another cover of Action Comics until #7.

Here is the cover...

And here are the covers for Action Comics through #10...

You'll note that Superman appears on the cover for #7 and then, by #9, there is a permanent mention of Superman on the cover.

We know that Harry Donenfeld, the publisher of National Allied (along with Jack Liebowitz, who was more heavily involved in the actual day-to-day running of the operation), did not like the cover of Action Comics #1. He was embarrassed by what he found to be a ridiculous looking cover (sometimes said to be "too wacky"). That much is clear.

What is slightly less clear is whether Donenfeld specifically banned the character from appearing on the cover of the early issues of Action Comics. It appears very likely that they were going to go with different characters on the covers no matter what for the first few issues. That's just how anthology books work. You don't know right away who the hit characters are, so you mix and match for the first few issues.

However, the fact that the character who was the LEAD in every issue did not appear on a cover again until #7 and the fact that Donenfeld DID have a real problem with the character at least, to me, supports the contention that Donenfeld specifically said, "Don't use that character on the cover."

Note, though, that in Action Comics #4, there was a survey of readers as to which feature they liked best...

And by the fall of 1938 (when the cover for #7 came out), Donenfeld and Liebowitz were already negotiating for a Superman comic strip deal (a deal where they would get a shocking, for the time, 40% licensing cut, leaving the syndicate and Siegel and Shuster to split the remaining 60% 50/50), so they likely knew pretty early on that the Superman character had caught on, leading to him appearing on the cover for #7 and then pretty soon getting featured on covers where he did not appear.

But it sure does seem that, early on, at least, Superman was specifically being kept from appearing on covers. Normally speaking, your lead feature would appear on a cover earlier than #7 unless there was a specific reason otherwise.

Check out my latest Movie Legends Revealed - Was There Nearly a Batman/Godzilla movie?

Check back soon for Part 3 of this week's legends, also an Action Comics #1-related legend! Feel free to write in with suggestions for future legends to either cronb01@aol.com or brianc@cbr.com!

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