Geek Genie kicks off its new regular series looking at the Greatest Comic Book Covers with the one that started it all…Action Comics #1!.
It’s an iconic image for an iconic figure. Superman crashed through the front cover of Action Comics #1 in June 1938 and forever changed the comic book landscape. It ushered in the age of the superhero and laid the foundations of a pop-culture war between DC Comics and eventual rival Marvel Comics.
Joe Schuster’s iconic cover captured the sense of wonder, awe and terror as a yet unknown Superman delivers a fantastic display of power.
The sheer rawness of the cover, with no words or text other than the cover title, added to its power. Even the title, Action Comics, leaped from the page in a new, bold and exciting style that has now become synonomous with the character.
The science fiction influence on the creation of Superman is well documented but what influenced the cover art? According to Christopher Knowles, author of Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret history of Comic Book Heroes, there is a mythological influence found in the art piece Hercules Clubs the Hydra by Antonio del Pollaiolo. We don’t know for certain, however it would be fitting that one mythology would inspire another.
And just as the character himself has inspired other creators to create their own “Supermen”, so too does the cover art still influence and inspire modern comic book artists. Several “homage” covers, even from the old enemy over at Marvel, testify to the enduring legacy of that seminal moment in comic book history. From The Amazing Spider-Man to Spawn, the first Action Comics cover is still a reference point for all that work in the medium.