Any serious comic book collector can tell you that the world’s most expensive comic book is DC’s Action Comics #1 (1938). Written by Jerry Siegel and illustrated by Joe Shuster, this book contained our first 12-page glimpse of the iconic superhero, Superman. One may wonder why this comic would outsell, say, the first appearance of Spider-Man, especially considering the success of the Spider-Man movie franchise and the box office flop that marked Superman’s return to Hollywood in 2006. The answer lies not in the fact that Action Comics #1 contains the first appearance of Superman, but that it contains the first appearance of the modern superhero.
All of the stereotypical devices of the superhero genre are combined for the first time in this issue; superpowers, secret identities, pseudo-scientific origins and, yes, even tights. Superman was the amalgamation of Greek myth with Flash Gordan and just a smattering of everyday life. Ultimately, it was the same combination that we still see today, to some extent, in the immensely successful Batman, X-Men and Iron Man franchises.
A copy of Action Comics #1 was sold by ComicConnect.com in March, 2010 for $1.5 million. Alongside the Superman story, the book included ten other features, such as Tex Thompson and Zatara, Master Magician.
Action Comics #1 may lose its place at the top of the pile, however, if this special ashcan edition of Flash Comics #1 sells for its asking price. That’s a big “if,” however, as the asking price is $5 million.
So what makes this comic so special? As the story goes, publishers Fawcett Comics and All American Comics scrambled to publish ashcan editions of “Flash Comics” in order to secure the copyright. All American, one of the three companies that eventually merged to form DC Comics, won the race and published 104 issues of Flash Comics, starring the Flash.
Interestingly enough, Fawcett’s Flash Comics (retitled Whizz Comics) debuted Captain Thunder (renamed Captain Marvel), a character later awarded to DC in a copyright infringement suit based on his similarities to Superman.