2010 has been the year Superman has smashed records with sales of Action Comics #1 being made on ComicConnect.com of $1 million in February for a copy graded 8.0 by CGC and $1.5 million just a month later for a CGC 8.5. Today I popped into a time machine and read about times when it was just $100 book, and I’m sure condition wasn’t a concern, inside the pages of Newsweek Magazine, February 15, 1965.
In the article titled “Superfans and Batmaniacs” Newsweek notes that the “June 1938 issue of Action Comics, which introduced the immortal Superman to the lists of American folk idols … has since become a $100 collector’s item among the country’s band of first-edition comic-book fanatics.” Now 100 bucks was a lot of cabbage back in ’65, but I don’t think any inflation charts are going to try and sell me that my 100 then is going to net me a cool mill-plus today.
Newsweek spends over a full page discussing this strange breed of collector under their “Life and Leisure” banner likely shocking respectability at the time by comparing the comic collectors to rare stamp collectors. In an article where you can just tell the writer is restraining himself from using words like weirdo or nut-job it’s stated that “the movement has grown so large that last year Jerry Bails, a 31-year-old associate professor of natural science at Wayne State University’s Monteith College in Detroit founded the grandly named Academy of Comic-Book Fans and Collectors (membership: 1,200).”
“Comic-book cultists are fascinated by how the superheroes were born and developed,” Newsweek writes, before going on to spill the origins of Superman, Batman and Captain Marvel, I’d imagine far less universally known origins in 1965 than the folk hero status attached to at least Supes and Bats today. Pointing out the growth in these heroes’ popularity even back in 1965, Superman was then published in 9 different languages throughout 36 countries with a special shout-out given inside this article to Italy where he is called the Nembo Kid and doesn’t wear the red “S” on his chest because of Italy’s continued sensitivity about the concept of Supermen.
The article closes with a section titled “Disillusionment” describing purists worrying about their icons becoming camp. Batman serials from the 1940’s were then being shown “around New York at camp parties, and, in the words of writer Pete Hamill, ‘the clique slaps each other’s thighs in glee.'”
Further clouding the future for the comic collecting purists is the idea that some companies might be playing to this element: “A new hero called Spider-Man is a long-haired teen-ager named Peter Parker who lives with his aunt, keeps his ‘spidey outfit’ hidden in the attic …” Wow, period readers of this article are just under a year away from the appearance of the Batman television series, wonder how the purists of the day initially took to that!