On Strips: The Original Superman Strip

By | Friday, February 26, 2016 2 comments
You know that the first published Superman story from Action Comics #1 was initially intended to be a comic strip, right? Comic books were still pretty new and not well tested, so Jerry Siegel's and Joe Shuster's aim was to produced a syndicated comic strip. When they eventually sold their Superman idea to National Publications, they were told to rework the idea into a 13-page comic book story. Because of a tight deadline, they opted for taking the existing artwork, chopping up all the individual panels, and pasting it into more of a book layout.

I started thinking, though, what did that original strip format look like? I wondered if anyone tried using Action Comics #1 to work backwards and see if they could approximate what Siegel and Shuster's submission looked like. It turns out, though, that we don't need to imagine it -- it still exists!

Before National bought the rights, McClure Syndicate tried shopping the idea around to newspapers, like any other comic strip. Naturally, newspaper editors weren't going to buy some totally new idea sight-unseen, so McClure printed up small booklets for their salesmen to carry around with them and show editors. Thirty individual Superman strips -- the month's worth of samples Siegel and Shuster had worked up, including a more detailed and gorgeously illustrated origin.

It was just a sample of a still-untried concept, so they weren't widely distributed. Nor were they realized to be of any value until some time later, so these booklets are exceptionally rare. There's only a handful believed to still be in existence, and they occasionally come up for auction.

So in case you're curious what the first Superman comic strip looked like -- before the character showed up in Action Comics -- here's the art that was shown from the latest auction I've seen for one of these...
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Unknown said...

I'm afraid these are not the original Superman strips.
McClure never signed to syndicate the strip until his
popularity was proved in Action Comics.
These strips were created exclusively for distribution
by McClure beginning January 16, 1939,
though they did use ideas from Action Comics #1.
(And is that the same art used for the explanation
of Superman's powers?)

Shuster chopped up the original comic strips for Action Comics #1,
and then (probably) Sheldon Mayer chopped up the McClure comic
strips and the Action Comics stories for the first few Superman issues.


Justice said...

The work certainly is far more polished than Action Comics 1. I think D. D. Degg is correct.