Action Comics #1 Up for Auction

It’s always news when a copy of Action Comics #1 goes on the auction block, and that’s exactly what happened this past weekend when San Diego based collector John C. Wise put his collection up for sale to pay for his retirement. Wise is auctioning 175 mostly Golden Age comics, and bidding ends Tuesday June 3. The Action Comics title, graded a 7.0, has already reached six figures and together with the other titles in his collection, Wise expects to raise a tidy retirement fortune.

Action Comics #1, as most of our readers know, was the first appearance of Superman in 1938. (His label mate Batman appeared in 1939, and is celebrating his 75th anniversary this year.) In terms of content, Superman in that issue doesn’t fly (he jumps) and there is nary a supervillain in sight. Rather, he’s a social crusader fighting corrupt business people and landlords on behalf of the vulnerable, a cartoon manifestation of FDR. He was the hero the world wanted then, and also the hero they needed. But you don’t read Action #1 for the story.

Comics have that rare quality, like other books, of being valuable both for their content and for their cultural significance as objects. While some collectors might eschew the notion of sealing a comic in plastic and turning into some sort of collector’s commodity rather than a book meant to be read, there is no denying their economic importance. In 2011, a copy of Action Comics #1 sold for $2.1 million, in a near-mint 9.0 print. Someday, hopefully many centuries hence, these books will be significant historical artifacts from the 20th century. It’s not quite King Tut’s tomb, but it is a significant cultural legacy.

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Independent scholar Ian Dawe has been writing for Sequart since November 2013. Before that, he had a mixed background, initially in science (Molecular Biology and Biochemistry), where he earned an MSc from Simon Fraser University and then an MA in Film from the University of Exeter in the UK. He spent a decade teaching at the college level, delivering courses in Genetics, Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Biological Anthropology and Film History. His academic work includes peer-reviewed papers on the work of Alan Moore, Harvey Pekar for Studies in Comics and a dissertation on Terry Gilliam for the University of Exeter. He has presented papers at several major academic conferences including Slayage 2014, Magus: Transdisciplinary Approaches to the Work of Alan Moore in 2010 (in the wizard's hometown of Northampton), Comics Rock and the International Conference of the Humanities in 2012, and at the Southwest Popular Culture Association Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2014 and 2015. He has contributed to several books, including a chapter about the TV show Archer in "James Bond and Popular Culture" and two chapters on Breaking Bad for "Breaking Bad and Masculinity", both now available from McFarland. At Sequart, he has authored a chapter for New Life and New Civiliations: Exploring Star Trek Comics, A Long Time Ago and two more upcoming books on Star Wars comics. He has also contributed to books on Alan Moore and 1970s Horror Comics. He is currently planning a full-length book on Better Call Saul. Ian currently lives in Vancouver, BC.

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Also by Ian Dawe:

The Cyberpunk Nexus: Exploring the Blade Runner Universe


A More Civilized Age: Exploring the Star Wars Expanded Universe


A Galaxy Far, Far Away: Exploring Star Wars Comics


A Long Time Ago: Exploring the Star Wars Cinematic Universe


New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics


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