Garry Brown: Superman’s Action Comics No. 1, circa 1938, could have made …


The 1938 edition of Action Comics No. 1, featuring Superman’s debut. 

News item: A near-mint condition copy of “Action Comics No. 1,” published in June 1938 and featuring the debut of Superman, sells at auction for $2.161 million.

I walked into Mr. Riordan’s store on Oak Street in Indian Orchard with my best friend, Marty Rickson, at my side. We headed straight for the magazine rack – and there it was, “Action Comics No. 1.”

We both bought a copy, then raced up Oak Street and across Cottage Hill Park to my front porch. There, rocking in a swing built for two, we devoured “The Adventures of Superman.”

It was all new and wonderful, the fast-moving story of a crime-fighting superhero. He would go on to have his own radio show, which always began with the announcer intoning, “Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!”

At the age of 7 going on 8, I didn’t really know what a locomotive was, but it sure sounded impressive.

Memories of that special June day in 1938 came rushing back recently as I did my obligatory surfing on the Internet. Suddenly, an image of that Action Comics cover flashed on my computer screen.

There it was – the very magazine I had in my hands so many years ago. At the time, it cost one thin dime. Now it was worth $2.161 million?

Eventually, my first edition copy of Action Comics – featuring the one and only “Man of Steel” – wound up in a pile at the back of my bedroom closet. There, it joined Detective Comics, starring Batman and Robin, and DC Comics, featuring Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman. Oh, yes, that closet also contained the exploits of the Green Hornet, Green Lantern, Plastic Man and Captain America, among others.

What happened to all those classic comic books?

As I well remember, my dear mother threw them out during one of her spring-cleaning binges. Collectors and auctioneers estimate that only 50 to 100 copies of Action Comics No. 1 remain in existence today – and we all know why.

The $2.161 million copy was found in a Los Angeles storage locker. It gained a 9.0 rating on a scale of 10 by comic-book afficianados because it had been so well preserved while in the middle of a stack of other magazines.

No such stack in my closet, sad to say.

I loved my mother, but she and I differed when it came to certain “collectibles” in my possession. Another case in point – my all-time favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox of 1946.

One day, my father saw me pasting Red Sox clippings into a scrapbook, which I had started on opening day of ‘46 and kept throughout that season. In June, he did a fatherly thing – took me to my first game at Fenway. On the way out of the park, he bought me a full set of photographs of Red Sox players, 8-by-10s yet.

I loved those photos so much, I tacked all 25 of them – even those of little-known relievers like Mike Ryba and Mace Brown – to my bedroom wall.

Boston Red Sox’s Roy Partee slides home with a run pas a diving St. Louis Cardinals catch Joe Garagiola in the second inning of a World Series game at Fenway Park in Boston, in this Oct. 11, 1946 photo. Red Sox’s shortstop Johnny Pesky (6) watches as umpire Lee Ballanfant calls the play.  

They lasted through the ‘46 season and the World Series (let’s not talk about that), but not much longer. One day, my mother said it was time for them to go. Farewell, Bobby Doerr.

If you lived through that era, you know about other collectibles that eventually made their way to the dump. For instance, I had an Army of lead soldiers which my mother ordered gone – and I can thank her for saving me from lead poisoning.

Many other “collectibles” also disappeared over the years, and not always during spring cleaning.

I just can’t remember whatever happened to my Springfield Indians games programs from the late 1940s, or my collection of baseball cards, featuring Ted Williams, Stan Musial and Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio. Also long lost – the flashy little “two-way wrist radio” that I had obtained by mail from Dick Tracy comics. Moving out of our old house probably had something to do with loss of those treasures.

Hey, such loss happens with every generation. My mother-in-law and I were the best of friends, but she did have the bothersome habit of tossing away stuff she deemed to be junk.

In most cases, she was right, but our oldest son still longs for a baseball card collection that included Carl Yastrzemski and Reggie Smith, of the Red Sox, and his favorite National Leaguer, a little-known New York Mets pitcher named Bill Hepler.

Yes, my friend Jennie took care of that collection one day when she decided that our son’s bedroom had just too much clutter. Nothing new there. She had done the same thing with some of my wife’s old favorites from her girlhood – like her very own copy of Action Comics No. 1, purchased at Hastings’ in downtown Chicopee.

In June, Superman came back, soaring across movie screens in an outfit that doesn’t quite match his original image. No red shorts, and a costume fabric that looks more like leathery lizard skin. Sorry, but that’s just not right. The genuine Superman suit, as designed by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, can be seen on the cover of that unforgettable 1938 comic book.

Wish I had one. Don’t we all?

Garry Brown can be reached at


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