Superman is looking better than ever.
In August, a pristine copy of Action Comics No. 1, containing the origin story of the Man of Steel, sold for more than $3.2 million on eBay. But even if you don’t have that kind of dough, you can see what the historic issue — rated 9 out of 10 by CGC Comics, an independent grading authority — looks like thanks to a scan the company posted on its website.
“I think the first impression in my mind is just like it came off the newsstand,” said Paul Litch, a 15-year veteran of CGC, who did the final grading of the comic book for the company. “It was absolutely fresh and amazing.”
Though Action Comics No. 1 is best known for the Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster story that created Superman, the issue — which has been rarely reprinted in full — has several other tales inside. There’s “Chuck Dawson,” foe of crooked cattlemen; “Zatara: Master Magician,” “champion of law and order”; and “Scoop Scanlon, Five Star Reporter,” who uncovers corruption with the help of photographer pal Rusty James.
And that’s not all! According to an ad on the inside front cover, you could win a dollar (that’s in 1938 bucks, incidentally) for hand-coloring the title page of “Chuck Dawson” with your very own crayons. However, for those of you who actually own a copy of Action Comics No. 1, this is not encouraged.
The scan has been available since talk of the auction began in July. But even after the actual, physical comic book was purchased by Metropolis/ComicConnect on August 24, it’s stayed up. Litch says CGC has no plans to take it down.
It’s certainly boosted site traffic: In the three months since the scan was posted, sessions are up more than 50% from the previous three-month period. Users are up 166%. The scan has received more than 52,000 page views, CGC reports.
David Tosh, an auctioneer specializing in comics with Heritage Auctions in Dallas, says that posting a full scan of a classic comic is “unusual,” but he believes it’s beneficial to everybody — including DC Comics, which owns the rights to Superman. (DC Comics is a unit of Time Warner, as is CNN.)
“The scans were done as a historical item, rather than something that would be published, and the book has been reprinted a number of times anyway,” he said. “It’s all good publicity.”
The process of scanning won’t do any damage to the value of the comic book, he adds. A lot of the classic books of the ’30s and ’40s that have been reprinted in book editions are scanned from originals themselves. Also, having online copies available doesn’t affect their collectability.
“Most collectors today are not like they were in the 1970s and ’80s, when they were buying comics because they liked to read them,” he said. “Comics like this are sold as an investment more than anything else. The historical value of the book is still intact, and that’s what people are actually buying when they buy a rare comic.”
These days, of course, quite a bit is online. Both Marvel and DC, the two major superhero purveyors, have parts of their websites devoted to accessing titles online, both free and for a fee. A number of sites specialize in posting comics old and new.
Nevertheless, when it comes to historical work, Superman — who will return to the movies next year with DC stablemate Batman — still reigns supreme. And though the $3.2 million for the Metropolis/ComicConnect Action Comics No. 1 is the most anyone’s paid for a comic book, Tosh believes there’s a another copy out there somewhere, hidden carefully in somebody’s collection.
“One of these days it’ll turn up, and it will blow the rest of them out of the water,” he said and then added words that even Superman would appreciate: “The sky’s the limit.”