It’s about a month on, but I thought I’d share one of my Christmas gifts with everyone. I got a copy of Action Comics #425 from my lovely wife, Joanne. It’s a beautiful copy for a 46 year old book with an iconic Nick Cardy cover.
This book is a quasi-key for me for although it doesn’t have a historic story element or first appearance, it has an important place in my history as a collector. Prior to this I’d had limited exposure to comics. I had some vague memories of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and “The Marvel Super Heroes” cartoons, although I was convinced that that last was called “The Merry Marvel Marching Society” because of the closing theme (I have no recollection, what-so-ever of the opening theme btw). I think I recall my Dad reading a Daredevil comic or two to me but, 50+ years later I’m not even sure that’s an actual memory and not some sort of mental ret-con.
Over the previous few months, I’d gotten a few comics and enjoyed them and as seriously as a 9-year old could, I decided to become a “comic book collector,” whatever I thought that was. I promptly marched out (as promptly as I could, anyway, given that I needed to amass 20¢) and picked up this issue. This was my first comic as a collector.
I hadn’t reread this book for most of the intervening time, in fact all I really recalled of it was that there was a “story about an emu.” That’s still better than it could be, I suppose. I can’t remember anything about my first Batman comic, although I know there must have been one since at some point in my life, I didn’t own any Batman comics, and now I own a few.
I’d made a few attempts to figure out what this “first official comic” was in the 80’s to no avail. I knew it was an Action, I thought it had an emu in it and I knew it came out sometime in 1973. That’s surprisingly little to go on when your main resource is whatever happens to be in stock at your LCS. Still, 45 years after I’d first picked up the issue, with some skills of google-fu and a visit to what a friend calls “that dark web site,” I managed to track it down.
It’s easy to see why I’d have picked this book. The cover is amazing. It’s unusual in that the main hero isn’t the focus; the cover centers on some older kids reading a comic while a little red-haired kid is excited to see Superman flying by in the background. I’m sure it spoke to me. I can’t imagine a better cover to attract a kid who just decided to become a collector.
The interior of the book is less impressive. There are three (Count ’em! 3!) stories, which is a surprising number for a standard sized comic.
Spoilers follow, but come on… you’ve had 46 years people!
The Superman story begins in New Zealand when a hunter, Jon Halaway is attacked by a 12-foot tall flightless bird. He kills it in self defense. It turns out, the bird was a Moa (Sorry, Emu fans). There were nine species of Moa in New Zealand, but all of them had been hunted to extinction by the year 1500.
Halaway is distraught, and becomes obsessed by this tragedy. He searches and discovers the Moa had left an egg near an underground hot-spring that emitted “strange fumes.” He wastes no time bringing the egg back to the States, where it becomes clear that it is sapping his life force.
The egg hatches and the Moa develops some bizarre powers, including the ability to fly by flapping its feet.
After getting telepathic messages from the Moa, Superman is able to return it to the hot spring and Halaway recovers.
It’s a pleasant, lightweight story, and I liked the conservational aspect.
The second story features the Atom though the title, “The 13 Men Who Run the World” is a bit of a bait and switch. A lot happens and is hung on a thin plot in a mere 6 1/2 pages. We discover Ray’s size-control mechanism is malfunctioning and that Jean is representing a biochemist who is accused of stealing gold from Fort Knox. Her client is being falsely linked to the aforementioned 13 men in the title. In quick succession, a witness who wants to come forward is murdered, Ray and Jean are kidnapped, we learn that the 13 men don’t actually exist, Ray beats the actual bad guys as the Atom and they are brought to justice.
The final feature is the first installment of an early Human Target story and it stays close to the character’s formula: someone is in danger of being murdered and Christopher Chance assumes his identity to catch the killer. In this case the potential victim is “the Great Antonio” who is scheduled to walk a tight-rope across Niagara Falls.
The ads are fun too. Did you know that a BB gun is an ideal way to convince your parents that you’re responsible enough for an actual, real gun? The ad doesn’t quite come out and say that, but I think the subtext is clear. Evidently owning a B-B gun leads to responsible gun play in later life.
Also, you can get enough training from an outfit that advertises in comic books to get a good job in “electronics.” Mr. Bemis, by the way, is the name of Burgess Meredith’s character in the Twilight Zone episode “Time Enough at Last.” Things do not end well for him.
There’s also 3 pages of ads for “Pirates of the Caribbean” model kits, which probably seemed excessive for the time and still seems excessive after 5 movies. Also, also there are Sea Monkey’s but not Polaris Nuclear Subs or x-ray glasses.
This book was a pleasant trip down memory lane. It makes an interesting addition to my collection; it’s wildly different from the other books I have from the same time period.