Previously, I focused on the key comics that emerged as spinoffs of the mainline Superman titles. In my last post I looked at the Jimmy Olsen spin-off series and, before that, the adventures of Lois Lane – who also ended up with her own comic. Superman’s flagship title was, of course, Action Comics. Not only was Action Comics the title that introduced the world to the Man of Steel (in 1938), but it was also the longest running series that regularly featured Superman. Quickly following the success of Action Comics, in the summer of 1939, DC launched the eponymously titled ‘Superman’ comic book. Hot on the heels of its sister title Action, Superman also became a bestseller. Now DC had two regular books featuring Superman. But, of course, it wasn’t enough.
In this entry I will take a look at two other titles that featured regular appearances by Superman-related characters, each of which contains sought after Superman-connected key issues. The two titles are Adventure Comics and Superboy.
Going in chronological order, we can begin with Adventure Comics, which actually started publication before Action Comics as New Adventure Comics. Not many people know that a Jor-El character, who would later be rewritten to be Superman’s father, made an early tryout appearance in what was then New Adventure Comics #12. In January 1937 (one year before Action Comics #1 hit the newsstands), New Adventure Comics featured the story called “Federal Men”. Set in the year 3000, this story featured both Jor-El (called simply ‘an alien’) and a futuristic detective. That story was written and drawn by a young creative team called Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster but by issue #32, New Adventure Comics would be retitled simply Adventure Comics and Siegel and Shuster had turned their creative energies onto Action Comics. For a while, Adventure Comics was relegated to publishing everything from Tarzan-style stories to early Sandman and Hourman adventures (AC #40 cover date July 1939 is the second Golden Age Sandman; AC #48 from March 1940 features the debut of Hourman). By the mid-1940s, however, Adventure Comics began featuring superhero characters such as: Green Arrow, Aquaman, Johnny Quick and Superboy. All of the former had been appearing in the DC title called More Fun Comics, but More Fun stopped publishing superhero stories when the editors decided to shift that magazine’s focus to a more comedic format. So, starting with issue #103 of Adventure Comics (April 1946 cover date) Superboy took over the title. Stories featuring Superboy would continue to run until issue #380 when, starting with #381, Supergirl stories began. The first appearance of any regular Superman family character in Adventure Comics therefore was Superman as a youngster, i.e. Superboy. But in March of 1955 the writers introduced Krypto the Superdog in issue #210. When young Clark discovers a rocket from space, he’s surprised to learn that it is of Kryptonian origin. He is also quickly delighted to find a new friend with superpowers. This is the first Krypto story and returns on this comic are strong in all grades. Even CGC graded 3.5 copies have shown an impressive 229.9 per cent rise in value since 2000.
Since Superboy was eventually given his own title (see below), the writers introduced another Super-team into the pages of Adventure Comics to diversify and add a bit of Silver Age sci-fi fun to Superboy’s adventures. Thus was born the Legion of Super-Heroes, premiering in Adventure Comics #247. To keep the new team separate from other Superman continuity, the gimmick of time-travel was introduced. The Legion was based in the 31st century and Clark (and later his cousin Kara aka Supergirl) was given a special ring that could transport him through time into the future. This staple DC super-team eventually received its own monthly series, and that makes its first appearance here a valuable key. This is a solid comic with strong returns year after year in all grades. A 4.0 CGC graded copy will cost you just over 2000 dollars.
As mentioned above, Superboy got his own title in 1949. So popular was Superman with youngsters that the folks at DC likely thought, what better way to sell even more Superman comics than to tell the story of his adventures when he was a boy! This title shifted the scene of the Superman stories from Metropolis to Smallville and, in the process, introduced new characters that quickly became a canonical part of the Superman family. In issue 68, for example, we get the first appearance of the backwards talking misfit Bizzaro. Created out of a science experiment gone wrong –a defective ‘duplicating ray’ is what originally created him – Bizzaro eventually became one of the most beloved supporting characters in the Superman comics. Who not love Bizzaro? This is not only the most solid key in the Superboy run, but as in the case of Adventure Comics #247, it produces consistently good returns on investment making it highly sought after by collectors. A difficult comic to find, especially in high grade, best returns – according to Gocollect.com – have been on copies graded 5.5 or higher. Return on investment on that grade is up 38.6 per cent since 2000.