Classic Comic Cover Corner – Action Comics #426

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Every Sunday morning we showcase a classic comic cover, complete with compelling pop culture commentary, for your cordial contemplation. It’s the Classic Comic Cover Corner!

Action Comics #426 – August, 1973

Cover art by Nick Cardy

Action Comics #426 – August, 1973

A passenger plane is in flight and in serious trouble, doomed to crash. Just in the nick of time the Man of Steel swoops in to save the day, bringing the airliner back to the ground and rescuing the lives of all those onboard. We’ve seen it in films like Superman Returns and on television shows like Smallville and the recent debut of Supergirl on CBS. It’s the classic and iconic Superman scenario – or is it?

While watching the first episode of Supergirl, where Kara (Zor-El) Danvers first reveals herself as a superhero by saving a plane from crashing, it made me wonder what was the first Superman (or Supergirl) comic cover that featured one of the heroic Kryptonians saving an airplane full of people. Surprisingly, the first book I could find was Action Comics #426 from 1973, thirty-five years after Superman’s 1938 debut in Action Comics #1.

Action Comics #65 - October, 1943
Action Comics #65 – October, 1943

Now Supes famously did not fly until he did it in the Fleischer Studios Superman cartoon, “The Mad Scientist,” from 1941, and he arguably, did not fly in the comics until Action Comics #65 (1943), which, by the way, is three years after the original Captain Marvel took flight.

But even after Supes advanced from leaping buildings in a single-bound, you didn’t see him on a comic cover using his new found powers to rescue a plane until decades later – despite the fact that the passenger airline industry really took off during the time that Superman first appeared on the scene.

During the World War II era, you can find some covers of Superman going up against enemy fighter planes, but still no passenger rescues that I could find until this showcased 1973 issue.

As I mentioned Supergirl inspiring this week’s classic cover, let me say that I think the new CBS series is off to a great start and for the most part the show is firing on all cylinders. It’s as exciting and uplifting as anything connected to Supes should be – which is more than can be said for the recent crop of Warner Bros. Super-films. But as much as I enjoy the new show the geek in me barely gets past what they are doing with Jimmy Olsen, and I don’t mean that he is black instead of a red-headed white guy.

Jimmy on Supergirl is always the most adult guy in the room, as opposed to the comics’ Jimmy, who is a naive, accident prone office-boy and photographer. The comics’ Jimmy is a sidekick to Superman, not a mentor to him. Kara, on the show, as much as I like her, is almost more like the original Jimmy Olsen than Jimmy Olsen is. I’m okay with them changing things up, but they should retain the essence of the character, otherwise why call him Jimmy Olsen?

Do you know of an earlier comic cover that depicts Superman or Supergirl saving a passenger plane? If so, let us know in the comments below! Be sure to follow us on Facebook!

ENJOY Fleischer Studios Superman Cartoons: “The Mad Scientist”

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Bob Leeper
Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.