If you collect comics, or read comics, or have ever heard of comics, then you know that the most valuable comic books in the world are Action Comics #1 (record sale 3.2 million) and Detective Comics #27 (record sale 2.1 million).
That’s because those are the first appearances of Superman and Batman, respectively. But what about the creators behind those landmark issues? The creators often get over looked when people talk about the most valuable comic books ever. Everyone has heard of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby at this point, but what about William Marston and H.G. Peter? Shouldn’t we know about them too?
In this article we wanted to look at some of the most valuable comics from the golden age and talk about the creators behind them, as well as how the characters came to be.
With out further ado, let’s get started
Action Comics #1 : Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
Don’t act surprised, I mentioned it above. Action Comics #1 is widely considered to be the birth of super hero comics and is therefore the most valuable comic book on the resale market.
Written by Jerry Siegel and drawn by Joe Shuster, the character Superman was created while they were in high school, though at that time he was a villain with mind control powers, oh and bald. They later reworked the character to be heroic, bullet proof and super strong. They pitched the character to no less that 7 different comic book publishers and newspapers, all of them rejecting the idea, before being accepted as a 13-page story for Action Comics. The rest, as they say, is history.
Detective Comics #27 : Bob Kane and Bill Finger
After the mania that followed Superman’s creation, comic book publishers shifted most of their focus to finding the next big hero. Bob Kane wrote comics at National Comics (which later changed to DC comics), and developed an idea for a character called “The Bat-Man”. He developed some rough sketches of the character and invited his artist friend, Bill Finger, over to take a look. Finger gave his friend some ideas, and once said that,
“I went over to Kane’s, and he had drawn a character who looked very much like Superman with kind of … reddish tights, I believe, with boots … no gloves, no gauntlets … with a small domino mask, swinging on a rope. He had two stiff wings that were sticking out, looking like bat wings.”Bill Finger
Finger went on to redesign the character too look more like the one we know and love.
There were significant issues later on, including Bill Finger’s claim to the creation of Batman being hidden from the world, and many, many, lawsuits, but that is a story for another time.
All Star Comics #8 – William Marston and H.G. Peter
After deciding to create a character who fights with love instead of fists, William Marston’s wife, Elizabeth Marston, told him that the character should be a woman. Marston was a well-respected psychologist who loved comic books. He’d already made a name for himself when he created the polygraph test, and gave a speech outlining the short comings of the comic books that were coming out at the time which caught the attention of National Comics. He created the character and based much of her personality and appearance on his wife and their polyamorous partner, Olive Byrne. Marston went so far as to say,
“Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who, I believe, should rule the world.”William Marson
He would go on to team up with H.G. Peter, who was a self-described women’s suffrage and equal rights supporter. Peter made very few changes to Marston’s original designs, and the Wonder Woman costume has changed very little in the time since her creation.
Captain America #1 – Joe Simon and Jack Kirby
Joe Simon created Captain America during the period of time before America entered into World War II. Simon brought his close friend, Jack Kirby, onboard to draw the character, who in his first issue used a triangular shield. MLJ comics threatened legal action against Timely Comics (later known as Marvel Comics) because the character was too similar to their character, The Shield. It wasn’t until the second issue that Jack Kirby redesigned Cap’s shield into the one we all now know.
Fun Fact: While Stan Lee did not create Captain America, he did come up with the idea of Cap using his shield as a returning weapon in the characters 3rd issue. And that has become one of Cap’s signature moves.
Whiz Comics #1 (#2) – Bill Parker and C.C. Beck
Bill Parker took inspiration from Superman to create a hero for Fawcett Comics. He and artist C.C. Beck had always shared an affinity for Greek and Roman mythology, so they decided to create a character that kids could relate to. They gave Billy Batson to the world, a boy who, after saying the magic word, transforms into earth’s mightiest mortal.
We wrote an article about the creation of Captain Marvel (Shazam!), and it goes into far more detail, find that here.
Marvel Comics #1 – Carl Burgos and Bill Everett and more
Marvel Comics #1 is important for many reasons. It was the first issue published by Timely Comics (which went on to become Marvel Comics), and it also featured first appearances of two characters that have been important to Marvel throughout the years.
Carl Burgos was the writer, and artist on a short story featuring the Human Torch. No, not that Human Torch, this human torch is an android who can control fire. He was also one of the most popular characters throughout the 1940’s and fought against the Nazi’s, side by side with Captain America. He also participated in the first super powered battle in comics, against Namor!
Namor the Sub Mariner
Created by Bill Everett for an ultimately abandoned comic book in 1938, Namor was instead published in Marvel Comics #1 in 1939. In his first appearance, he is actually an enemy of the United states and destroys a ship, killing all of the men on board, earning him the honor of being comics first anti-hero. While the android Human Torch has been largely forgotten, Namor the Submariner has remained an important part of Marvel Comics throughout the years. Bill Everett is also the co-creator of the blind vigilante, Daredevil, along with Stan Lee, and contributed to Timely Comics for the rest of his career.
We know the heroes, we know what they stand for and what they represent. We know that Superman came to earth from space, that Bruce Wayne watched his parents die. But it Is equally important that we know who created these characters, whom we cherish. Without them, we’d be missing a big part of our child hoods. So hats off to all of them, and for the work that they did to create such incredible characters.