Reign of the Superman cover

DC owes Superman's name to rare short story hitting auction

Contributed by
Sep 24, 2018

Superman was always a creation of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, but he wasn’t always a justice-seeking, S-emblemed specimen of physical perfection. He started off instead as a villain, one that prized intellect over all else, in a fanzine - Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization - written by the pair in high school. Now, a rare set of this zine (four issues) will go to auction so that a fan can own the origins of Superman...or, at least the origin of Superman’s name.

1932’s “The Reign of the Superman” appeared in issue three of five, applying the Nietzsche-influenced name to Bill Dunn, a homeless man who takes part in an experiment so that he can eat, only to find himself newly-powered with telepathy. This bald and brainy villain (not Lex, but Superman) eventually sees his powers fade and his life return to the realities of the Depression, but the name would never go away.

Only a year later, Siegel would reimagine Superman and begin pitching the hero (though he wouldn’t hit Action Comics #1 until 1938). Along with this story’s issue, the auction from Boston's RR Auction includes issues #1, #2, and #4. The issues aren’t in pristine condition, with most missing a page here or there in addition to the normal wear and tear one might imagine an 86 year old comic would sustain - but since only about 50 copies of this zine were ever printed, any surviving ones will be valuable, with a pre-auction estimate of $35,000.

“Siegel and Shuster’s Science Fiction fanzine represents the very earliest incarnation of the Superman saga,” said Bobby Livingston, Executive VP at RR Auction. “It’s a museum-quality artifact of the utmost desirability.”

Take a look at the zine below in our gallery and tell us if you think it’s worth that chunk of change...or maybe more.

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