Action Comics vol.1 #7 - Cover date December 1938
From the start, it was fairly obvious that no one involved with Superman knew what they had - even Jerry Siegel’s ambitious imagination hadn’t anticipated the reach of the character’s popularity. Certainly the many syndicates and publishers who passed on Superman must have been kicking themselves vigorously but, if there had been any consolation, at least National Allied themselves had been caught relatively unawares.
Despite the fact that comics’ juvenile readership were clamoring for new Superman comics with a single voice and the book was selling almost exclusively on the strength of his appearances, the Man of Steel was absent from the cover of every issue of Action between the first and this issue - most likely at the command of National Allied kahunas Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz, the latter of whom Siegel had numerous confrontations with over the years..
He would disappear from the cover again - except for the mention of his name and the occasional small image insert - until issue 12, and even then was relegated to a circle along the spine. The majority of the cover was given over to a strange, linear starscape illustrated by the great Fred Guardineer, over which Superman’s rocketship and Guardineer’s own Action Comics contribution - Zatara the Magician - dominated. Superman alternates cover appearances until issue 19 (cover dated December 1939), after which he was finally a permanent fixture. It only took a year and a half.
Meanwhile, inside this particular issue, Superman saves a troubled circus from financial ruin by signing on as their star attraction (Crooks, of course, attempt to sabotage the plan, giving Superman some handy targets to kick in the teeth). More interesting than that, however, is the inclusion into the cast of “Curly”, a fellow Daily Star reporter who lives to torment poor, meek Clark Kent with petty pranks and receives a hell of a comeuppance at the end (specifically, Superman divests Curly of his outer garments at super-speed in front of the whole Daily Star office, humiliating and baffling him). The character is echoed many decades down the line by the fondly-remembered Steve Lombard, sportscaster with WGBS television during Julius Schwartz’s run as editor of the Superman titles…