Superman Had Some Strange Fitness Suggestions For Kids in the 1930s

Knowledge Waits is a feature where I just share some bit of comic book history that interests me.

Right from the beginning of the first Superman story in Action Comics #1, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster threw in some “science” about how Superman’s powers could possibly work the way that they do by comparing him to bugs in our normal world, like the ant who can lift much more than its weight or the grasshopper that can jump great distances contextually…

When the Superman feature began in Action Comics, Detective Comics, Inc. clearly felt that it was a promising feature, since the editors put the feature first in the comic and had Superman appear on the cover, but no one could possibly know at the time HOW popular it would be. Heck, there wasn’t even really any sort of scale for which they could predict how popular Superman would be. The various comics that made up the loosely affiliated National Comics line (there was one company, National Allied Publications, that produced More Fun Comics and New Adventure Comics and another one, Detective Comics, Inc., that published Detective Comics and now Action Comics, but they were essentially the same company just split into two companies via different deals) were selling okay, but comic books in general were doing only decently. Action Comics changed everything as sales exploded with fans obsessed with this new character, Superman. By the second issue of Action Comics, National was doing a bit where they would have readers send in requests to local newspapers to tell them to add a Superman comic strip to their papers.

In the early days, it was likely curious to the creative personnel at National as to what made Superman so popular. It seems like someone said, “it must be his strength,” so at the end of Superman stories, they would start doing these little “strength training” tips.

They began with this delightful lesson in in Action Comics #4 in slowly increasing what you lift.

It’s a nice and logical explanation, but it is just funny to see how they put it all in “chair units.” “So, you want to lift a big chair? Well, first you have to lift a lot of little chairs.” “Couldn’t I perhaps lift weights?” “Nope, if you want to lift a chair, you have to train using other chairs. That’s the only way that it will work.”

Action Comics #6 has a hilariously bizarre lesson in how to make your grip “super”….

Lessons on how to exercise or weight lift are normal enough, so, of course, the comic had to go to a much weirder place soon – like how to give yourself super vision!

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