COMICS HISTORY: The curious case of Superman's ever-changing boots in early Action Comics

Yes, it's kinda silly to obsess about something as trivial as a comic book character's footwear, but it's also kinda interesting to discover how vague, indecisive, and inconsistent that aspect of Superman's look was in the early issues of Action Comics.

Before Superman co-creator/artist Joe Shuster eventually settled on the iconic, red, scalloped-topped boots, he based Superman's initial look on the outfits of circus performers, particularly strongmen like the one shown in the vintage photo below, with shorts worn on the outside of tights, with often colorful belts. Superman's early footwear was modeled after strongmen's gladiator-type boots, fastened up the front with straps or laces, sometimes with shin guards and scalloped tops.

Superman's first appearance on the cover of Action Comics #1 showed him wearing shin-guarded and strapped boots, but unfortunately the colorist misread the art, ignored the (granted, vaguely drawn) shin guards, giving him ankle-high red boots. The red boots were an anomaly and wouldn't be seen again for a half-dozen more issues. Throughout the entire interior story, Superman's boots are colored blue to match his tights. Yet the boots drawn in the story look completely different than those on the cover, appearing more like ballet slippers, with wide crisscrossed wraparound straps, like Wonder Woman's shoes would soon feature.

On the cover of Action #1, Superman's boots have attached shin guards

Interior panels from Action Comics #1 show crisscrossed lacing like a certain Amazon's shoes, without shin guards

Superman was still the lead feature in Action Comics #2, but Superman wouldn't appear on the cover again until issue #7. In issue #2, Shuster made very little attempt to draw boots of any kind, instead preferring to shade the lower portion of Superman's legs. Even in the few panels where there seemed to be some detail, the boots weren't consistently drawn.

Action Comics #2, where the boots still appear to be blue ballet slippers in the opening splash page...

...but show shin guards later in the issue.

In Action Comics #3, Superman appeared in costume in only one panel, and no boot details were shown.

In issue #4, Superman again appears in very few panels, but when he does, his boots are once again vaguely drawn, if at all.

Action Comics #4, still no definition on the still-blue boots.

The same is still the case in Action Comics #5, though it appears Shuster may have drawn the scalloped-topped red boots, but they were still colored blue.

Finally, in the story of Action Comics #6, the iconic red boots with the scalloped tops make their first appearance. They never changed again and Superman still wears them today.

Action Comics #6, where Shuster finally hits the boots jackpot!

Superman's red boots make their second cover appearance (the first in their final form) on Action Comics #7...

The boots are finalized, but what was up with the utility belt and the cape wrapping around his neck?

...but this issue is infamous because throughout the interior story, Superman's boots are inexplicably colored yellow!

Action Comics #7: the infamous Golden Boots issue.

Superman wouldn't become the consistent cover star of Action Comics until issue #19, but at least the inconsistency of the style and color of his boots had long been solved by then. DO NOT get me started on how even more inconsistent his chest symbol was, for far longer than the boots were...that's another POP COMICS HISTORY article in itself!

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