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51 Facts and Lies We Learned from Reading Action Comics

One thing I always loved about reading older comics was checking out the ads and seeing the ridiculous products trying to be sold to people.  Another thing I loved, which was often featured in DC Comics’ books, was reading the little trivia tidbits sometimes found on a page or two of an issue.  Back then (just as today), it was pretty easy to get the wrong information and go with it.  Below, I’ll be going over fifty-one facts and lies found throughout the pages of Action Comics between 1939 and 1958.  Each topic has been extensively researched, so we’ll know if the trivia is still true to this day, or if it was ever true at all!

Action Comics 17 (1939) – Fantastic Facts

1. Autographs of Adam and Eve and of Judas Iscariot were sold by an enterprising Frenchman! However, his first customer’s relatives had him thrown into jail!

Apparently, autographs were extremely popular during the nineteenth century. The man described in the illustration is Denis Vrain-Lucas, who was born in 1818 and supposedly began to forge autographs and other historical papers in 1854.  In 1861, he began to sell hundreds of these forgeries to Michel Chasles, a mathematician and collector of such works.  From 1861 up until 1869, Chasles had allegedly purchased roughly 30,000 of Vrain-Lusas’s forgeries before it was pointed out to him that the handwriting on some had not been the same on “real” documents.  At that point, Vrain-Lucas was arrested, serving just a couple of years in prison.

Action Comics 17 (1939) – Fantastic Facts

2. An unmarked grave in Baltimore is the final resting place of John Wilkes Booth, assassin of Lincoln!

This unmarked grave is actually located at the Booth family gravesite of Green Mount Cemetery, but the family wished it to remain unmarked.

Action Comics 18 (1939) – Fantastic Facts

3. Nature’s Bowling Green: Father Time and the elements have fashioned these gigantic bowling balls—to be seen near the town of Minneapolis, Kansas.

There really are many large spheres there, in a park known as Rock City. The park, which consists of two hundred of these spherical boulders, was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1976.  Some of the spheres appear to be squished, though they mostly range in size from ten to twenty feet in diameter.

This isn’t the only place in Kansas with strange rock formations. In fact, about an hour southwest of Rock City, you can find Mushroom Rock State Park, where two mushroom-shaped boulders and various other creations dwell.

Action Comics 18 (1939) – Fantastic Facts

4. The Fish with a Gun: The “beaked chaetodon” uses its trunk-like snout to shoot a drop of water at unwary insects.

You can find much information about another fish which shoots water at insects, which belongs to the Toxotidae family of fish. The fish in the illustration, however, belongs to the Chaetodontidae family, commonly known as “butterflyfish.”  Another similar fish, which belongs to the same family, would be the one who claimed to be “obnoxious” in Finding Nemo.

Action Comics 18 (1939) – Fantastic Facts

5. Strange as it seems, the savage shark hunts its prey chiefly by its acute sense of smell!

Just as we are able to determine directions from which certain sounds come, sharks are able to determine these directions by using their nostrils. They can tell which of their two nostrils first picked up the scent so that they can swim toward that direction.

Action Comics 18 (1939) – Fantastic Facts

6. Iceland’s highest trees are only 10 feet high!

A newspaper clipping from 1930 claimed that the tallest trees were fifteen feet high, so they must have shrunk by the time this comic had been published, just nine years later. In later years, the record became twenty-five meters—a little more than eighty-two feet.  Roughly ten years after this comic had been published, many trees began to be planted in Iceland, as the forests had been disappearing due to erosion and other factors.  In 2013, one of the trees that had been planted in 1949 was reported to be eighty-three feet tall, breaking the all-time record for tree height in Iceland.

Action Comics 20 (1940) – Fantastic Facts

7. Eclipse Changed History Books!: In 413 B.C. an eclipse of the moon caused the Athenians to delay the siege of Syracuse for 27 days…This resulted in the massacre of their entire army!

If the history books don’t lie, the Athenians had been getting ready to leave Syracuse after a failed attempt to conquer the Sicilian city. This took place during the Peloponesian War, at which time the Athenians were in combat with the Spartans.  The Athenians had arrived in Syracuse in 415 B.C. and fought for two long years before deciding to give up.  That day, on August 28, 413 B.C., there was a lunar eclipse.  It is said that the Athenians were fearful of superstitious lore and told to remain where they were for twenty-seven days.  In the weeks that followed, the Athenians were attacked by the Syracusans, leading to their demise.

Action Comics 20 (1940) – Fantastic Facts

8. The horned toad of Brazil, not only bites like a dog but also barks like one!

The amphibian they are talking about is likely the Brazilian horned frog, not to be confused with the short-horned lizard which goes by the name of “horned toad.” The Brazilian horned frog is classified under the Ceratophrys genus of frogs, which have been nicknamed “Pacman frogs.”  This is due to their enormous mouths which are used to eat mammals, insects, reptiles, and even their frog friends.

Action Comics 20 (1940) – Fantastic Facts

9. An early American “sure cure” for warts was to oil a sweaky (squeaky) hinge immediately after seeing a shooting star!

There are dozens of crazy “cures” like cutting your fingernails and putting them in a tree, but this one I haven’t seen. Just don’t count the stars while lying on your back, otherwise you’ll get the same number of warts as the star you counted!

Action Comics 20 (1940) – Nevertheless It’s True…

10. Until 1845 a Boston ordinance made bathtubs unlawful, except on medical advice.

Everything I’ve found on this topic contradicts this “fact.” Sources lead me to believe that it was actually in 1845 that you needed a prescription to bathe, though I have been unable to trace down any hard proof of this.  The reason for the law was because at that time, bathing was believed to be harmful to the human body.  In the decades that followed, the belief was reversed and bathtubs slowly began to pop up in Boston and elsewhere in America.

Action Comics 20 (1940) – Nevertheless It’s True…

11. Temperatures drop 400 degrees at sunset on the moon!

There are many conflicting sources on this topic, claiming different temperatures found on the moon during the day and at night. According to NASA, temperatures on the moon during the day can hit 253 degrees Fahrenheit, while temperatures at night can be as low as -243 degrees Fahrenheit.  It takes over 700 hours—or about one of Earth’s months—for an entire day to pass on the moon, so the daytime and nighttime periods each last for a couple of weeks.

Action Comics 20 (1940) – Nevertheless It’s True…

12. Helium, a gas used for zeppelins, cost $2,700 a cubic foot during the World War – today it costs about one cent a cubic foot.

Aside from filling party balloons, helium is used for a number of purposes, such as arc welding and cryogenics. The consumption of helium has greatly increased over the years, but it has gotten to the point where demand is higher than the supply.  Due to this, the present cost for helium is about $3 per cubic foot.

Action Comics 21 (1940) – From the 4 Corners!

13. Circuses originated back in ancient Rome!

While the arenas used by the Romans were indeed called, “circuses,” many debate that they have nothing to do with the circuses we know and love today. Circus Maximus was the first of its kind in Ancient Rome, with a seating capacity of about 150,000.  The arena was used to display chariot races, gladiator fights, and other such events.

Action Comics 22 (1940) – Fantastic Facts

14. No! Not a jitterbug—but only the frilled lizard!  He walks upright and wears a cape which he expands to frighten visitors.

The neck frill of the frill-necked lizard is quite similar to that of the triceratops, known for the bony frill behind its horns. The neck frill of the frill-necked lizard differs from the dinosaur’s neck frill because it consists not of bones, but of cartilage.  This allows the lizard to keep the frill against its body, rather than having it out all the time.

Action Comics 22 (1940) – Fantastic Facts

15. The New South Wales government offers a reward of $125,000 for a practical method of exterminating all of the rabbits of Australia.

This first occurred in the late nineteenth century, when the rabbit population began to increase by the millions. In late 1887, the Sydney Morning Herald published a notice from the Government of New South Wales which said that a reward of 25,000 pounds (which was Australia’s currency at the time) would be given to anyone who could come up with a method to exterminate the rabbits in Australia.  This was because the rabbits had been killing too many of the plants and causing erosion.  The exchange rate at that time was .20, which would indeed come out to 125,000 USD.

Action Comics 22 (1940) – Fantastic Facts

16. A tank car loaded with helium gas shipped by the navy weighed 92,000 lbs. less than the empty car did!

It should be noted that when they say, “empty,” they mean that the only thing in the tank is air. If the tank were completely void of air, the tank with helium would actually weigh more than the empty tank.

Action Comics 22 (1940) – Fantastic Facts

17. The male elephant has a crazy season! During this time he gets the irresistible impulse to attack and destroy everything in sight—this strange mysterious fit is called “must” by the natives.

This is also known as “musth.” This state can last for an entire month and occurs once a year.  At this time, the testosterone levels of the elephant are significantly greater than normal and the elephant secretes a tar-like substance known as “temporin” from its temples.  Due to the elephant’s aggressive behavior at this time, scientific studies have failed to learn more about elephants in this state.

Action Comics 34 (1941) – It’s a Fact

18. The Chinese still fish with trained birds. The bird fetches a fish, then flies back to his boat to have it removed from his bill.  A string is kept around the bird’s neck to prevent his swallowing the fish.

This is known as “cormorant fishing,” since cormorants are the birds used in this technique. Supposedly, this method began around 960 A.D., but today, it is almost obsolete, aside from those who use it to impress tourists.

Action Comics 34 (1941) – True-isms

19. Bermuda depends entirely upon rainfall for its water supply!

At the present, rainfall is, indeed, the only major source of fresh water in Bermuda, but bottled water is imported from several other countries. Rain water has been collected from rooftops for much of the island’s fresh water, but aquifers—or underground layers of fresh water—have been discovered.  The island also uses desalination to remove the salt from water and make it usable.

Action Comics 34 (1941) – True-isms

20. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has ‘The Great Bed of Ware,’ a bed accommodating 12 people. It bears the date 1463.

Just to be clear, the date of “1463” does not imply that the bed had been constructed at that time. The Great Bed of Ware was apparently built over one century later, around 1590, though the carving of that date was presumably added at a later point in time.  It is about ten feet wide and eleven feet long, so the claim of twelve people would probably not be very comfortable.

Action Comics 155 (1951) – Quick Quiz

21. Are pearls found only in oysters? No!  Sometimes pearls will form in coconuts…just as they do in oysters!

This has been a topic of debate since the seventeenth century—maybe even earlier. Apparently, the coconut pearl is the “rarest botanical gem in the world,” probably because it doesn’t exist.  There has been no concrete proof that pearls are able to form in coconuts, which has led to all “coconut pearls” being classified as fakes.

Action Comics 155 (1951) – Quick Quiz

22. About how many meteors strike the Earth’s atmosphere every day? Approximately five billion!

A great number of these usually disintegrate upon reaching the Earth’s atmosphere, while others are the size of a grain of sand and simply float down to Earth. Most of the meteorites that fall to Earth either do so with a decelerating speed, or at terminal velocity (remember that from The Flash?), so there really isn’t that much of an impact.

Action Comics 155 (1951) – Quick Quiz

23. What is the largest of all sea birds? The albatross…which often measures 18 feet from tip to tip of its expanded wings!  Whenever food is plentiful, it likes to gorge itself to such a degree that it can neither fly nor swim!

The Wandering Albatross is said to have the largest wingspan of all birds, with one measured at over thirteen feet and another at over seventeen feet. Nevertheless, the average wingspan is actually around eight to eleven feet.  The funny part is that albatrosses are actually the worst of the divers who use their wings to propel themselves.

Action Comics 155 (1951) – Quick Quiz

24. How much of the corn grown in the U.S.A. is eaten by the people…directly? About 10% only!  90% of the corn is fed to animals!

According to a 2005 study, only about fifty-eight percent of the corn grown in America was used to feed animals. Twenty-five percent was exported out of the country, while the remaining seventeen percent was used for food and industrial purposes.

Action Comics 159 (1951) – Quick Quiz

25. Which is the largest county in the world? Honolulu, which is 2,200 miles across!  Its county limits extend 1,200 miles northward across the pacific to include Midway Island and 1,000 miles southward to include Palmyra Island!

At the present, the County of Honolulu does not include the Midway or Palmyra Islands (Atolls). In fact, neither of them are considered to be part of Hawaii.  As a result, it is no longer the “largest county in the world.”  Throughout the world, the term “county” has many different meanings or is not used.  The county which holds the title of being the largest in the United States is California’s San Bernardino County, which has an area of 20,105 square miles.

Action Comics 159 (1951) – Quick Quiz

26. How do they scent high-grade tea…in China? With flowers…such as roses, gardenias, peonies and orange blossoms!

There are a number of processes for making tea scented. You can use scented oils, mix the flowers with the tealeaves, or simply place the tea next to a flower in bloom.  This is often done to mask the taste of the actual tea.

Action Comics 159 (1951) – Quick Quiz

27. Do animals get toothaches? Yes…though not as frequently as human beings!  A competent veterinary is well trained to treat an animal’s toothache!

Toothaches have been plaguing Earth’s creatures for so long that even the dinosaurs had them! In recent years, fossils apparently showed signs that dinosaurs may have had toothaches, too.

Action Comics 160 (1951) – Quick Quiz

28. How long does it require an iceberg to melt? Icebergs last for various periods of years depending on their construction and size!  Some icebergs have taken as long as 225 years to melt!

The rate at which an iceberg melts relies more on the water and temperature. Wave action and hotter temperatures will allow an iceberg to melt faster than one in colder water.

Action Comics 160 (1951) – Quick Quiz

29. Do bats walk like birds? No!  Bats’ legs are so twisted their knees bend sideways…thus they merely flap-shuffle along!

Why do you think Batman walked so funny? In actuality, this is advantageous to the bat, as it allows the bat to move more quickly while on its legs, quite like a spider.

Action Comics 160 (1951) – Quick Quiz

30. Where is the world’s oldest tree? In Tula, Mexico.  It is a cypress, 125 ft. in circumference…from 4,000 to 6,000 years old!

The tree they’re referring to is actually not in Tula, Mexico, but in Santa Maria del Tule. El Árbol del Tule, as it is known, is estimated to be about 1,400 to 1,600 years old, though some estimates say 3,000 years.  The oldest known individual tree today belongs to the Great Basin bristlecone species, found in the White Mountains of California and Nevada.  It is more over 5,000 years old.

Action Comics 167 (1952) – Quick Quiz

31. What is the oldest form of code communication…used even by prehistoric man? The smoke signal of the American Indians!

Even with the great number of different forms of communication today, smoke signals are still used. A well-known use is for the election of a new pope.  Then, there’s also skywriting with airplanes.

Action Comics 167 (1952) – Quick Quiz

32. From what country did gypsies come…originally? Gypsies originally came from India during the middle ages, then settled in Egypt and finally migrated to Europe!

The gypsies did indeed come from India, but long ago, it was believed that they originated in Egypt. This is why they were known as “gypsies,” which is short for Egyptian.

Action Comics 167 (1952) – Quick Quiz

33. Why was the bald eagle chosen as our national symbol? The eagle was adopted by the United States in 1783…because since ancient times that bird has symbolized power and courage!

It was actually one year earlier, on June 20, 1782, that the eagle was adopted for the Great Seal of the United States. It was not until 1787 that the bald eagle became the official emblem, though.

Action Comics 167 (1952) – Quick Quiz

34. Can oil and water be mixed? Yes…by merely adding a little soap!

This is why soap is used for cleaning dishes. Sure, water can get rid of some oily substances, but not all.  That’s where soap comes in.  Since soap allows the two to mix, you won’t have to scrub as hard or use high pressure water to remove dirt.

Action Comics 169 (1952) – Quick Quiz

35. Are there any wingless birds? Yes!  An example is the kiwi of New Zealand which has no wings whatever!  It is smaller than a chicken and can outrun the fastest greyhound!

The kiwi actually does have wings, they are just too small to tell. Kiwis belong to a group of flightless birds known as “ratites.”  Also included in the group are emus and ostriches.

Action Comics 173 (1952) – Quick Quiz

36. Is a shooting star…a star? No!  It is actually a meteor…disintegrating in the earth’s atmosphere!

If the meteor happens to make contact with the Earth, it is then known as a meteorite. If not, it is simply a meteor.  Only those which have a bright, visible path are referred to as “shooting stars,” though they are still just meteors.

Action Comics 188 (1954) – Quick Quiz

37. Why are cups occasionally called “mugs”? In olden days, the drinking cup was often made in the form of a face…and was called a “mug”!

These mugs were not very attractive, which is probably where “mug shot” came from.

Action Comics 188 (1954) – Quick Quiz

38. How long do orange trees bear fruit? The average life of an orange tree is from 35 to 50 years!

The oldest known orange tree, known as the Mother Orange Tree, is located in Oroville, California. It was originally brought from Mexico and planted in 1854, but was moved to a different location within the state just two years later.  The tree itself is now a California Historical Landmark, but it does have a few clones that were created in 2003.

Action Comics 188 (1954) – Quick Quiz

39. What is the origin of the word “clock”? “Clock” is from the Latin “clocca,” meaning bell…since bells were used to indicate the hours before mechanical timepieces were invented!

Actually, “Campāna” would be “bell” in Latin. “Clocca” is the Celtic word for “bell.”

Action Comics 188 (1954) – Quick Quiz

40. How many species of fish are there in the world? There are at least 10,000 species of fish!  In no form of life is there a greater variety of shape and color!

Today, the number is actually closer to 30,000. Birds, on the other hand, have about 10,000 different species.

Action Comics 205 (1955) – Quick Quiz

41. How fast does radium lose its value? Radium dissipates about ½ its value in about 1800 years…no matter how carefully packed!

There are actually thirty-three different isotopes—or variants—of radium. The most stable of these isotopes—or the one with the longest decay rate—is Radium 226, which is actually one of the more common isotopes of radium.  Its half-life is 1600 years.

Action Comics 205 (1955) – Quick Quiz

42. Which is the largest beetle in the world! The goliath beetle of Africa!  It grows to a length of 10 inches!

Even more interesting is the fact that these beetles are often raised on dog and cat food.

Action Comics 205 (1955) – Quick Quiz

43. How long do grapevines produce fruit? Some varieties remain fruitful for at least 400 years!

One of the oldest known grapevines in the world is located in Europe’s Slovenia. It has apparently been producing fruit since the seventeenth century.

Action Comics 205 (1955) – Quick Quiz

44. Do some snakes have legs? Yes!  Many larger snakes have small legs located under the skin near the tail!

Along with the small amount of snakes with legs, there are also lizards that don’t have legs, but they are still snakes and lizards, respectively.

Action Comics 228 (1957) – Quick Quiz

45. During General Custer’s last stand how many of his men escaped death? Not one!  All were slain, except a horse ridden by one of Custer’s men!  It fled to safety and was the only living thing to escape with its life!

After the battle, over one hundred people claimed to have been the “sole survivor” of the Battle of Little Bighorn, but the only verified survivor was Comanche, Captain Keogh’s horse. You can check out Vertigo’s Preacher for more tales of Jesse—err—George Custer.

Action Comics 228 (1957) – Quick Quiz

46. Are the sequoias…famous redwoods of California…the tallest trees in the world? No!  That distinction belongs to the eucalyptus trees of Australia which attain a height of 500 ft!  The tallest California trees rarely exceed a height of about 350 ft!

At the present, the tallest living tree is, in fact, a redwood in California. Hyperion, as it is known, is a little over three hundred and seventy-nine feet tall.  The tallest eucalyptus tree was measured in the late nineteenth century at four hundred and thirty-five feet, though it is said that there is no concrete proof for this.  The tallest eucalyptus tree with concrete proof was measured at three hundred and seventy feet tall at a later point, in 1880.

Action Comics 228 (1957) – Quick Quiz

47. Which is the cleanest of all animals? The raccoon!  It won’t eat unless it has first washed its food thoroughly!

This has been a topic of debate, with some claiming that the pig is the cleanest animal and others claiming cats. Some include insects and claim that the cockroach is the cleanest since, like cats, they are frequently cleaning themselves.

Action Comics 237 (1958) – Funny Facts

48. Half of all the world’s lakes are on the North American continent!

What they really meant was that half of the world’s lakes are in Canada alone…but does that include the disappearing Medicine Lake in Alberta?

Action Comics 237 (1958) – Funny Facts

49. There is no age limit on getting a patent in the United States. Even a child can get one on an invention!

In the United States, the youngest person to receive a patent did so at four years old. The downside to receiving a patent at such a young age is that the patent is usually only good for fourteen or twenty years and you cannot renew it after that, so you’d better make damned sure you can create something from it while not in school.

Action Comics 237 (1958) – Funny Facts

50. This is one of the ordinary sailing boats used on the Nile about 2,000 B.C. Many models of these vessels have been found in the tombs of the kings and nobles of the twelfth dynasty…and like all vessels of ancient Egypt, these boats were only able to sail with a fair wind!

Boats were often placed in these tombs so that the dead could join Ra, or Re, the sun god who was said to travel in a boat of his own up in the sky.

Action Comics 242 (1958) – Nature Wonderland

51. The devilfish or manta grows to be about 20 feet wide and several feet thick!

While devil fish and manta rays are both types of eagle rays, they are actually quite different. The devil fish, or giant devil ray, can grow to be seventeen feet wide, while the manta ray can grow to be about twenty-three feet wide.

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