""Superman and the Numbers Racket"": Superman rescues a man from committing suicide, and the guy turns out to be a thief, whose straight life has been completely ruined by gambling. This motivates crusading journalist Clark Kent, the next day, to visit the Police Commission
Action Comics #16 is an issue of the series Action Comics (Volume 1) with a cover date of September, 1939. It was published on August 8, 1939.
Synopsis for "Superman and the Numbers Racket"
Superman rescues a man from committing suicide, and the guy turns out to be a thief, whose straight life has been completely ruined by gambling. This motivates crusading journalist Clark Kent, the next day, to visit the Police Commissioner and urge him to act forcefully against the numbers racketeers and other gambling gangs that are preying on the city. But the commissioner just blows him off.
Superman then goes to work, demolishing one illicit casino after another, hospitalizing many low-level thugs, and directly threatening death to several gang bosses. One boss calls in some help from his ally, the Police Commissioner, and Superman convincingly threatens both of them, with death. They flee the city.
Superman then convenes a meeting of all the gambling racketeers, and compels each of them to draw a card. He announces that he will kill the holder of the ace of spades card, unless he immediately leaves Metropolis, never to return. Superman has, of course, dealt every single one of them an ace of spades, and they all leave town very quickly.
Appearing in "Superman and the Numbers Racket"
- Jack O'Leary (Single appearance)
- Marty Kaye (Single appearance)
- Butch (Single appearance)
- Nick (Single appearance)
- Pete (Single appearance)
- Metropolis Police Department
- Commissioner Watson (Single appearance)
Synopsis for Pep Morgan: "Bodyguard"
Because he had helped to save his warehouse business, Mr. Smith trusted Pep Morgan with another job, one that was much more personal to him. He had received several letters threatening harm to his daughter, Mary, unless he came up with 200,000 dollars to pay in protection. He wanted Pep to guard her, but without alerting her to any danger. Smith didn't want her to worry, after all. So Morgan spent the next week as a guest at the Smith home, showing Mary how to swan dive, after which they shared a meal together. A few nights later, the house servant opened the door for a bunch of crooks, leading them to Mary's room. They kidnapped the poor young lady, dragging her back to their car. Pep woke up and gave chase to their vehicle, following it all the way to the city cemetery. The thugs grabbed Mary and pulled her out of the car. Pep was on top of them almost immediately! He stole one of the thugs' guns and held up the others until the police arrived. The next day, Pep and Mary celebrated aboard one of Mr. Smith's boats
Appearing in Pep Morgan: "Bodyguard"
- Mr. Smith
- Slug (Single appearance)
- Antone (Single appearance)
- Slim (Single appearance)
- Mary Smith (First appearance)
- Smith's yacht
Synopsis for "The Adventures of Marco Polo (Part XVI of XVII)"
Marco clears the gate before the portcullis comes crashing down. Abu el Khaf offers one hundred gold coins to whoever captures Marco and brings him back. Marco is chased into a swamp, where he hides under the water, breathing through a hollow reed. While his pursuers search the area on foot, Marco swims back to the bank and steals a horse, herding the others along as he rides. But further up ahead, an ambush is laid out for him by the ford. Bandits appear and start pelting him with stones and arrows. His horse is killed, forcing Marco to climb up a nearby ravine in a desperate attempt to escape! Climbing up to a narrow pass, Marco follows it. Unfortunately, it stops at a dead end, and with the slavers and bandits at his back, it looked like he was done for! Suddenly, the men start falling left and right, hit by large rocks being thrown from above by Marco's mysterious rescuers.
Appearing in "The Adventures of Marco Polo (Part XVI of XVII)"
- (mysterious rescuers)
- Abu El-Kaf of Siddrah
- his Slavers & Bandits
Synopsis for Clip Carson: "The Pharaoh's Treasure" (Part III)
Clip Carson and Jim Blake have found the entrance to the treasure room blocked by a casket and a mummy that spoke! The skeptical Carson fires a shot at the mummy, exposing it as a robot, and its voice as a record player.
Further in, they come upon a large door, behind which is the chamber for which they've been searching: the fabled Treasure Room of Cheops! The excited duo are then greeted by a swarm of angry bandits with sharp swords. From the entryway comes a man dressed in regal clothing. Calling him their master, the Pharaoh Cheops, the Arabs all bow down before him. Clip breaks up the charade by revealing the Pharaoh is actually Sergeant Beatty, trying to fool the bandits into giving him all the treasure. Instead, they angrily attack the Sergeant, giving Clip and Jim a chance to grab some gold and escape, in a plane that was being used to transport the gold. As they fly off, Clip mentions that he should pay Jim for showing him such a great time.
Appearing in Clip Carson: "The Pharaoh's Treasure" (Part III)
- Jim Blake (Final appearance)
- Sergeant Beatty, as Pharaoh Cheops (Final appearance)
- Arab Bandits
- Robot Mummy (Final appearance)
- The Treasures of Cheops (bandits got it)
- Beatty's Biplane
Synopsis for Tex Thomson: "Double Agent"
In France, assisted by Bob Daley and Gargantua T. Potts, Tex Thomson exposes the local chief of secret police as a traitor, and shuts down a spy ring.
Appearing in Tex Thomson: "Double Agent"
Synopsis for Chuck Dawson: "Trouble at the Box-M"
Chuck Dawson rides down a rocky trail on his horse, Blacky, when two men attack him and knock him out! When he comes to, he's in the sheriff's office being accused of murder. The two goons that brought him there seem to have told the sheriff that Chuck had killed old Jim Mason, owner of the Box-M ranch. Before the sheriff can lock him up, Chuck pushes him to the ground, then makes for the exit! He hops back on Blacky and heads for the Box-M to make sense of this murder, for which he's being framed.
At the ranch, an old man carrying a shotgun and wearing a bandage on his head comes running out, thinking that Chuck was part of the group that tried to kill him. After explanations are made, Chuck joins Mason in his cabin just as the sheriff and the two thugs show up. They are surprised to find old Mason still alive. Mason tells the sheriff he's made a mistake, and it was actually the men with him who tried to kill him. Chuck's name is cleared and the men are arrested.
Appearing in Chuck Dawson: "Trouble at the Box-M"
- Killers from Bar-U (Single appearance)
- Jim Mason (Single appearance)
- Sheriff (Single appearance)
Synopsis for Zatara: "The Terror from Saturn"
Using a beam of cosmic rays, Ool, the despotic ruler of Saturn, abducts several Earth people, by teleporting them to Saturn. Ool is planning an invasion of Earth, and studying typical specimens of Earthling. He abducts Zatara, and has a great deal of trouble with him. Ultimately, Zatara convinces Ool to build irrigation systems on Saturn, which ends the crisis that motivated the invasion.
Appearing in Zatara: "The Terror from Saturn"
- Ool, Ruler of Saturn (Single appearance)
- Gorla (Single appearance)
- Porra (Single appearance)
- Saturnians (First appearance)
- Djersinsky (Single appearance)
- Ool's Cosmic Ray Beam Teleportation Device
- Published by Detective Comics, Inc.
- Chuck Dawson gets head-konked unconscious yet again; this makes at least four concussions for him.
- Superman and the Numbers Racket is reprinted in Superman: The Action Comics Archives Vol. 1 and Superman Chronicles Vol. 2.
- First named appearance of the city of Metropolis.
- Convergence #0 states the first appearance of "Pre-Crisis Earth-Two Metropolis" was in The Flash #123 (rather than in Action Comics #16). This supports E. Nelson Bridwell's suggestion, in the Superman Family letters page, that the characters and places of Earth-Two, and those of the actual Golden Age characters and places, were two different things. Many (but not all) of these stories were assigned to "Alternate Earth-Two" (Earth-Two-A).
- At the end of the 1930s and the beginning of the "golden age" of superheroes, as shown in several early Superman stories and at least one Green Lantern story, the municipal and state governments of Metropolis were riddled with corruption.
- Superman appeared last in Action Comics #15. He appears next in Superman #2.
- George Taylor appeared last in Action Comics #15. He appears next in Superman #2.
- Again the main cover art is something other than Superman. Of the sixteen issues of Action Comics published so far, Superman has monopolized only five covers.
- Gargantua T. Potts mentions buying Action Comics in the Tex Thomson story.
- Zatara mentions Action Comics in his own story.