Honor the history of ‘Action Comics’ with this healthy dose of issues and commentary.
DC Comics has a lot to be proud of and one we can all appreciate this month is Action Comics reaching the historic 1,000th issue. To celebrate, DC Comics has released a 384-page book celebrating the 80 years it took to reach this milestone. This book features 19 stories (one of which a long lost tale never published) and multiple opportunities for those well aware of Superman’s importance to chime in with thoughts and essays on the series.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Superman and DC celebrate the anniversary of an American cultural touchstone moment with this original graphic novel anthology ACTION COMICS #1,000: 80 YEARS OF SUPERMAN, which features a previously unpublished Golden Age Superman epic! The official companion book for the ACTION COMICS #1,000 comic book.
Why does this matter?
This book doesn’t just honor Superman (though the majority does), but it also honors early Action Comics characters like Zatara Master Magician and the Vigilante. It’s easy to forget this series wasn’t only about Superman in its early days — it was very much in the variety style of comic storytelling of the time. This series very much inspired the industry and it’s why it deserves such a lengthy book celebrating it.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
In the first issue of ‘Action Comics’ Superman jumps more than flies.
As a whole, this book is a great way to celebrate Superman and the beginnings of Action Comics. Paul Levitz delivers the introduction, which gives a broad stroke of the importance of this series and setting up Laura Siegel Larson’s foreword which follows it. Levitz gives readers a nice historical view of the series and he even writes a new tale that wraps the book up (with art by Neal Adams). Jules Feiffer, Tom DeHaven, Marv Wolfman, Larry Tye, and Gene Luen Yang all chime in with their thoughts, helping to flesh out the greater meaning behind Superman and the series itself. These essays are spread out between important single issues of Action Comics. The book can’t reprint, of course, but it gives a nice taste of how the character has evolved over the decades and different writers and artists have breathed new life into the character. You get the impression this character is timeless after reading this book, and it makes a strong argument that the series will never fold, nor should it.
Collected here are 19 single issue stories highlighting different moments in Superman’s history, starting with #1 and moving through history with Action Comics #2, as well as #42, #64, #241, #242, #252, #285, #309, #419, #484, #554, #584 (by John Byrne), #655, #662, #800, #0 (Grant Morrison’s “New 52” issue) and wrapping up with a brand new story by Paul Levitz and Neal Adams titled “The Game.” Included in this batch of stories is an unpublished issue by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster titled “Too Many Heroes” which exists thanks to the help of Marv Wolfman (who delivers a generous essay on Superman and his preserving this story).
I suspect this book may win an Eisner as it has a historical feel that brings your attention to the importance of the series. It feels thorough even though it’s not delivering every issue and allows new readers to jump in and revel in the history of the character, coming away a little more informed for it. As you read these stories you’ll note the art gets more detailed, the stories more mature, and yet the spirit of Superman never wavers. His ability to inspire hope is never lost and it’s one of the reasons why he hasn’t changed that much, yet remains a beloved character.
Some of Superman’s weirder stories can be the most entertaining.
It can’t be perfect can it?
If you were an alien race and came upon this book it’d be a good way to understand the character, but if you wanted a fulfilling taste of a story arc you’d probably feel a bit short-changed. It’s nice to see such historic issues reprinted here, but it’s not going to deliver the type of comic reading experience one might expect.
Is It Good?
This is a good collection as it shines a light on why this series has existed for so long but also how it’s changed. The essays by the multiple voices give different perspectives, from the daughter of Jerry Siegel to a professor of journalism. This work also offers two new stories, a long-lost Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster story, and another one from Paul Levitz and Neal Adams. I suspect this combined with the 1,000th issue would be a fine way to honor the character and gain a sense of what makes it so iconic. You’re guaranteed to gain a better sense of comic history by reading this book.