Some people have are loyal to a politician, sports team, or brand of soft drink. My family and me, well, we’re Batman fans. When it comes to the Man of Steel versus the Caped Crusader, I tend to veer to the darker side of things, not just in a superhero’s fashion choice “black or very dark grey” over “bright red and blue,” but in Batman’s deeply flawed character.
As macabre as it seems, I would rather visit Gotham than Metropolis, was more excited about the pairing of Selena and Bruce over Lois and Clark, and I find Joker a far more entertaining villain than Lex Luthor.
So when I received a surprise package in the mail last week containing, among the swag, Issue #1000 of Action Comics along with the hardback collection Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman Deluxe Edition, I was pretty impressed with the super feat of a comic title reaching that impressive milestone.
However, that’s a lot of Superman, for someone who grew up immersed in a world of Batmobiles and Boy Wonders. What does “goody goody” Clark Kent still have to offer us after all these years?
As it turns out, quite a lot, and keep in mind I’m working only from the comics I’ve read. I’m not even touching on the movie or television Superman here.
In celebration of Superman’s 80 years, I have picked eight things to appreciate about this denizen of Krypton even this diehard Batman fan has to admit are pretty awesome.
1. Superman started it all. You might have heard this story or a variant of it 1,000 times, but back in 1938 when Cleveland teenagers Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were having fits getting someone in the newspaper world to take a look at their creation, no one had any idea the impact this comic would have on the world of imagination. Comics weren’t exactly plentiful. Today, there thousands of comic book titles out there today, superhero stories dominate television shows, movies, fashion and every other aspect of pop culture there is. Even Wonder Woman reminded Superman in this latest Action Comic “we know that without you none of us would probably be here.” All us comic book “experts” who argue back and fourth about who the best hero, story, writer, publisher, or artist have to look at Superman and Action Comics and say “thanks for getting this ball rolling.”
2. The very first Action Comics took the time to make Superman believable to readers with real world examples. Before they get too into the story, Siegel and Shuster gave “A Scientific Explanation of Clark Kent’s Amazing Strength,” and used the animal world as examples. They show how ants can lift hundreds of times their strength, and a grasshopper can leap what would be several blocks to a human. Someday, we might evolve into our own super strength, they hint. Many people know the cover of the first Action Comics well, but everyone needs to actually read this issue to appreciate what it started. Fortunately, this story is part of the 80 Years of Superman hardcover volume.
3. Superman’s loyalty and love for family and friends is an inspiration. Batman is a tortured soul. He is the symbol of resolve and has a great mind, but because of his own personal tragedy, he doesn’t like to get too close to others. Not so with Superman. He loves others so deeply, many enemies mistakenly see it as a weakness. It is not. Like Bruce Wayne, Superman lost his biological parents. However, he grew to love and appreciate the dedication of his adopted parents, planet, and its people. From his romantic love for Lois Lane, to his dedication and support towards fellow superheroes to his watching out for the safety and life of every single person he meets, Superman’s compassion, empathy, and genuine respect for others is as incredible as his physical prowess.
4. This #1000 issue has to potential to turn fans onto the talents of an enormous amount of writers and artists. I received a copy of the silvery, slick convention exclusive of Action Comics #1000, but DC has put forth a ton of variant covers, including a set of new images depicting the different eras of the comics. Even the issue itself gives us a variety of talent with writers, including those not known for comics, and artists including Geoff Johns, who teams up with Superman movie director Richard Donner for a story, John Cassaday, Louise Simonson, Laura Martin, Tim Sale, Jim Lee, José Luis García-López, Brad Meltzer and a world of others. If this many wonderful folk love The Man of Steel, he must have something special going for him. These names alone are worth picking up the #1000 Action Comics issue.
5. Admit it, those “red shorts” make a lasting impression. Make fun of them all you want, Superman’s tighty whities (or reddies) are one of the most talked and recognizable costume details created. Since the first comic debuted, I would argue most superhero costumes are some sort of variant on Superman’s look, with or without external underwear. Yes, they’ve tried to do away with them on more than one occasion, and they even tried to give Superman a total “makeover” a few times (like the black outfit or the horrible Electro look from 1997), but the original, primary colored, caped ensemble is the one we remember, red shorts and all. There’s even some giggle-worthy conversation about his “shorts” coming back in issue #1000, but no spoilers from me.
6. Even the cover of the first Action Comics started something. If a picture is worth a thousand words, Shuster’s unforgettable cover depicting Superman smashing a green car has sparked a million words, images, parodies and story ideas. The idea of being strong enough to lift, stop, or hurl a vehicle has been used by superhero after superhero story as a symbol of super strength. The #1000 issue does some worthy references to the cover, with a gorgeous recreation by Alex Ross, as well as the fate of the car and its driver in the Johns/Donner story. Every image, every word, every character can create a web of new ideas, and we have that first Superman story to thank for others, from the many stories of Supergirl, Superboy, the Super Friends and Krypto the Superdog, to a further adventure of one nondescript green car. Worlds and dimensions of imagination were all started by one little baby from a faraway planet.
7. No matter how amazing and heroic, this alien from another planet can be, Clark Kent is just a “regular person,” with a good soul. One of the artists shown in the 80 Years of Superman collection, as part of issue #800, is Tim Sale. Sale drew my favorite depiction of Clark Kent in a four-part by him and writer Jeph Loeb, Superman For All Season. The picture shows Clark, lying on his bed in his little apartment, eating a sandwich while the world outside talks what kind of incredible life a hero like Superman would lead. Kal El’s abilities may be beyond our understanding, but Clark is one of us. The image reminds me while Superman was saving the world, Clark was just a big old country boy making an honest and modest living as a fledgling reporter.
Although Batman is my first fandom, I admit Superman’s world might provide me with some more favorite stories still to come, as DC teased in the very last page of the Issue 1,000…
8. Yes, Brian Michael Bendis (a Cleveland boy like Siegel and Shuster) has come to the DC side, and we get a debut peek at his work in the Issue #1,000. This means that 1,000 issues in and 80 years later, if Bendis and several other talented creatives have anything to say about it, Superman’s adventures are just getting started. And they’re going to be fun.
GeekMom Lisa received a copy of Action Comics #1000 and Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman for review purposes.