It's no secret that superheroes are pretty in now, enjoying a period of popularity in the mainstream thanks to a golden age of superhero media, from films to TV to even video games. While the DCEU is a hot sprawling mess, Superman still remains an iconic and beloved character in the hearts of people around the world, and it's pretty safe to say we'd be missing an entire industry if it wasn't for him.
April 18 saw the 80th anniversary of Actions Comics #1, which features the very first appearance of Superman as a character. It's hard to forget how iconic that cover is, of him holding up a car to save a pedestrian. 80 years on, Action Comics hit issue #1000, a milestone that no one would've predicted, certainly not Joe Shuster and Jerry Spiegel, Superman's co-creators.
Certainly, many people casually dismiss Superman saying he's a bland character and the epitome of boring and overpowered, which couldn't be further from the truth. He's been an endearing character in most cases of how he's portrayed, during the 80 years of being in print and inspiring the word 'superhero' and everything associated with it. Action Comics #1000, like all landmark issues, takes the best of everyone who's worked on Superman and some other DC Comics greats and effectively showcases why Superman is so great in a collection of short stories in the comic.
From people who've worked on Superman classics like Dan Jurgens (famous for killing off Superman and creating Doomsday in 'The Death of Superman'), to modern DC greats like Tom King (the current Batman writer) and one of the most prolific names in all of comics, Brian Michael Bendis, who made his DC debut after switching from Marvel, whose work on Marvel's Ultimate Universe line of comics is the inspiration for the MCU. All of the stories have the same thing in common, they emphasise the best qualities of Superman.
Superman's best stories all focus on how human he is, despite being an alien and something close to a physical god. He's just trying to be a normal man with a good heart, and it really shows in the hands of the creators who know him the best. Tom King and Clay Mann's story stands out as the best highlight from this book, a simple reflective piece on Superman appreciating his family at the end of the world in a potential distant future. The art is extremely surreal thanks to some great pencils from Clay Mann, as well as some bright vivid colours from colourist Jordie Bellaire, whose work on the issue makes it a visual treat that puts some movies to shame.
In 80 years, Superman's been portrayed wildly differently, from comics to his extremist-with-good-intentions take in Injustice: Gods Among Us, to alien saviour in Man of Steel and the other DCEU movies. But it's hard to take away from his big blue Scout Boy persona that defines his core values. Action Comics #1000 is a great landmark issue that you should read, going for surprisingly cheap for a large sized issue since DC wanted to share this historic moment with as many people as possible. Look for it at Jamil's Comics and Collectibles, it's worth a read if you're interested in why people love Superman. After all, you don't get to see a character celebrate 80 years of being wildly successful and popular every day.
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