Action Comics #1000: the 10 most important issues from 80 years of Superman

  

Eighty years ago today, the first issue of Action Comics was released, with the now iconic cover showing Superman lifting a car over his head as hoodlums flee. It was comic book readers’ first introduction to the character, starring in the lead story by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Now, Action Comics has become the first monthly comic book to hit its 1,000th issue. In the manner of major book and film releases, #1000 got a midnight release, with studio DC Comics encouraging comic book lovers to mark the historic issue, which includes stories from artists and writers including Brian Michael Bendis, Scott Snyder, Louise Simonson, Jock, and Marv Wolfman. But what are the most important issues in Action Comics’ 80-year history? Try these for starters:


Superman Vs the Cab Protective League

(#13, June 1939)

Forget Superman, it’s Uberman: Clark Kent is taking an innocent cab ride when his taxi is rammed by a rival firm’s vehicle. It’s the work of an organised racket aiming to take down innocent cabbies – but Superman’s having none of that.

Apparently, this is the first issue where Superman is shown actually flying, which makes you wonder: why does he bother with taxis at all?


The Man Who Hated Christmas

(# 105, February 1947)

Remember that famous 1940s Captain America cover where he’s shown punching Hitler? Well this is DC’s tilt at a titanic, though less hateful figure, as Superman physically assaults Father Christmas by forcing him down a chimney (he may actually be trying to help).

Santa is a little too portly to fit, because evil millionaire Jasper Rasper has decided he hates Christmas and fed Santa sweets laced with “a new wonder drug which causes fatty tissue to multiply at miraculous speed!” And like the Joe Wicks of his day, Superman puts Santa on a high-intensity training regime. All just in time for Christmas.


The Key to Fort Superman

(#241, June 1958)

Now we’re getting somewhere – specifically, the North Pole. But don’t worry! No Santa Claus here: it’s just Superman wielding a gigantic golden key, which unlocks his Fortress of Solitude, introduced for the very first time in issue #241.

The Fortress is like a super man-cave, where Superman keeps all his stuff (an alien zoo, a big metal diary in which Superman pens his memoirs, a chess-playing robot – all true). But you know that mate who keeps turning up when you’re just wanting to chill out on your own? Here, that’s Batman. Hasn’t he got his own cave to hang out in?


The Unemployed Superman

(#368, October 1968)

Thirty years after his debut, Superman was put ignominiously out of work. And he didn’t even get a carriage clock. Our hero has been off doing something space-y, and when he comes back, he finds that Earth has become a very different place. All criminals have turned over a new leaf. War has been abolished. There aren’t even any natural disasters.

It’s all thanks to the Sentinels, a group of mysterious aliens who’ve sorted everything out, and who tell Superman he can toddle off to a distant planet where his powers don’t work. Stupidly, he believes them. (For a bit).


The Super-Cigars of Perry White

(#436, June 1974)

File this one under “Things they’d never get away with today”. In his Clark Kent guise, Superman works as a reporter at the Daily Planet, where his boss is Perry White, who once helped Superman with some problem bothering some mutants from another planet somewhere. To show their gratitude, the aliens give Perry White some special cigars, and every time he smokes one he gets super powers just like Superman.

To think it would be only a few years later Superman would be having a pop at evil smokey joe and the UK’s Health Education Council villain Nick O’Teen.


Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow

(#583, September 1986)

In the 1980s, DC embarked upon what would become an almost annual tradition in the world of superhero comics – completely rebooting its tangled continuity with a cross-title event called Crisis on Infinite Earths.

As a way of saying goodbye to the old Superman, DC published a two-part story, started in Superman and finished in Action Comics, the end written by none other than Alan Moore. It’s actually a quite lovely “imaginary story” that brings in pretty much every aspect of the character’s legend of the preceding half-century … and ends with a knowing wink.


Where There Is a Will…

(#642, June 1989)

This issue is notable for what actually wasn’t in it, which should have been a story written by Neil Gaiman. For a period in the late 1980s, Action Comics became a weekly, with a rotating roster of characters in the main story. This was the last issue before the comic returned to a monthly schedule, and Gaiman’s story featured Superman and Green Lantern in their alter-egos Clark Kent and Hal Jordan.

However, DC ruled that Kent and Jordan shouldn’t know each other’s secret identities, so pulled it (and replaced it with something a bit similar by another writer).


Swan Song

(#700, June 1994)

In the early 1990s, Superman died at the hands of villain Doomsday (an event that even made international mainstream news) and then was resurrected, a miracle that occurs in comics quite a lot.

When he comes to, Superman has very long hair, and Metropolis is bombed and lies in ruins. Meanwhile, Lois Lane has been doing some investigating and discovered that Lex Luthor is, in fact, a clone and not his own son. It all got a bit Dynasty at this point.


Last Son

(#851, August 2007)

Although the Christopher Reeve Superman movie had introduced the evil Kryptonians led by General Zod 30 years before, those characters weren’t folded into the main DC continuity until this storyline, which was co-written (with Geoff Johns) by Richard Donner, director of the 1978 movie.

It was also presented with a 3D cover to try to give the reader that full, freaky Phantom Zone (the other-dimensional Guantánamo Bay where Superman routinely chucked evildoers) experience.


Superman Vs The City of Tomorrow

(#1 or #904, November 2011)

In 2011 DC had another reboot, and all the publisher’s comic numbering was reset back to #1, though this was in fact #904 of Action. The comics have since been retroactively dual-numbered to preserve the ongoing numbering of the comic.

In this issue, wrtier Grant Morrison took over with artist Rags Morales to take Superman back to basics, resetting the continuity to tell the story of the nascent DC universe afresh. And guess what? Superman wore short sleeves and didn’t wear his red underpants. Thankfully for purists, he gets his knickers back on in number 1,000.

From: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/apr/18/action-comics-1000-the-10-most-important-issues-from-80-years-of-superman

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