Superman turned 80 this year, and as part of the celebration, DC Comics released a special Action Comics volume that included several of the first Superman issues, memorable Superman comics over the past 80 years, and plenty of facts about the Man of Steel we’ve come to know.
I’m a huge fan of Superman, so I didn’t hesitate to check this book out from my local library and dig into the original lore of Superman. I found a few surprises, but mainly this volume of comics and essays made me realize why Superman is easily one of my favorite superheroes.
The most memorable parts of this volume were actually the essays they included. A wide variety of people from the creators’ children to Superman writers to comic experts gave their two cents about Superman. The resounding message? Superman influenced a lot. I’m talking everything we know about the comic book industry is because of Superman. His comics lifted the stories off the page and brought them to life.
Without Superman, we would have no Batman, no Wonder Woman, no DC Comics, no Marvel comics, no superhero blockbuster films, no franchises… nada. All because two immigrants wanted to bring hope to people’s lives. It’s amazing. As a writer, I find their story, their journey into the comic book world, inspiring.
One of the essayists recounts how Superman was created, another tells a story of how they saved Superman comics from being incinerated back when the comic companies and artists destroyed any unused comics without a second thought, and more explore the ins and outs of Superman lore. Why he is memorable What made Clark Kent so great. The coming of Supergirl and Lois Lane and tons of other noteworthy characters.
But of course, I enjoyed reading the comics as well. They couldn’t, of course, include every single important moment in Superman’s comic history in this volume or it’d be really long. They, however, included several that stuck out. Obviously, the first one: Action Comics #1, where Superman is lifting a car in the air on the front cover. The first few Superman comics were surprising because Superman isn’t as gentle or peaceful as he is today. He threatens quite a few bad guys into making the right decisions. In addition there are so many narrative and dialogue bubbles that it made my head spin to read them. 1938 was a different time, man.
For comparison, this volume also includes a Vigilante comic, which was another story that appeared in Action Comics #1 alongside Superman. It was considered to be the second best of the time because it actually told an exciting story. But it still had no shine compared to Superman.
Other memorable comics included is his first encounter with Brainiac, the appearance of Supergirl (which has a very different story line than the one I’m familiar with), and his “Earth-2” marriage to Lois Lane! They include a few newer comics as well, trying to hit several important ones from each decade.
I love the inclusion of so many voices in this volume. Between the essayists, the various comics with the different writers, and the section that includes artwork over the years, this volume really shows the value our society places on superheroes and especially Superman’s legacy today.
My only problem with the volume is that I wish there had been more essays in the latter half of the book or even an essay or explanation for each comic they included. (Like why did you include three comics about Supergirl? What was significant about the Earth-2 marriage or this or that?) The first half did great explaining the comics included in the volume, but the second half didn’t have commentary at all. Also, even though I know they can’t include everything, I do wish they had included Action Comic #1000, which was released this year in celebration of Superman’s 80th anniversary. It would have sorta made this book whole by having Action Comic #1 and #1000 as “bookends” to the volume.
Overall though, this was a wonderful collection of Superman’s memorable comic moments, paying homage to the past eighty years of Superman’s run as the Man of Tomorrow and helping the comic book industry take flight!