Action Comics #1000
Covers by Jim Lee and Scott Williams (Main), Steve Rude (1930s), Michael Cho (1940s), Dave Gibbons (1950s), Michael Allred (1960s), Jim Steranko (1970s), Joshua Middleton (1980s), Dan Jurgens (1990s), Lee Bermejo (2000s)
April 18, 2018
The issue eighty years in the making. Action Comics is the first mainstream comic to hit this landmark number, thanks in part to forty-two issues in 1988 when the book was a weekly series and the last two years where it’s been a biweekly series. Serendipitously, Action Comics #1000 now directly coincides with the eightieth anniversary of Action Comics #1. This issue is 100% a celebration, bringing the best Superman talent of the last eighty years together to tell stories about the legend of Superman.
There are a few notable names missing, and a few questionable inclusions. Sadly, Superman’s fathers aren’t included. Thanks to Marv Wolfman, DC found some unpublished pages from Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, but they decided to put those in Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman instead. I believe those pages should have been in this book. Notably, John Byrne is missing, despite having orchestrated Superman’s revision in the 1980s. The people that took Superman new directions in the 2000s are also absent; no Jeph Loeb or Ed McGuiness (Marvel has them on lock), and no Joe Kelly. That said, despite some curious absences, the book makes up for that with a murderer’s row of talent. I’m going to break down each story individually, because each is unique and important in its own way.
But before I get into the stories, I want to talk about the covers. DC did nine covers for all comic shops (there are also several shop exclusive covers, but we’re only going to talk about the main nine), covering all nine decades of Superman. Jim Lee did the main cover, and the modern take on the character, and sadly, his cover is the least interesting. Each of the other artists captured the feeling of their respective decade, perhaps none more so than Michael Allred’s Silver Age 1960s tribute. There are so many actual Silver Age stories that are represented on that cover it almost makes me want to cry. The nicest touch on these covers however, is the fact that DC used decade-appropriate trade dress for each. The 1960s cover has the classic checkerboard top. The 1980s version has the John Byrne era team-up banner. Each decade has the respective company logo of the time, and it’s so nice to see the old DC bullet of the 1980s and 1990s that I grew up with. The only DC logo that is missing is the page turn logo from the New 52 era.
“From The City That Has Everything”
Dan Jurgens (writer/artist), Norm Rapmund (inker), Hi-Fi (colorist), Rob Leigh (letterer)
As always, it’s wonderful to see Dan Jurgens pencils in a book. I’ve said before that he’s my favorite Superman artist, and I had been hoping that when this book rolled around he’d be doing some pencils for it. He’s also my favorite Superman writer of all time, and while he has one more issue of Action (a special to close his run), this story could have fit as a good ending. Metropolis is honoring Superman for his heroic deeds, but Superman’s worrying about a Khund invasion. In fact, he’s hoping for that invasion, so he can get out of the ceremony. There are speeches from people Superman has saved, including one whose life he saved by inspiring him to leave behind his criminal past. This was a perfect story to open the book.
“Never Ending Battle”
Peter J. Tomasi (writer), Patrick Gleason (artist), Alejandro Sanchez (colorist), Tom Napolitano (letterer)
It’s fitting that they opened Action Comics #1000 with the two creative teams that have been on Action and Superman since Rebirth, and that the issue closes with the man who is taking the legacy into the future. Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have had a remarkable run on Superman the last two years, and much like Jurgens’s story, this could have been a great end to their run. Like him though, they do have a special coming to close out their run. If Jurgens’s story is about the meaning of Superman, Tomasi and Gleason’s is about his history. Like the variant covers, it’s about tracking what Superman has been throughout the years. It starts with 1930s Superman, a little less restrained, a lot less powerful. In the end, this story showed us that despite their differences, there is one core element to all eras of Superman. His love for others will always make him stronger.
“An Enemy Within”
Marv Wolfman (writer), Curt Swan (artist), Butch Guice (inker pages 1-4), Kurt Schaffenberger (inker page 5), Hi-Fi (colorist and production assist), Rob Leigh (letterer)
This is probably the story I was most interested in when it was announced: Marv Wolfman provides a script to some lost Curt Swan pencils. Finding a way to include the late Curt Swan and Kurt Schaffenberger in this book was a sentimental touch that means the world to me and other fans. Curt Swan defined the look of Superman for nearly three decades, and Schaffenberger likewise defined the look of Lois Lane. The story is mostly Superman-adjacent, with the character himself off-panel, but Wolfman does a good job telling a timely story of gun violence, while making it all about the compassion of Superman, and how he inspires others to be better. The last page is a beautiful shot of Superman, and he looks so soft and kind, one can see how he inspires us all.
Paul Levitz and Neal Adams (storytellers), Hi-Fi (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer)
This is very much current Neal Adams, rather than classic Neal Adams. Something about his art style just doesn’t work right in his modern books. Little things seem off in some of his faces, and sometimes it seems like there are too many lines. The story is simple, a game of chess between Superman and Lex Luthor. Superman takes time out of his day to try to make his own archenemy a better man, all while Luthor plots to cheat and betray Superman at every turn. Neal Adams homages his own classic Superman breaking Kryptonite chains cover, and despite the foul play, Superman doesn’t lose hope in changing Luthor.
Geoff Johns and Richard Donner (storytellers), Olivier Coipel (artist), Alejandro Sanchez (colorist), Matt Wilson (special thanks), Nick Napolitano (letterer)
Its not easy to pick a favorite story in this book, as almost every one of them reminded me of all the reasons Superman is one of my favorite characters. But if I had to pick one, this would be it. It’s another story that goes back to the roots of the character, with the triangular S and the strappy boots of Superman’s earliest appearances. Superman stops a drunk driver by totaling his car and hanging him from a telephone wire. But then he does what few superheroes take the time to do, and follows up with the man. Superman learns about his life and figures out the root cause of his problems, and then guides the man to be better. That’s who Superman should always be, someone to allow us to look inside ourselves to find someone better.
“The Fifth Season”
Scott Snyder (writer), Rafael Albuquerque (artist), Dave McCaig (colorist), Tom Napolitano (letterer)
I’m sad to say it, but this is one of my least favorite stories in the book. It’s too similar to “The Game” from Levitz and Adams, with Luthor trying to trap a Superman who is just trying to be nice, and the story is honestly from a writer who didn’t belong in this issue. I love Scott Snyder’s work, but he’s done very little with Superman. Snyder did the heavily delayed Superman: Unchained series with Jim Lee back in 2013, and used Superman in Metal, but all in all that stacks up extremely low in comparison to most other writers in this book. I get why DC would include him, since he’s their biggest draw right now, but it still rubs me the wrong way that he was included while the Siegel and Shuster story was relegated to the less sought-after trade.
Tom King (writer), Clay Mann (artist), Jordie Bellaire (colorist), John Workman (letterer)
Speaking of writers who don’t belong in this book, here we have Tom King. King works best when he’s allowed to work outside of the mainstream, and that’s not here. While Snyder at least had one actual Superman book under his belt, King has included Superman as a guest star in a few issues of Batman. That might not be a problem, if the story were good, but this one is not. The art by Mann and Bellaire is gorgeous, but the story fails to understand Superman. Superman is the one hero who constantly achieves the unachievable. To have a futuristic story where he gave up billions of years ago, and is further giving up now, does a disservice to the celebration of the character that this book is meant to be.
Louise Simonson (writer), Jerry Ordway (artist), Dave McCaig (colorist), Carlos M. Mangual (letterer)
Aside from the Curt Swan story from earlier in the issue, this is the one I was most excited for. Louise Simonson was the first woman I knew in comics, and is a lifelong hero of mine. Jerry Ordway is one of the greatest Superman artists and writers of our time. Both deserved to be in the book, and I was so happy to see them working together. Both were absolutely instrumental to my introduction to comics. The story is a snapshot in the life of Clark Kent, and it illustrates how much being both Clark and Superman mean to him. People (*cough* Quentin Tarantino *cough*) often get this wrong. Unlike Batman, neither the Clark identity or the Superman one are more valid than the other. Clark is Superman because he can be, but Superman is Clark because he has to be.
Paul Dini (writer), José Luis Garcia-López (artist), Kevin Nowlan (inker), Trish Mulvihill (colorist), Josh Reed (letterer)
Going from one of the all-time great Superman artists to another is a fantastic treat for the eyes. José Luis Garcia-López is semi-retired today, but his art is probably the most oft seen of any artist in this book. Garcia-López is responsible for the style guides from the 1980s and 1990s that is used for most DC merchandise. As such, almost any school kid has seen one of the many Garcia-López pictures of Superman or Batman or any myriad of other heroes and villains. This story was a lot of fun, showing us another perspective of Superman’s legend, and what it looks like from the eyes of one of his many adversaries.
“Faster Than A Speeding Bullet”
Brad Meltzer (Writer), John Cassaday (Artist), Laura Martin (Colorist) Chris Euopoulos (Letterer)
This isn’t my favorite story, but it does include my favorite exchange. “Everything okay, Clark?” “Absolutely, Lois.” “I see that look on your face, you met a good one today, didn’t you?” “I meet a good one every day.” “You know what I’m saying, Clark. People always say they’re inspired by you . . . but I know your real secret. You’re the one inspired by them.” It’s one of the main themes of this comic, and of Superman as a whole. Superman will always see the good in you, and will always do whatever he can to bring that out.
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Jim Lee (artist), Scott Williams (inker), Alex Sinclair (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer)
Here it is, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. I never thought I’d see the day that Bendis would jump ship to DC, and yet here we are. I’m not a huge Marvel fan, and my exposure to Bendis is very limited, so I’m leery to see him take on my favorite characters. In this short snippet, we see some of the hallmarks of Bendis’s work, notably the back and forth banter between the bystanders looking over the wreckage of the diner. The story itself is anti-climatic, and purposefully so. This is the very beginning of the story that’s going to spill into DC Nation and Man of Steel, and as such feels a bit out of place in this volume of completed stories. It ends on a major cliffhanger, as both Superman and Supergirl are in immediate peril.
Eighty pages and eleven stories later, we’re at the end of this epic issue. While not all the stories worked for me, enough of them did that this absolutely felt like a perfect celebration of Superman’s history and legacy, as well as a look into his bright future. There are a few things I would have changed, a handful of creators I’d have included over others, but all in all, this is about the best tribute to the Man of Steel I could have asked for.