Spotlight Sunday 4.22.18
In the least surprising turn of events imaginable, there are spoilers ahead for…
Action Comics #1000
Cover: Jim Lee
Variant Covers: Steve Rude, Michael Cho, Dave Gibbons, Michael Allred, Jim Steranko, Joshua Middleton, Dan Jurgens, Lee Bermejo
“That’s why they let him speak, Jon. To remind us that people can always be better. That we should always have hope.”
Anyone who knows me – and anyone who’s been reading these Spotlight entries – knows that I’m a fan of Superman.
Much as he is for a certain cauliflower-eared member of the supporting cast of characters in Metropolis, “Sooperman is my fav’rit.”
(There is a compelling argument for Lois Lane being my “fav’rit,” but we won’t quibble.)
As much as people deride the character and dismiss him as boring, and as often as he’s mishandled – both in and out of comics – the fact remains that there is something compelling about the character, given his enduring success. He’s been with us for 80 years and 1,000 issues, and has appeared in film, radio, television, prose novels, video games, and even a Broadway musical.
He’s referred to in songs, his image and his symbol adorn countless pieces of merchandise, and it’s not especially hyperbolic to suggest that had there been no Superman there would be no such thing as comic books today.
He’s an icon, a symbol of the American exceptionalism that is, and always has been, more myth than reality, but it’s a symbol that endures because it contains such mythic power and resonance. “The American Way” that Superman champions – though that was a later addition to the Truth and Justice for which he’s always stood – is aspirational, a reflection not of what is but of what could be. Of what we hope it will be.
“Must There Be A Superman?” asked writer Elliot S! Maggin in a story featured in Superman #247. It’s a question that has been asked many times since.
My answer to that question is even less of a mystery than which comic I’d be writing about today: an unequivocal yes.
The fact that we’re here, 80 years later, talking about the 1,000th issue of the comic in which he first appeared seems to bear that out.
Yes, there must be a Superman, and, fortunately for us, there is.
The first story contained in this volume is brought to us by Dan Jurgens, a writer and artist who has a long history with the Man of Steel, and it’s a good one, focused on Superman – as Clark Kent – feeling awkward as the citizens of Metropolis celebrate their hero.
Lois is prodding him to put in an appearance as Superman, Jon is eager to step up and take his place, but despite Lois pointing out that this celebration is for them, not him, Clark would rather be anywhere else, even if “anywhere else” is fighting off an invasion by the warlike Khunds.
Fortunately for the people gathered there, and perhaps unfortunately for Superman’s sense of humility, his friends have got it covered.
Next, in a story by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, Superman finds himself trapped in Hypertime by Vandal Savage, fighting his way through bygone eras – each one a nod to the styles and stories of the eight decades of Superman’s history – in order to make it home in time to celebrate his birthday with Lois and Jon.
I’m not certain of the provenance of the next story, which features art from the late Curt Swan, who drew Superman for decades, and a script by Marv Wolfman. It seems to be cobbled together from pieces of an unfinished – or at least unpublished – story, using Swan’s art (with a final page provided from a comic from the ‘80s, inked by another longtime Superman artist, Kurt Schaffenberger), with dialogue provided by Wolfman. Superman appears only in voiceover, with a focus on Maggie Sawyer’s efforts to deal with a hostage situation while Superman is half a world away fighting Brainiac, listening in on the situation, and eventually discovering that the two incidents are connected.
Geoff Johns and Richard Donner, with art by Olivier Copiel, give us the untold rest of the story of the car-smashing, er, action featured on the cover of Action Comics #1.
Superman and Lex Luthor take a look at the past in a story by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque.
Tom King and Clay Mann tell a tale set in the unimaginably-distant future in which Superman pays a final visit to Earth as it nears its end. DC put this story online in advance of the issue’s release, so you can read it yourself here.
The great Louise “Weezi” Simonson and Jerry Ordway focus on the demands of living a double life, as we find our hero rushing to meet a deadline in what is a job for Clark Kent, while also dealing with more than one thing that looks like a job for Superman.
José Luis García-López, who is, as I often note, a goddamn national treasure, and who drew the featured image (as part of the DC Style Guide), provides the gorgeous art for a fun story by Paul Dini that ties in to one of my favorite episodes of Superman: The Animated Series, featuring a certain behatted imp from another dimension.
Brad Meltzer, with art by John Cassaday, continues to love using the word femtosecond – and even introduces attosecond – as he demonstrates that “faster than a speeding bullet” is a relative concept.
The issue is wrapped up with a preview of the upcoming Man of Steel mini-series written by Brian Michael Bendis, with this segment’s art provided by Jim Lee (the mini-series will feature several artists). In it we find Superman and Supergirl (who also debuted in the pages of Action Comics, way back in 1959, in #252) in a pitched battle with a powerful enemy who claims to hold a shocking truth about the destruction of Krypton.
The issue is rounded out with pin-up pages by Walter Simonson, John Romita, Jr., and Jorge Jimenez.
Of course, while it’s clear in some of the images I’ve posted, I have not yet mentioned one important fact: THE TRUNKS ARE BACK.
Issues like this, containing multiple short stories by multiple creators are usually hit or miss, but this one is pretty strong throughout, and even the weakest stories are still well-done and entertaining, and contain strong character moments that are true to the essential core of who and what Superman is.
I was particularly pleased to see strong representation from creators from what’s known as the “Triangle Era,” which remains my favorite era of the Super-books.
(At one point in the ‘90s there were four monthly Superman books: Action, Superman, Adventures of Superman, and Superman: The Man of Steel. While each book had its own focus and told its own stories, all of them were very closely tied to each other, and plots and subplots would continue across them. As a result, there was a reading order, indicated on the cover by a number inside of a triangle.)
My primary complaint is that, as is so often the case, Lois didn’t get quite as much focus as I would have liked. After all, it’s her 80th anniversary and 1,000th issue, too, given that she was right there from the beginning.
Five years ago, she got her own hardcover anniversary collection of stories, so I’m hoping the same will happen this year. Of course, if I were running things, the celebration of her 80 years would include various specials, linewide Lois Lane variant covers, and, for the month, instead of Superman in Action Comics, the cover for Action would read Lois Lane in Action Comics, and Superman would be titled Lois Lane’s Husband Superman, in the way that her own book was titled Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane.
(I told you: there’s an argument to be made for Lois being my “fav’rit.”)
I can’t bring myself to be particularly excited about the arrival of Bendis at DC, or about the upcoming mini-series (though I will probably buy it), but there’s no escaping the fact that, while I don’t hold the same esteem for him as I do for his predecessors, his departure from Marvel to work at DC is nearly as seismic a shift as it was when Jack Kirby, and, more than a decade later, John Byrne joined up with their former employer’s Distinguished Competitor.
Still, Bendis is…well, Bendis.
We’ll see what the future holds, I suppose.
I missed out on picking up most of the variants at the comic shop – they all sold out – but I did snag this Joshua Middleton variant at the shop, and I’ve ordered the Michael Allred and Dan Jurgens variants online.
One of these days I should probably write the book-length essay containing my thoughts about Superman, my rejection of the “He’s too powerful to be interesting” complaints, and, of course, my feelings about Lois (and the rest of the supporting cast and the mythos) that seems to be required in order to express them in a way that isn’t thin and disjointed, but even this historic day is not that day.
Which is probably just as well, at least as far as you’re concerned.
I’m glad I got to see Superman reach this historic milestone, and while there is zero chance that I will be here for #2000, I look forward to seeing what I can of what the next 1,000 issues will bring.
The end is (not) here with Deadman #6, as it seems that Adams may not have figured out an ending to this story, and DC decided that, thanks to masochists like me, these latter-day Adams comics sell well enough that there’s justification to release a Book Two. In Nanda Parbat, after meeting with Rama Kushna, Boston learns that he’s never been speaking to Rama Kushna herself, but rather some other, heretofore unintroduced character named Tatsinda (who is a deep cut from old Deadman stories), though her relationship to Rama Kushna is unclear. Daughter? Girlfriend? Apprentice? I don’t know, but she says mysterious stuff about Boston’s siblings, and it turns out that she’s got Boston’s body, and it’s possible to restore him to life. But if she does that, he won’t have the abilities he needs to help solve the mystery that will carry us to Book Two. Sigh
Mister Miracle #8 focuses on the typical trials and tribulations of new parents who both work, doing everything they can to ensure the health, happiness, and safety of their child, spend some time with each other, and attend to their job responsibilities. Of course, where it gets a little less typical is that their work responsibilities include serving as co-leaders of a race of gods and leading an interplanetary conflict that isn’t going so well.
Without explanation, we find Funky Flashman once more among the living – and King really leaning into the Funky Flashman as a parody of Stan Lee thing – and serving as Scott and Barda’s nanny.
We reach a point at which young Jacob is starting to say his first word, but as we remember that a certain someone Is, we keep in mind that “daddy” isn’t the only word that starts with “da.”
That does it for this Action-packed Spotlight Sunday.
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