In the 1930s, two young men from Cleveland, Ohio named Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster came up with a new type of character, a science fiction hero with bright colors and a broad chin known as Superman, the world’s first and greatest Superhero. In the Summer of 1938, National Allied Publications released Action Comics #1, the first Superhero comic book ever, and the legacy of Superman began.
For the landmark 1000th issue of Action Comics, DC assembled many of the best and most passionate creators to contribute a single story that celebrates the history of Superman. What resulted are ten stunning stories that pay tribute and homage to the Man of Steel and everything that comes with him.
From The City That Has Everything
Written and Penciled by Dan Jurgens
Inks by Norm Rapmund
Colors by Hi-Fi
The first story is also the longest as it serves not only as Dan Jurgens’ contribution to the issue, but also as the last issue of his Action Comics run that has been ongoing since Rebirth. It’s Superman Day in Metropolis, and Clark is uncomfortable. He doesn’t do what he does for praise, and it feels self-indulgent to him to stand around and listen to it. Lois insists that Clark stay, not for him but for them. The people who came to tell their stories and thank Superman want to do this, and Clark shouldn’t let his hometown humbleness ruin their day. Throughout the issue, Clark keeps trying to find excuses to run off and be Superman, but Lois has made sure that the Justice League has covered for him. One by one, different supporting cast members from Superman’s stories get on stage and tell their tale about Superman, as well as a few stories from random citizens that really show the impact that Superman has on Metropolis.
Written by Peter J Tomasi
Art by Patrick Gleason
Colors by Alejandro Sanchez
Told entirely in one-page splash panels, this story takes us through the history of Superman. Vandal Savage has found a way to weaponize Hypertime, and sends Superman through an endless time loop in order to deal with him once and for all. Superman is taken through different eras in his history, from his largely undefined beginning through WWII, crazy space battles, monsters, and even parallel versions of himself. With as much homage as story, the stellar art delivers on this touching yet compelling chapter that culminates in Superman celebrating his own landmark birthday.
An Enemy Within
Script by Marv Wolfman
Pencils by Curt Swan
Inks by Butch Guise and Kurt Schaffenberger
Color by Hi-Fi
This brief segment is unlike the others in that it was not written for the celebratory 1000th issue of Action Comics. There was a story by Cindy Goff drawn by the legendary Curt Swan that was never published until now. Marv Wolfman finished the story, adding a page from another book of Curt Swans at the end. It’s a sweet story that’s not about Superman, but instead about Maggie Sawyer diffusing a hostage situation, highlighting the ways in which Superman indirectly helped save the day by inspiring Metropolis, with art that you just don’t see anymore these days.
Story by Paul Levitz and Neal Adams
Colors by Hi-Fi
Neal Adams and Paul Levitz, who together have forgotten more about DC Comics than most of us will ever know, provide a story that brings you right back to their heyday, the Bronze Age of Comics. Complete with an old-school chubby Luthor, it features Superman and Lex Luthor playing chess on the roof of LexCorp tower. Lex is initially untrusting, but Superman assures him that he’s just trying to extend an olive branch. As expected, Lex tries to capture and kill Superman, Superman escapes, and even rubs off a little on Lex, completing a truly classic tale that could have been written at any point in the last 80 years.
Written by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner
Art by Olivier Coipel
Colors by Alejandro Sanchez
The director 1978’s Superman: The Movie, Richard Donner, paired with his old assistant turned comics legend Geoff Johns for a story that goes all the way back to Action Comics #1. Realistically and impactfully drawn by Olivier Coipel, they follow the driver of the car that Superman is smashing on the cover of that historic issue, the first criminal that Superman stopped when he and his partner abducted Lois Lane. Superman goes back to the man and gives him a choice: he’s in charge of his own life, and he can decide if he wants to be a better man or not, it’s that simple. Superman inspires the man to turn his life around and give back to the community that raised him.
The Fifth Season
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Rafael Albequerque
Colors by Dave McGaig
Scott Snyder and his American Vampire collaborator Rafael Albequerque show us a meeting between Superman and Lex Luthor in the Smallville Planetarium. Superman insists that Luthor explain why he’s there, but Lex instead responds with a story. He tells Superman about a time when he was a young boy and tried to send a message off world via the planetarium with the help of his classmate, a young boy named Clark Kent. The two look up at the stars together, and feel peace.
Written by Tom King
Art by Clay Man
Colors by Jordie Bellaire
“Of Tomorrow” is a beautiful 5 page story about Superman at the end of Earth’s life, 5 billion years from now, and visiting the graves of his parents, Ma and Pa Kent. With Earth falling into the sun, Superman is forced to say his final goodbye, and catch his parents up on his family one last time. It’s a touching and thoughtful scene that is beautifully rendered by the art team.
Written by Louise Simonson
Art by Jerry Ordway
Colors by Dave McCaig
As the title suggests, Simonson and Ordway chose to simply show five minutes in Superman’s day. Clark Kent is coming up on a deadline, and Perry White tells him he only has five minutes left to finish the article he is working on. Unfortunately, danger doesn’t take a break for Superman to do his day job, so Clark is forced to work on his article while sneaking in and out to stop an armed robbery, a runaway train, and a falling satellite, all in only five minutes!
Written by Paul Dini
Pencils by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Inks by Kevin Nowlan
Colors by Trish Mulvihill
Rather than a proper Superman story, this segment takes the audience through a giant Superman Museum also known as Superman’s Actionland. This allows Paul Dini to guide the incomparable Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez through so many different amazing elements of Superman’s lore, from allies to villains to landmark moments and iconic landmarks. The short story manages to even end with a charming twist!
Faster Than A Speeding Bullet
Written by Brad Meltzer
Art by John Cassaday
Colors by Laura Martin
The final tribute chapter also takes place over the smallest amount of time. In a story dedicated to Christopher Reeve, Superman is flying as fast as he can to stop a hostage from being shot by her captor. The only problem is that he’s too far away; he knows his top speed and knows he won’t make it in time. All he needs is another fraction of a second, and a moment of heroism from the captured woman gives him the time that he needs. John Cassaday’s drawing of Superman busting through the wall to save her is stunning and inspiring.
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils by Jim Lee
Inks by Scott Williams
Colors by Alex Sinclair
After the ten tributes to the history and legend of Superman and Action Comics is an eleventh story that serves as a prequel of sorts for Brian Michael Bendis’ upcoming work on the character in Man of Steel, Superman and Action Comics. Taking place sometime in the future, the story shows two women taken by surprise when a battered Superman comes crashing through their wall. They drag him to safety and banter a little bit about his shorts and what’s underneath them before getting interrupted by our first look at the new villain of Bendis’ upcoming run. Supergirl holds him off while the unnamed women get to safety as Superman comes to. Superman flies back into the fight, but is promptly defeated by his new foe, who claims credit for destroying Krypton.
By its very nature, this last story sticks out like a sore thumb in an issue full of history and charm. By and large the all it gives us is just Bendis making some semi-crass jokes he’s clearly been holding onto for years, while we see our greatest hero get beaten up by some new guy who looks too much like Doomsday and not enough like anything special to be overly distinct or intimidating.