What stands out when looking at the cover of the new, once-in-a-lifetime 1,000th issue of “Action Comics” is that 80 years after giving birth to the superhero genre, Superman hasn’t changed much at all.
The spit-curl, the S, the cape flapping in the wind, and yes, even the red trunks are back in time for this anniversary issue. Even as it becomes the first superhero comic book to hit a grand, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s creation is still the standard.
Two DC Comics legends have been front-and-center leading up to the two-book celebration.
Writer and artist Dan Jurgens, perhaps most well known for being the man who killed Superman (in issue No. 75 back in 1993), has been writing and occasionally drawing “Action Comics” since issue No. 957. When Jurgens took over the series, which was publishing twice a month at that point, it was brought to his attention that he’d probably be around for “Action’s” 1,000th issue. But even then, he couldn’t allow himself to see that far ahead.
“When you work in comics, I think so much of it is, you’re just driven by the next couple of issues you’re just trying to get done to come out,” Jurgens told The Post’s Comic Riffs. “So, no, I never could have envisioned it.”
Longtime editor and former DC Comics president Paul Levitz was tasked with editing a second book, “Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman, the Deluxe Edition,” almost 400 pages of the greatest stories ever told within the pages of “Action Comics.”
“It’s wonderful fun to be able to look back on anything that has so rich a history and say, how do I curate essentially an exhibit of how the culture has evolved,” Levitz said.
Levitz spent months going over “Action’s” top tales, eventually including stories ranging from 1938’s “Action Comics” No. 1 to the first appearance of Supergirl (No. 252) to Clark Kent revealing to Lois Lane that he is also Superman (No. 662). The Deluxe Edition also has a never-published story, “Too Many Heroes,” from Siegel and Shuster that was donated by fan-favorite DC Comics writer Marv Wolfman, who was given the pages during a childhood visit to DC Comics.
“Basically, I went through the history of the title to say, which are the inarguable historical moments,” Levitz said. “You want to make sure you have each of the major creative people represented. Do I have a Curt Swan? John Byrne? Dan Jurgens [and] the people who developed the death and return of Superman story? Do the stories each individually stand on their own as comics have progressed over the years along with the general evolution of American media? When you’re filleting that, how do you find the episode that’s important in and of itself? Does it pay off on its own in a merciful fashion?”
Jurgens’s run on “Action Comics” comes to an end with the 1,000th issue. He’s created a short story of Metropolis giving Superman a day of praise and the Man of Steel humbly trying to find a disastrous distraction to avoid such acclaim. The story features a who’s who of DC’s top characters and gives Jurgens the chance to say what Superman means to him through the eyes of his city.
This issue also contains short stories from top DC writers such as Scott Snyder, Tom King and Peter J. Tomasi, as well as art from Patrick Gleason, Olivier Coipel, Rafael Albuquerque, Clay Mann and more. From his work on Superman in the early 90s, to saying goodbye (for now) with a milestone issue of “Action,” Jurgens says he appreciates the career longevity he’s been able to have with perhaps the greatest superhero of all.
“It is special to have a long association with a character like [Superman],” Jurgens said.
Jurgens has also had a look at what newly hired and much-hyped DC Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis has in store for “Action Comics” when he becomes the regular series writer with issue No. 1001. The story continues from Bendis’s DC debut, which appears at the end of “Action Comics” No. 1000, illustrated by DC Co-publisher Jim Lee.
“I’ve talked to Brian about it. I think he has some really cool plans for Superman,” Jurgens said. “I’m certainly looking forward reading it.”
Levitz realizes much of the hype around this issue of “Action Comics” will be the number 1,000 — but says the super-celebration going on right now should be about more than just numbers.
“It’s really almost inarguably the most important comic book,” he said. “It creates a genre, the superhero. It creates one of the most iconic and memorable characters in world culture today. And in many ways, it creates the industry.”