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Collection celebrates 80 years of Superman in Action Comics

By california scoop / Published on Thursday, 17 May 2018 12:16 PM / No Comments / 20 views
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Superman could only leap tall buildings when he debuted in Action Comics #1, but the comic still flew off the shelves.

Eighty years ago, the world was introduced to the immigrant from the planet Krypton, the first ever comic book superhero: Superman. The brainchild of two Jewish boys from Cleveland, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

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And his appearance would help push forward an emerging medium just in its infancy.

“There’s a couple of earlier comics that you can point to and say this is the beginning of the medium and that’s fair and that’s vitally important. But (Action Comics #1) changes the medium from being the glorified newspaper strips and mock newspaper strips, practically, to have a real voice,” said Paul Levitz, editor of the recently released collection, “Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman Deluxe Edition.”

As a collection of classic comics and essays celebrating the Kryptonian, the book is one part time capsule and another part reflection of Superman’s significance. Alongside reprints of Action Comics #1, and the first appearances of Brainiac and Supergirl, are insightful pieces by people like Siegel’s daughter, Laura Siegel Larson, and Asian-American comic book artist Gene Luen Yang.

While the reprints offer a nostalgic look back at Action Comics over the decades, these essays give this book a celebratory depth. From anecdotes about how Lois Lane was modeled on Siegel’s wife to Yang connecting to Superman because of his immigrant experience, these pieces offer a thoughtfulness and intimacy that the collection might otherwise be missing.

Additionally, there is a copy of an unpublished comic from 1945 found by writer Marv Wolfman and an essay about how he came upon it as a young fan during a DC office tour. Both the comic and essay are quaint reminders of how different things were for comic books as an industry and storytelling medium.

It’s also a poignant reminder that it all started with Superman, and Levitz understands this about as well as anyone. He’s had a connection to the character even before his run as president of DC Comics.

“Superman was my first favorite comic book character. The first comic book that was given to me. I remember the baby-sitter handing me a copy of Action 300 to shut me up,” he said.

Appropriately, Levitz included a new comic written by him and illustrated by Neal Adams. It’s a short piece that reflects on the Superman and Lex Luthor rivalry in a literal game of wits over a chess match. A good addition, since without it the collection would be missing a focused tale about the adversarial relationship between the two.

It’s a legendary rivalry, but for Levitz this battle against evil isn’t the only thing that has helped the character endure all these years. For him, it’s the strange triangle between Superman, Clark Kent and Lois Lane, a concept that’s been there in the first issue, before Superman could even fly.

“The idea of a secret identity had existed in literature a couple of times before. Scarlet Pimpernel. Zorro. But the triangular relationship really goes to something that is deep within us. We all have someone we wish to look at us, see our inner glory, our inner power, in our business. Whatever we think is special about ourselves. And we worry that they don’t,” he said.

Perhaps it’s this perspective that’s behind Levitz including a reprint of Action Comics #662, when Superman revealed his identity to Lois, and Action Comics #484, the Pre-Crisis comic that told the story of how they got married.

In recent comic book continuity, Superman can fly, Lois knows he’s Clark Kent and they have a son together named Jonathan. Nonetheless, that triangular dynamic never quite disappeared in a marriage that tries to reconcile the fact that one person is living two lives.

It’s a world that writer Michael Bendis will take up, moving from Marvel to DC and taking over Action Comics. The move has been likened to legendary artist Jack Kirby’s move between the two major comic book companies. In fact, he’s already made headlines with his Superman story in Action Comics #1000 with its potentially status-quo-changing revelation.

Levitz believes that Bendis’ experience and gift with crafting snappy dialogue could definitely work for the 80-year-old character, especially in terms of Lois and Superman’s dynamic, which offers a lot of potential for the writer at the “peak of his power.”

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“This is a really interesting case and I’m very curious to see the result. I’ve had no inside information on where he’s going. I’ll just be watching like everybody else,” Levitz said, not showing any signs of wishing Superman would hang up his cape anytime soon.



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