Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman by Paul Levitz (editor)

actioncomics80yearsTitle: Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman
Stand-Alone: Yes
Creator: Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster
Editor: Paul Levitz
Writer(s): Too many!
Illustrator(s): Too many!
Publisher: DC Comics
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: April 17th 2018
Pages: 384
Genre(s): Comics, Science Fiction
ISBN13: 9781401278878
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

On April 18th 1938, Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster introduced Superman to the whole world in Action Comics #1. Their idea took the world by storm and gave birth to a character that has evolved from being a fictional superhero to an immortal idea. To mark the first superhero’s 1000th comic book issue as well as its 80th anniversary, DC Comics unleashed this beautiful, bulky and eye-opening collection featuring some of the Man of Steel’s most iconic moments throughout this comic book run. Interspersed with several commentaries from award-winning writers, this deluxe edition firmly states how Superman is the archetype of mankind at its pinnacle.

One of the most astounding observation you’ll inevitably make with this collection is the evolution in the artwork. Sorted in a chronological order, the featured stories not only highlight Superman’s first encounter with some his villains as well as quintessential elements of his lore (such as his Fortress of Solitude or the introduction of Supergirl), but it also shows how all the different writers and artists envisioned the might and majesty of the character. The artwork started off with an abundance of eye-catching primary colours in the background of each panel, a very photographic sequence of events and a lack of attention to details. Over time, characters started to get more defined with more attention given to facial expressions, character movement and colours. The boldness in contours and the thickness of the colours for characters were put aside to make more room to minute details and an artwork style that is much softer to the eye. This evolution in the comic book industry is beautiful and is what has led us to all the various designs and styles in recent years.

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What’s even more noticeable is the story-telling. In the earlier issues of Action Comics, everyone preferred a more “show” rather than “tell” approach. This greatly impacts the way a story is appreciated as a lot of potential is sliced off from the start. Some stories could even get extremely wordy with very little artwork doing any of the story-telling. Over the years, with Superman quickly becoming a character that everyone would know about, as if they were born with the idea itself, stories started to assume that the reader had a pretty solid idea of what Superman is capable of, and if not, to discreetly show rather than tell. The beauty of it is how much more room is given to the artwork to speak for itself. Nowadays, pictures are worth a thousand words as all you’ll need is to see Superman carry a spacecraft with his sheer strength to understand that you don’t want to get on his bad side.

Throughout the collection, there are also a couple of two-page commentaries from certain writers who help us further understand the history behind Superman’s character, his impact on society and the story behind the creators. The words they had to share gave a nice insight into Superman and helps destroy anyone’s firm conviction that Superman is an overrated character with cliché powers. Sure, there are stories that are pretty cheesy, but it’s not about the complexity of those stories that matter, it’s what Superman represents to the reader. In fact, it’s how he shines as a beacon of hope for mankind and gives each and everyone of us a reason to believe that there is good in anyone if only they decide to believe in themselves. Throughout this character, people find the power to fight off their own demons and to come out as the strongest version of themselves. Even if he’s an alien who has come live among humans, he remains the honorary example to follow.

Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman is a history lesson in the form of comics books. You won’t find the most exquisite stories ever told in the medium, but you will find at its core the reasons why the Big Blue Boy Scout is the first person you’ll think of when asked about superheroes. With stories introducing some of the mythos behind Superman, essays by famous writers, and artwork from way back in the Golden Age all the way to today, this beautiful deluxe edition is a must-have for any fan of Superman.

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Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!

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45 Comments Add yours

  1. This sounds like a really cool book if you’re into comics! 1000 issues is amazing, too! I can’t imagine coming up with something that would last so long or impact pop culture in such a way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, right? I think it’s a beautiful collection to have, and a nice idea from them for the occasion. Imagine that. Creating an icon like Superman without knowing that he would turn out what he is to us today. Crazy.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am not a Superman fan, but this sounds like a fascinating collection. I love the idea of being able to explore the evolution of it in terms of story and art. Throw in the commentary, and I am pretty much sold. This would be an ideal gift for a few I know 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is indeed. Being able to see what the real story behind certain characters was really astounding, and sometimes truly ridiculous too (you’d laugh at how Supergirl was introduced). It’s honestly a beautiful and awesome gift idea for any Superman fan (unless that person is not fond of the art style of the Golden, Silver and Bronze age).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. pcochrun says:

    I liked this one too. Good rundown!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad to hear you agree! Thank you, sir! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. OlaG says:

    Oh that’s nice! Now I’m slobbering for my own copy… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a pretty thick book worth having on your bookshelf. It looks awesome outside and inside. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. piotrek says:

    A reminder that DC heroes also matter, despite having mostly shitty movies 😉 My comic book reading is directed by movies these days, but maybe I should take a detour…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh man, I totally agree. It’s really unfortunate how the DCEU tainted DC to the eyes of casual fans. DC has been stellar in so many other department, comics included. If a throwback to the Golden/Silver/Bronze age is enticing, then this would be a nice collection to pick up. I had a good laugh at times discovering the origin story of some characters. Supergirl for example… Wow.. How she came to be was truly hilarious and ridiculous. I had a big grin throughout the whole issue.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Bookstooge says:

    Dang, seeing Supes evolve with various artists and styles sounds really interesting. Maybe some day my library will have this and I’ll check it out 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, it’s pretty crazy how he smoothly changes over the years. The Superman we see in Action Comics #1 is soooo different from the one we see nowadays, and his bullying of villains to get them to confess is hilarious. Hope you get to give this a shot for fun. Some stories are truly ridiculous (origin story of Supergirl, for example).

      Liked by 1 person

  7. healed1337 says:

    I strongly considered picking this up at some point when I first saw it. Your description makes me want to pick it up more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to put this back onto your radar then. It’s well-worth picking up and exploring, especially if you know what you might be in for (the amount of cheesiness or the ridiculousness of some stories). But the evolution of it all is fascinating, and the idea of portraying Superman as a symbol of hope is always present and strong.

      Like

  8. I’m not a comic book reader, but this sounds like one people who are will love!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely! Makes for an awesome gift idea for fans of the Man of Steel too! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Now *this* is the sort of coffee table book I want to read cover to cover! I love watching characters evolve over time. Being able to see all of Superman’s essential moments? Yes, please! Particularly as someone who often feels overwhelmed jumping into comic series, this sounds right up my alley.

    How long did it take you to make it through? Also, the book looks oversized in the photos… is it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bookstooge says:

      Jackie, Amazon lists the dimensions as 7in by 11in. Hope that helps.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yep, DC’s deluxe edition are slightly taller than hardcovers. It can get quite messy on a bookshelf…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hahaha. Thanks for the quick check for me! I appreciate you covering my own laziness. 😉

        Liked by 2 people

    2. This as a coffee table book is pretty cool! Each issue is relatively short (up to 15 pages) and can be read really quickly. I took my time by reading a little bit every day over the course of a week. It’s not something you need to rush to complete in one-shot, unless you’re really craving it. It’s much more enjoyable when you take the time to look at the different styles and give those little essays a little bit of attention. Some stories can be quite ridiculous too, and super cheesy, but I think it is to be expected from that age of comics. Like.. if they did Supergirl’s origin story like they did the first time, people would probably have a severe reaction to it hahah It’s actually really fun, newcomers or long-time fans alike, to go through this one as it gives you an idea of the kinds of stories told through this comic book run without putting you in the middle of a random story arc, feeling completely lost.

      Deluxe editions by DC are always slightly taller than hardcovers. It usually also contains extra special content and the quality of the material is much more premium. DC also has an Absolute edition of some stories, which are even BIGGER and also put in a slipcase.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your method for reading this collection sounds a lot like how I approach short story collections. I like to take my time and let each story sink in a bit before continuing on. That space gives me some room to consider things which might not have been apparent in the immediate reading of the story, as well as make connections between the stories I might not have realized.

        Oh, I cannot wait to check out some of these older comics. I’m not well-versed in Superman’s history, honestly. I’m more of a Bat-family girl myself. 😀 I like watching the progression of art and storyline; if there weren’t silly comics, I’d be disappointed. Comics have had quite an extreme journey over the last few decades!

        Oh man. I’ll have to stop by my local comic store and see if they have the Deluxe of Absolute editions. Is there one for Batman? Because that would be my jam… I bit darker for a coffee table book, but I think that’s okay. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Deluxe and Absolute editions aren’t done for every book actually. And even less for Absolute. Absolute editions are limited exclusively to some of the best/iconic story arcs. They’ll collect a bit more of a run or story arc and turn it into one of the coolest, prettiest edition ever. Only DC does Absolute editions too. Batman has several stories that were turned into Absolute editions. Of course… they’re all expensive hahaha 😀 Batman will also probably get a very special treatment once it reaches 80 years. Its Detective Comics series (Where he first appears) is almost at 1000 issues too! 😀 I’m definitely excited for that day to come.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Of course they are expensive! Otherwise, how would they make money? 😉 I am super excited for both Detective Comics and Batman’s 80th anniversary.

            When I went to my local comic book shop they didn’t have any of the Deluxe or Absolute editions. Apparently, they sell like hotcakes! But, my library has the 80 Years of Superman in, and I’ve reserved it. That’s a good way to determine if I *really* want a copy.

            But let’s be honest, I totally want it. 😉

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Hahahah I’d be curious to see what kind of reactions you’ll have to all these stories back in the day 😂 Don’t expect anything sophisticated!! Hahaha

              Liked by 1 person

  10. arubunwritten says:

    This book is beautiful! I would love to read about the history of Superman and would love to see what some of the older comics look like. I feel that older media can be painfully slow and over-explanatory sometimes but still really fun to read. Great review 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is, Arub! Brilliantly conceived, and amazing to have on your bookshelf. I’m as open-minded as you are about older pieces, and am more often than not amazed by how stories were told and loved back then. It can reaaaally get pretty cheesy and hilariously ridiculous at times, but fun nonetheless! Thanks for reading. I appreciate it. ❤

      Like

  11. What an amazing collection! I would love to see the evolution of Superman all put together, it’s like someone losing weight.. If you’re around that person all the time, you may not notice but looking at it all at once you think “man, what a difference!” 💖👍🍻

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, right? Okay, that’s a hilarious comparison hahahahh This in fact felt more like picking up your high school photo album, then your university graduation album and then your marriage (the collection actually features stories about Lois Lane and Superman’s wedding and what not) and your modern day pictures hahahaha But you’re definitely right. The changes are actually really staggering once you go through this collection. Mind-blowing at times. It’s not even a COMPLETE representation of that evolution since there are issues from different series (not Action Comics; like series that simply called “Superman” for example) where his design is TOTALLY different. Modernized, I might say hahaha

      Like

  12. Superman: The Superior Superhero.
    I need to get back into reading comics. It’s been too long. This may be a good place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahah indeed! You should totally give them a shot again. I mean, you’re already a die-hard Saga fan like me. You just need to pick up some more of that good stuff (and take a break from all the Sanderson stuff)! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Wow, first of all I can’t believe it’s the 80th anniversary of Superman and the 1000th issue as well. That’s just insane how it’s been going for so long now. Also I think this is a brilliant way to mark the occasion too, something like this seems like a must for any fans of the hero and I imagine it must have been really interesting to see how the story and the artwork evolved throughout the years. In a way this book is like travelling through 80 years in the time it takes you to read it.
    Great review Lashaan, and I’m really glad you enjoyed this Superman history lesson as well. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amazing, right? We live to see it reach 80 years! And someday it’ll even reach 100 in our lifetime! Batman should be next when his Detective Comics run reaches 1000 (it’s around 980 right now). I definitely agree. This a pretty book to have as part of your collection, especially if you’re a fan of Superman. Hahahah a book that lets you time travel. That’s a nice way to put it. 😀 Thanks Beth! I appreciate it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely, and yeah not long until the 100th anniversary or Batman’s 1000 issue. A lot of big numbers for comic books that I never really thought of before (like I knew they’d been around a long time but never really made the connection you know?) 🙂
        That’s all right! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  14. This is a history book of our culture. Perhaps schools will start using them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s a writer in there (who wrote a commentary in this collection) who actually says that he uses the earlier comic book issues of Superman for some art classes. But you’re definitely right about this book. It’s a wonderful look into the character over the years, and shows us how important Superman is to us.

      Like

  15. This sounds pretty cool, but I am not going to lie I am not a big superman fan. Realistically I’m more of a Marvel girl.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No worries, Asia. There’s a hero for everyone. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Some very excellent thoughts my friend and you sum it up so aptly by likening this collection as a history lesson in the form of comic books. I also really enjoyed reading about what you had to say about the art and the more wordy construction of these old stories. It just goes to show how comics have evolved and matured over the decades.

    I’m in the midst of reading this myself and whilst the stories may be a little crude their importance cannot be understated and I enjoy them for what they are. I’ve found the essays to be a fascinating and enjoyable addition as well – here’s hoping DC release a similar volume for Batman’s 80th next year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Chris! Oh yes, that’s exactly how I approached the stories too. They’re really crude and sometimes ridiculous (they would have never survived the onslaught from fans if this is the quality we were getting nowadays). But man, it’s the history and the importance behind each story that really matters here. Loved how much change Superman and his lore went through over 80 years. And the essays is definitely the cherry on top of the cake! Oh man, I can already tell how epic Batman’s celebratory volume is going to be like. And with the way DC loves to promote that hero, I feel like that character might get even more than what Superman got (even if that sounds odd) hahah

      Like

  17. I really like the sound of seeing the evolution of the art and stories! 😀 I think this sounds like such an interesting read! Amazing review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s quite dramatic. We’ll probably never revert to the golden age era of comics, that’s for sure! And the essays makes this much more insightful as a whole. Thank you! 😀

      Like

      1. Oh fair enough! You’re welcome!

        Liked by 1 person

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