Title: Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman
Creator: Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster
Editor: Paul Levitz
Writer(s): Too many!
Illustrator(s): Too many!
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: April 17th 2018
Genre(s): Comics, Science Fiction
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.
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.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!