A Thousand Months Under a Yellow Sun: Celebrating an Action Comics Milestone
Eighty years ago this May, the first issue of Action Comics was published.
On April 18, 2018, DC Comics will publish its thousandth.
Looking at the table of contents of that first issue, you see a lot of names that have faded into obscurity: Chuck Dawson, Sticky-Mitt Stimson, and 'Pep' Morgan, all relics of a bygone age. Footnotes in the history of pop culture that are overshadowed by their contemporaries.
For Action Comics #1 had a giant, a constant that changed the still-young medium of comic books forever, a figure that would become a mainstay not just in popular culture, but culture itself.
That constant was Superman.
While it would take years—decades even—for Superman's origin to fully form into what we're familiar with today, his first appearance still contains most of the characteristics that we know him for: sent to Earth from a dying alien world, the child would grow up to be known as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent, whose dual identity as Superman allowed him to perform great feats of strength for the greater good of man. He was strong, but his strength had limits; he was invulnerable, but not invincible; he could leap long distances, but not actually take flight. Still, he used his powers to fight for truth, justice, and the American way right from day one, a mission statement he would carry with him through the decades and into a new century.
He's never been alone, either. Since his introduction, Superman has garnered an extensive supporting cast consisting of friends, colleagues, and fellow heroes alike. Right from the start, though, he's had his own personal constant: Lois Lane. Debuting mere pages after the Man of Steel is introduced, Lois has been as much a mainstay in comics as Clark. Smart, sassy, and resourceful, Lois has long since been one of the most well-rounded and developed characters in comics.
Through the years, the relationship between Lois and Clark has become so ingrained in culture that they're constantly listed among other well known couples. From a friendly rivalry to flirtatious friendship to marriage, they've been as much a constant in each others' lives as they are to the world of comics. Now with a son of their own, the duo will inspire their own next generation, just as they've been an inspiration to generations of readers in the real world.
And that's to say nothing of Superman's friends and foes. There are the Kents, the adoptive parents who taught him how to be human and imbued him with a strong moral compass; Perry White, the sturdy rock of the Daily Planet; pals like Jimmy Olsen and Bibbo Bibbowski; and his archenemy, Lex Luthor. He's been a mentor to heroes like Supergirl and Superboy, a teammate to members of the Justice League, and a friend to them all just the same.
Yes, even Batman. Especially Batman.
When someone needs help, he does what he can because he can. From the cliched kitten stuck in a tree to defending the Earth from threats and anything in between, Superman is always there to help precisely because it's the right thing to do. He's not burdened by his responsibility, knowing that since he has great power he has a duty to those who do not. He's a simple farm boy who loves his mama and takes his father's words to heart, a perfectly normal, humble man who just happens to be the world's greatest hero.
Since his debut, Superman has found love, had countless adventures, and even died. In all that time, he's served as inspiration for both the characters around him and the readers in the real world. While there have been several spin-off titles that have starred Superman, it all began with Action Comics. Superman is turning 80, as is the title that started it all.
The superhero craze, the DC Universe, and the template for comics in general all began with Action Comics.
Let's all celebrate a thousand issues.
Here's to a thousand more.