Book Review: Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman Deluxe Edition
Copyright 2018 by Michael W. Rickard II
This book is packed with some of Superman's greatest stories from Action Comics, but is it worth it?
With Superman celebrating his 80th anniversary, you knew DC Comics was going to launch a celebration of the Man of Steel’s first appearance. The problem is DC has already published some excellent tribute books, one of which was published just five years ago (Superman: A Celebration of 75 Years). How can DC celebrate the Man of Tomorrow’s anniversary without its newest book seeming like a poor retread. Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman Deluxe Edition succeeds as a fitting anniversary celebration with its clever mix of stories, some essays on the Big Blue Boy Scout, and some important first appearances in Action Comics. While the latter seem out of place, this book is worth picking up whether you’re a Superman fan or not. Great Caesar’s Ghost! How does a fan choose between the two?
How does the book compare to this 2013 collection?
When making a decision like this, fans would need the wisdom of Solomon in choosing between the two books. While Captain Marvel (better known today in the lawyer-friendly moniker Shazam!) has the wisdom of Solomon, we can’t call on him for help (although we will cover some of his greatest encounters with Superman during our celebration of Big Blue) as he’s busy fighting Dr. Sivana (how’s that for a comic book cop-out?). Fortunately, Superman isn’t lacking in the brains department as his brain is super-charged by the same yellow sun radiation bestowing him with amazing powers.
Actually, the choice between Superman: A Celebration of 75 Years and Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman Deluxe Edition reminds me of a classic Silver Age story, “"The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue!".” Superman #162 shows how Superman gives something a list of Herculean labors such as ending crime and enlarging the bottle city of Kandor. Superman conducts an experiment to increase his intelligence, resulting in him being split into two beings, Superman-Red and Superman-Blue. This allows him to solve these matters as well as have his cake and eat it too when Superman-Red marries Lois Lane and Superman-Blue weds Lana Lang.
So, DC has two fantastic collections to pick from. Consider the first, Superman: A Celebration of 75 Years (listing taken from Amazon.com):
"Superman, Champion of the Oppressed") / ("War in San Monte") -- ACTION COMICS #1-2 (1938) Writer: Jerry Siegel, Artist: Joe Shuster
"How Superman Would End the War" -- Look Magazine (1940) Writer: Jerry Siegel, Artist: Joe Shuster
"Man or Superman?" -- SUPERMAN #17 (1942) Writer: Jerry Siegel, Penciller: Joe Shuster, Inker: Joe Sikela
"The Origin of Superman" -- SUPERMAN #53 (1948) Writer: Bill Finger, Penciller: Wayne Boring, Inker: Stan Kaye
"The Mightiest Team in the World" -- SUPERMAN #76 (1952) Writer: Edmond Hamilton, Penciller: Curt Swan, Inker: John Fishchetti
"The Super-Duel in Space" -- ACTION COMICS #242 (1958) Writer: Otto Binder, Artist: Al Plastino
"The Girl From Superman's Past" -- SUPERMAN #129 (1959) Writer: Bill Finger, Penciller: Wayne Boring, Inker: Stan Kaye
"Superman's Return to Krypton" -- SUPERMAN #141 (1960) Writer: Jerry Siegel, Penciller: Wayne Boring, Inker: Stan Kaye
"The Death of Superman" -- SUPERMAN #149 (1961) Writer: Jerry Siegel, Penciller: Curt Swan, Inker: George Klein
"Must There Be a Superman?" -- SUPERMAN #247 (1972) Writer: Eliot S. Maggin, Penciller: Curt Swan, Inker: Murphy Anderson
"Rebirth" -- ACTION COMICS #544 (1983) Writer: Marv Wolfman, Artist: Gil Kane
"The Living Legends of Superman" (excerpt) -- SUPERMAN #400 (1985) Writer: Elliot S. Maggin, Artist: Frank Miller
"For the Man Who Has Everything" -- SUPERMAN ANNUAL #11 (1985)Writer: Alan Moore, Artist: Dave Gibbons
"The Name Game" -- SUPERMAN #11 (1987) Writer/Penciller: John Byrne, Inker: Karl Kesel
"Doomsday" -- SUPERMAN #75 (1993) Writer/Penciller: Dan Jurgens, Inker: Brett Breeding
"What's So Funny About Truth Justice and the American Way?" -- ACTION COMICS #775 (2001) Writer: Joe Kelly, Pencillers: Doug Mahnke, Lee Bermejo Inkers: Tom Nguyen, Dexter Vines, Jim Royal, Jose Marzan, Jr., Wade Von Grawbadger, Wayne Faucher
"Question of Confidence" -- Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross (2003) Writer: Chip Kidd, Artist: Alex Ross
"The Incident" -- ACTION COMICS #900 (2011) Writer: David S. Goyer, Artist: Miguel Sepulveda
"The Boy Who Stole Superman's Cape" -- ACTION COMICS #0 (2012) Writer: Grant Morrison, Artist: Ben Oliver
Consider the second and more recent book, 80 Years of Superman Deluxe Edition? Consider its contents (also taken from the listing at Amazon.com):
-"The Coming of Superman," from ACTION COMICS #1, written by Jerry Siegel with art by Joe Shuster
-"Revolution in San Monte," from ACTION COMICS #2, written by Jerry Siegel with art by Joe Shuster
"The Terrible Toyman!" from ACTION COMICS #64, written by Don Cameron with art by Ed Dobrotka and George Roussos, featuring the debut of Toyman
-"The Super-Key to Fort Superman," from ACTION COMICS #241, written by Jerry Coleman with art by Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye, featuring the first appearance of the Fortress of Solitude
-"The Super-Duel in Space," from ACTION COMICS #242, written by Otto Binder with art by Al Plastino, featuring the debut of Brainiac
-"The Supergirl from Krypton!" from ACTION COMICS #252, written by Otto Binder with art by Al Plastino, featuring the debut of Supergirl
-"The World's Greatest Heroine!" from ACTION COMICS #262, written by Jerry Siegel with art by Jim Mooney
-"The Superman Super-Spectacular!" from ACTION COMICS #309, written by Edmond Hamilton with art by Curt Swan and George Klein, featuring an appearance by President John F. Kennedy
-"Superman Takes a Wife," from ACTION COMICS #484, written by Cary Bates with art by Curt Swan and Joe Giella
-"If Superman Didn't Exist..." from ACTION COMICS #554, written by Marv Wolfman with art by Gil Kane
-"Squatter," from ACTION COMICS #584, written by John Byrne with art by Byrne and Dick Giordano
-"Ma Kent's Photo Album," from ACTION COMICS #655, written by Roger Stern with art by Kerry Gammill and Dennis Janke
-"Secrets in the Night," from ACTION COMICS #662, written by Roger Stern with art by Bob McLeod
-"A Hero's Journey," from ACTION COMICS #800, written by Joe Kelly with art by Pasqual Ferry, Duncan Rouleau, Lee Bermejo and others
-"The Boy Who Stole Superman's Cape," from ACTION COMICS #0, written by Grant Morrison with art by Ben Oliver
80 Years of Superman Deluxe Edition also reprints these stories involving characters other than Superman:
-"The Mystery of the Freight Train Robberies," from ACTION COMICS #1,written by Fred Guardineer with art by Guardineer, featuring the debut of Zatara
-"The Origin of the Vigilante," from ACTION COMICS #42, written by Mort Weisinger with art by Mort Meskin, featuring the debut of the Vigilante.
-"The Assassin-Express Contract!" from ACTION COMICS #419, written by Len Wein with art by Carmine Infantino and Dick Giordano, featuring the debut of the Human Target
80 Years of Superman Deluxe Edition is limited because it only contains Action Comics stories. Still, the inclusion of the Prankster story is baffling. He’s an eclectic choice but I can think of better choices such as the first appearance of the Ultra-Humanite, Metallo, or Parasite. Whatever the reason, 80 Years of Superman Deluxe Edition has these reprints along with some essays by people ranging from Laura Siegel Larson (daughter of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel) to cartoonist Jules Feiffer to DC Comics’ own Paul Levitz.
If you have to choose between Superman: A Celebration of 75 Years and Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman Deluxe Edition, you’ve got a tough decision to make. Personally, I believe the first book has more iconic stories, but there’s no denying the editors of the second book knew they had to put something together that wasn’t a rehash of the first. While the first appearances of Zatara, Vigilante, and the Human Target are fun (showing Action Comics’ history of creating new characters in its back-up features), I would have used the space to feature more Superman stories. Ultimately, no comic book fan worth their salt will have to choose between two good books. Instead, they’ll find a way to purchase both (or buy one and read a friend’s copy). In this case, DC has split Superman’s rich library into Superman-Red and Superman-Blue.