Jason’s Jottings

by Jason Strangis


Superman hits milestone with Action Comics 1,000

 

Just imagine. The year was 1938 and America was still in the grip of the Great Depression. Suddenly, seemingly from out of the sky, Superman appeared in the historic Action Comics #1. Created by two teenagers from Cleveland — Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster — the Man of Steel quickly became a national phenomenon and sold millions of copies each month. Superman merchandise sold like hotcakes in the early 1940s, later giving way to the Man of Steel’s own television show in the 1950s.

Siegel and Shuster probably had no idea that their Kryptonian creation would launch an entire comic book industry. Other superheroes soon followed such as Batman, Captain America, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Captain Marvel, and Green Lantern. Safe to say that without Superman there probably wouldn’t be a Marvel Age of Comics that first exploded in the early 1960s and is enjoying phenomenal success in movies and television today.

And it’s all thanks to Big Blue. While not as popular as in his heyday of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, Superman is still going strong and is closing in on another milestone. On April 18 of 2018, Action Comics will soar into comic book stores with the historic number 1,000! It will mark the first time any comic book has made it to 1,000. It also happens to coincide with Superman’s 80th anniversary. It should be quite a birthday party!

Sharing in that celebration will be Minnesota writer/artist Dan Jurgens. For the past several years Jurgens has been writing Superman’s adventures in Action Comics. Back in 1992, Jurgens worked on the famous “Death of Superman” issue that created a sensation around the world. The chilling cover showed Superman’s shredded red cape blowing in the wind symbolizing a fallen hero, the outcome of a cataclysmic battle with a powerful villain known as Doomsday. But the Man of Steel wouldn’t stay down for long and soon was brought back to life, both in comics and the movies.
Besides Superman, Jurgens has written and drawn the adventures of other popular superheroes such as Spider-Man, Thor, Captain America, Fantastic Four, and many others. He’s currently writing “Batman Beyond” for DC. In addition, Jurgens has always been a popular guest at comic book conventions in St. Paul, Minnesota, graciously signing autographs for hometown fans. Recently he took time to answer some of my questions about Action Comics reaching 1,000.

So, why has the Man of Steel lasted for 80 years and counting?

“In part it’s because Superman captured the attention of the nation from the moment he appeared,” Jurgens replied. “He was different enough that he took the country a bit by storm and quickly made it into other media. But more than that, I think that Superman embodies our best aspirations. I’ve always said that Batman is who we are while Superman is who we want to be.”

True enough. However, in the past decade Batman may have surpassed Superman in terms of popularity, especially with the younger generation. Many fans consider Batman to be much cooler and more relatable — an ordinary man who becomes a creature of the night with a dramatic dark costume and long flowing cape. The Dark Knight also has the best collection of villains like Joker, Two-Face, Penguin, Scarecrow, Bane, Catwoman, and Poison Ivy.

Superman’s main antagonist, or course, is Lex Luthor. He’s still around after all these years trying use his smarts and brain-power to outwit the Kryptonian marvel.

“Lex has always served as a nice counterpoint to Superman,” Jurgens pointed out. “He doesn’t have powers but he does have the motivation and scientific genius and resources to pose a challenge. It’s always been interesting to me that Superman’s greatest enemy is a man without extra normal abilities.”

Another key character in Superman’s life has been Lois Lane.

“If you go all the way back to 1938 when Action Comics #1 first appeared, Lois was there,” Jurgens noted. “She already had a career as an independent, strong-willed reporter. In those days that was rare (for a woman).”

In the beginning Lois ignored the “meek” Clark Kent while pining for his heroic alter-ego, Superman. But eventually Lois and Clark started dating, fell in love, and got married. So yes, guys, anything is possible — at least in comic books.
The Superman Family has extended to many forms of multi-media. For several years “Smallville” was a popular syndicated television series with Tom Welling perfectly cast as a teenage Clark Kent and Kristin Kreuk as his love interest, Lana Lang.

And now the latest new TV sensation is Supergirl, starring actress Melissa Benoist as the Girl of Steel.  It’s been a hit series the past few years with a strong supporting cast and solid scripts. Other spinoff shows will soon be coming out like “Krypton” and “Metropolis.”

And don’t forget, Superman is still up on the big screen and is currently played by actor Henry Cavill. He appeared in last year’s “Justice League” and you can be certain the Man of Steel will be back again and again, one way or another.
Yes, after eight decades Superman is still fighting the never-ending battle for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

“I honestly believe that Supeman should be more relevant than ever,” Jurgens stated. “It seems to me that we should turn to the hero that is the most inspirational.”

Jwstrangis@gmail.com