As comic book fans and Superman devotees are well aware by now, this week—Wednesday, April 18 to be exact—marks the 80th anniversary of the very first Superman comic, better known as Action Comics #1. And to help celebrate, here at WB.com, we will give you an overview of this month's spectacular Superman releases, a couple enthralling livestream videos, and a few dozen of Superman's most memorable comic book moments from the past 80 years.
Let's start things off with a look at the previously mentioned new releases from DC Comics.
In another coincidental landmark, not only are we celebrating Superman's 80th anniversary, but also the Action Comics series hits issue #1000! To honor this amazing milestone, this 80-page blockbuster of a comic book features an all-star lineup of talent paying tribute to the 1938 comic that started it all, including a previously unpublished tale illustrated by Curt Swan.
And if that wasn't enough, be sure to pick up the hardcover companion release Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman The Deluxe Edition. See the work of generations of top writers and artists on the original superhero! Enjoy sparkling essays from literary wizards who have won Pulitzer Prizes and hit the bestseller lists, including Jules Feiffer, who relives his memories of when Action Comics #1 first hit newsstands. And as a bonus, don’t miss a previously unpublished 1940s Superman tale believed to be written by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel with art by the Joe Shuster studio, and much more!
Now enjoy a few videos from DC. First, take a trip to the DC vault with Benjamin LeClear for a quick lesson in Action Comics history and explore that celebratory first issue.
For an even more in-depth look at all things Superman, watch this recent livestream from the Library of Congress in which former DC publisher and president Paul Levitz and famed DC writer and artist Dan Jurgens were interviewed by Michael Cavna, creator of the Eisner-nominated “Comic Riffs” column for The Washington Post.
And now let's take a look back at Superman's evolution on the printed page. Starting with that very first issue released on April 18, 1938, we're taking a look at more than two dozen Superman comics spanning the past eight decades that reflect some of the most important and memorable Man of Steel moments. Click on any cover image to purchase the digital comic.
The issue that started it all. Although the cover of Action Comics #1 gives the date of June, this Superman debut comic was actually published on April 18, 1938.
In the summer of 1939, Superman squared off against his very first super villain–Ultra Humanite.
Comprised almost entirely of reprinted stories from the first few issues of Action Comics, Superman creates comic book history in 1939 by being the first superhero with his own self-titled series comprised of his own stories.
In this 1940 issue, we have the first chronological appearance of Lex Luthor.
Published in 1940 (notice the license plate), Superman took on the evil magician Zolar.
In this 1944 comic, Superman had his first run-in with the Imp from the 5th Dimension in The Mysterious Mr. Mxyztplk.
Published in 1946, this was a comic book nod to Superman’s other career as the star of the long-running radio serial The Adventures of Superman; a serial that would later take on the bigotry and hatred of the KKK in a series titled Clan of the Fiery Cross.
It wasn't until 1948 that we saw the first full comic book devoted to the now-familiar origin story for Superman.
Superman comic #76, published in 1952, featured the first meeting between Batman and Superman (outside of the Justice Society of America), more than 50 years before they would meet on the big screen.
Action Comics #242, published in 1958, is the first battle between the Man of Steel and super-villain Brainiac, Superman's biggest arch-enemy after Lex Luthor.
Also published in 1959, Action Comics #252 brings Supergirl's arrival on earth, but is she friend or foe?
In 1959, Lex Luthor used his duplicating ray on Superman and created the first adult Bizarro.
Superman time-traveled back to his home planet in this 1960 storyline, where he befriends his parents, who have no idea who he is, and meets the Kryptonian actress Lyla Lerrol and falls in love.
By the summer of 1961, it was time to revisit Superman's life from the time his parents rocketed him away from the doomed planet of Krypton and what happened after his arrival on earth.
Also published in 1961, Superman squares off against the combined might of Lex Luthor and the Legion of Super-Villains from the future.
It was during the time of 1967's Summer of Love that Superman and The Flash agreed to a race in order to raise money for the United Nations and impoverished countries. Things went down to the wire, but we're not gonna spoil the suspense.
With the dawning of the 1970s comes Kryptonite Nevermore that features the end of the Kyrptonite threat, but also introduces a Superman whose invulnerability and other powers are beginning to fade.
And by 1971, Superman encounters the Guardians of the Universe and begins to ponder whether the help he brings to his adopted planet is actually impeding humanity's progress.
At the time of its publication in the spring of 1978, boxing legend Muhammad Ali had lost his real-life boxing title to Leon Spinks only weeks before the issue hit the streets. Fortunately he regained the title from Spinks later in the year. In this Collector's Edition, the Man of Steel and "The Greatest" battle each other in the ring to see who will be earth's champion in a contest against the mightiest warrior from a space alien race called the Scrubbs. For some extra fun, see how many 1970s celebs and other comic book heroes you can find in the crowd!
For one year between April 1985 and March 1986, the 12-issue maxiseries Crisis on Infinite Earths was a true game-changer in the world(s) of comics and became a bestseller.
In 1985, Superman found himself trapped in a dream world when he was wrapped by the hallucinogenic effects of the alien plant Black Mercy. Can Wonder Woman, Batman and Robin save him?
It was the mid-80s. The time of the Live Aid concerts and "We Are the World" was blasting 24/7 on MTV. DC also did its part to combat the hunger crisis in Africa by teaming Superman and Batman together in Heroes Against Africa. Like the music world's collaborations, DC`s top writers, artists, inkers, letterers and colorists each contributed a few pages to this collective work.
Published in September of 1986, the two-part storyline of Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? (part one in Superman #423 and part two in Action Comics #583) is considered by many to be one of the most memorable moments in DC's illustrious history.
The title says it all as this issue with the iconic cover reportedly became the bestselling comic of all-time upon its release at the end of 1992. Superman finally defeats Doomsday, but at the price of his own life.
This 1996 award-winning graphic novel from acclaimed writer Mark Waid and superstar painter Alex Ross has an older, retired Superman returning alongside his old allies to make the world right again.
Published at the end of 1996, the wedding of Clark Kent/Superman and Lois Lane was some 60 years in the making.
Published in November of 1998, this holiday season 64-pager has Clark Kent reflecting on the poverty suffered by so many throughout the world and decides to use his vast power to feed the starving and impoverished masses. But as Superman sets out to accomplish the impossible, he encounters unexpected resistance to his humanitarian efforts.
With this 12 issue All-Star series, released between 2005-2008, newly imagined Superman stories were able to be told without restrictions found in the continuity of the DC Universe. This 2011 hardcover edition brought all dozen of the acclaimed stories together.
We hope you've enjoyed this look back at Superman over the past 80 years, but there's plenty more celebrating going on over at DC Comics. Check out these great new stories in honor of their Man of Steel: