Happy Birthday, Superman and Action Comics!

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I was six and stuck in bed, once again suffering from bronchitis. For whatever reason, my mother thought I would like a comic book for company and brought home a Superman comic. The year was 1964 and I wish I could remember which my first comic was.What I do know is that I was hooked.The comics kept coming into the house and Superman led the way, followed by Batman, and the rest of the Julie Schwartz line. Along the way, I began watching television and in the afternoons, WPIX would rerun The Adventures of Superman. I loved the show and watched it endlessly and found Clark Kent equally fascinating.He was a reporter and the work looked interesting, which began my path to journalism, writing and editing.My reading and watching expanded over time but Superman was always in the mix. In the summer of 1980, I wound up working at DC Comics until my job at Starlog Press began so I got to attend the staff screening of Superman II, which was a real treat.Then, I was writing about the Superman features for Starlog, interviewing film’s first Lana Lang, Annette O’Toole, for the magazine and being asked to edit the Superman III Poster Magazine. This led me back to DC’s offices where my former officemate Andy Helfer worked with me on image selection.When I returned fulltime to DC, I got to watch Julie Schwartz work with writers on Superman stories until one day; he allowed Barbara Randall (now Kesel) and me to pitch. Together we wrote a perfectly forgettable eight-pagers for Action Comics #574. It featured Mister Mxyzptlk, drawn by Howard Bender and Dave Hunt. Nevertheless, it was a writing credit, and appropriately enough, it was a Superman tale. And of course, post-Crisis, Barbara and I collaborated once more on an issue of DC Comics Presents #94 (about to be reprinted in the three-volume Crisis Companion).While I never really got to edit a Superman comic, I did manage to use him as a guest star here and there but more importantly, I got to commission covers with him for Action Comics Weekly. There, I was looking for iconic moments such as Dean Motter having him outrace a locomotive. But for me, the real get was John Severin (a Marvel mainstay) who had never drawn the character before.Then, I was asked to aid Marty Pasko in completing The Essential Superman Encyclopedia, which was a herculean task but did allow me the pleasure of rereading tons of wonderful stories.And here we are. Eighty years ago today, Action Comics #1 arrived on newsstands. In most of the interviews surrounding the event, Paul Levitz talked about it being the most significant comic book ever published. I can’t argue. It gave us Superman and the super-hero genre.Superman is everyone’s wish fulfillment, all the aspects and attributes rolled into one amazing character. The symbol has become recognized worldwide and has come to stand for hope. Seeing it and the man wearing it lets you know everything’s going to be fine. He really does stand for truth and justice (the American Way came later), universal ideals few can argue with.I fully understand people talking about the challenge of writing him long-term but there have been more than enough lengthy runs showing how it can be done and with Brian Michael Bendis taking it over now, will prove it once more.It’s also a privilege. Writing Superman brings with it expectations as well as responsibilities because you can’t make him anything but a beacon of hope, a symbol of justice, and a man of two worlds struggling to honor his parents’ teaching.I remain an avid reader and can’t believe we’ve come this, as the comic reaches the 1000th issue, a milestone no one in 1938 could ever have imagined. Once again, Superman does the impossible.

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