April 18, 2018 marked the 80th Anniversary of arguably the biggest moment in comic book history, the first issue of Action Comics (cover date June, 1938) starring Superman in his world debut. This ten cent (est. $2.00 in today’s money) comic book was the birth of the superhero genre with the Man of Tomorrow starting the demand for super-powered heroes that continue to populated books, movies, television and, of course, comic books. To mark this historic milestone, there have been two major events tied to “The Man of Steel.”
The first is Action Comics #1000, the first time in history any comic book has reached this milestone. For this issue, DC Comics recruited a blue-ribbon team of writers and artists, past and present who created nine stories that examines Superman’s past, future and his legacy today. From experience, this reviewer has often found that anthologies often yield inconsistent results, but not here. All the stories and art work are first rate. Among this reviewer’s favorites are:
- Never-Ending Battle, in which Superman gets caught in a time loop by Vandal Savage and is forced to relive his past, including tributes to various film, television and animation adaptions.
- The Car co-written by DC President Goff Johns and the director of Superman: The Movie Richard Donner examines what happened to the car Superman is seen tossing on the cover of Action Comics # 1
- The Fifth Season features Superman and Lex Luthor have a quiet conversation in a planetarium. After reading the story, one is left thinking that in another reality, Superman and Luthor could have been friends and that despite all that they have been through, there is still a small bit of trust between them.
- Of Tomorrow shows Superman visiting the graves of his adoptive parents one last time before the sun goes super nova and finishes destroying the Earth. Kal-El may be the “Last Son of Krypton,” but he is still Mid-Western farm boy Clark Kent at heart.
The last tale, Faster Than A Speeding Bullet is the only disappointment because it is “to be continued” in a new series coming out in late May. While this is admittedly a good marketing tool, (and DC deserves praise for making the issue virtually advertising free) it seems out of place in this collection.
There are eight different variant covers reflecting the hero as he was in the eight different decades. (This reviewer’s personal favorite is the kitschy 1960s one.) While there will be probably people out there charging collectors more than the $7.99 list price, the fact is that Action Comics #1000 is something every comic book collector should want.
The other notable event celebrating the 80th Anniversary has been the debut of the show Krypton on the SyFy Network. The series takes place about 200 years before the planet explodes. Krypton is not depicted as the bright, cheery Tomorrowland looking planet of the silver age of comics, but as a dark and dreary place, whose look is more reminiscent of Superman: The Motion Picture and Man of Steel.
In the show, Krypton is a theocracy run by a mysterious religious figure called The Voce of Rao, who wears a multi-faced golden mask. There is also a plutocracy and an oligarchy that wants power for themselves with the military stuck in the middle between all of them. Kryptonians are classified in to two groups, those in “houses” which control the wealth and political power of the planet and the “rankless” which have neither.
The show starts with the exiling of Val-El, Kal-El’s great-great-grandfather into the Phantom Zone for his treasonous and blasphemous beliefs that Krypton is not the only planet in the universe. As further punishment, the House of El is stripped of all rank and privileges. Witnessing all of this is Val-El’s young grandson Seg-El.
Fourteen years later we see Seg-El leading a hard scrabble life on the streets of Kandor having an illicit affair with Lyta-Zod, a member of the military guild and mother of Superman’s future nemesis, General Zod. One day he meets a man who identifies himself as Adam Strange and tells Seg-El that he has been sent by Superman, Seg-El’s grandson to protect the time line. He gives Seg-El the key to his grandfather’s fortress where a holographic projection of Val-El tells his grandson that Krypton faces a threat from a being known as “The World Collector”: Brainiac.
While the decision to make Krypton look less Disney-esque was a smart one, the fact remains that there is nothing special about it, either. Their technology looks to be only slightly more advanced than 21st century Earth’s. Except for the name of the planet and the characters, the show comes across as barely indistinguishable from any of the other outer-space themed shows SyFy has aired in the last five years. (And that goes for the writing, too.)
While the producers made a wise decision not having Adam Strange (one of DC’s more popular characters of the 1960s) wear the red and white Flash Gordon-esque costume of the comic books, the fact is that the character, as played by Shaun Sipos, is nothing like he is in the comic book, a brave confident man in his thirties. Instead we get the generic brave coward, young nerd that seems to be on almost every single science fiction and/or superhero show these days. Yawn.
Finally, while the creators deserve credit for not showing Krypton as a planet populated only by Caucasians, as has so often been the case in the past, there is something troubling about the fact that the man who will be one of Superman’s greatest villain’s (Gen. Zod) is portrayed by a black actor. With all the recent debate about race, crime and police brutality, this might have been a case where keeping the character white might have been the right decision, but I digress.
This is not to say that Krypton is a terribly bad show, but seven episodes in it is not a terribly good one either. The producers would do well to study Smallville and Gotham to see how to do a prequel TV show well. Then again, what did anyone honestly expect from SyFy at this point?
The Bottom Line:
Overall, Action Comics #100 is an fitting tribute to the Man of Steel and should be enjoyed by anyone with more than a passing interest in Superman. Sadly, the same cannot be said for Krypton whose future on TV may be the same as the planet’s.
– Action Comics #1000: 9.0/10 – Krypton: 4.5/10
Staff Writer/Resident Historian: Nerd Nation Magazine