Jun 22 2011 5:12pm

Reader’s Guide to the New DC Universe: Action Comics

Action Comics #1Each weekday, Tim will take a look at what we know about each of the upcoming 52 new comics from the September DC relaunch, one series at a time. Today: ACTION COMICS!

The Concept and Characters: The initial press release, along with that cover image of a working class superhero, tells us that this relaunch explores a Superman who “defends a world that doesn’t trust their first Super Hero.” Unlike most of the other fall #1 issues, this one seemingly takes place in the early days of the DCU, re-establishing a new timeline for the introduction of the superheroes into the modern universe.

When John Byrne relaunched Superman in the post-Crisis world of the 1980s, he had planned a similar approach, retelling Superman’s origin in Man of Steel, then telling stories about his first days as a hero in Metropolis. That plan was abandoned by DC editorial at the time, before it could be executed, with Byrne jumping from Man of Steel to a brand-new Superman #1 featuring Superman already an experienced, well-known protector of the big city.

Like so much of DC’s relaunch strategy, this new version of Action Comics seems to be inspired by what DC DIDN’T do after Crisis on Infinite Earths.

It also seems poised to address another problem: readers think Superman is boring.

Superman, with his invulnerability, his dignified approach to superheroics, and his god-like powers, is often seen more as an icon than as a character who can play a central role in a compelling drama. What’s really at stake when a character basically has no weaknesses and can do anything? Kryptonite can only be used so often before it becomes a crutch.

Honestly, I’ve never subscribed to the “boring Superman” philosophy, since he’s a character who so clearly represents the potentiality of the superhero concept. He embodies the distinction between who we are and what we aspire to be. Superman has nearly unlimited power, but he still has to make moral choices, he still has to decide what path to take, and with the sci-fi trappings of the DCU, he will always face conflicts that will test even his astounding abilities.

But it will also be interesting to see a contemporary take on the early Superman—the New Deal strong man of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster—a character who will struggle with the physical demands of the job as well as the moral choices.

The Creative Team: If I had to pick one writer to relaunch Action Comics and tell the greatest Superman stories possible, the decision would be simple: Grant Morrison, writer of the best-ever Superman story in the twelve issues of All-Star Superman. But I didn’t have to pick. DC did. And they came up with the same choice.

Are there other comic book writers who could write good stories about a younger Superman, struggling in his early days in Metropolis? Sure. But Grant Morrison is the only writer who has proven that he can make Superman a compelling character for today. He’s also the best mainstream comic book writer today, the best, maybe, ever. If someone made a documentary about his career, and someone did, I would happily speak on camera about his work and his influence on the industry, and I did.

Joining Morrison on this comic will be artist Rags Morales. Morales has done serviceable work on comics like Identity Crisis and Hawkman, but he really impressed me with his opening issue of First Wave, a series that ended up going nowhere and falling apart, even artistically, by the end. But Morales did demonstrate strong control over mood and the weight of mystery in that series. Between that and the physicality he brings to his characters, I think he’s a solid choice to complement Morrison’s back-to-basics take on a super-powered muscleman hero.

Recommendation: Definitely buy it! This has the best comic book writer working today crafting stories around the character who kicked off the whole superhero genre. The Justice League comic may be positioned as the flagship series of the New DC Universe, but Action Comics looks to be the heart and soul of the relaunched DCU.

Tim Callahan writes about comics for, Comic Book Resources, Back Issue magazine, and his own Geniusboy Firemelon blog.

Reader's Guide to the New DC Universe: index | next ›
John R. Ellis
1. John R. Ellis
All Star Superman: The best Superman story ever?

Hmmm. I'd have to disagree. For me it's still "For the Man Who Has Everything".

All Star is pretty good, but I think it's more a case where people latched onto it so strongly because the in-continuity Superman comics at the time were so...bland. Unimaginative. Lifeless.

For everything great is All Star, there was also some self-indulgent fan service that kept me from fully investing in it.

I don't hate the geekier, goofier side of DC's past at all. (My current favorite cartoon is 'The Brave and the Bold", for Pete's sake!) but Morrison has this way of being a bit -too- proud that he's brought a reference in that he just can't stop pointing out how clever it all is. That turns me off.

That said, I own every issue and enjoyed it.
John R. Ellis
2. John R. Ellis
Also, if Morrison even -thinks- "Sentient RNA strand...yeah, that'd make a great arch-villain. I got away with it before..." please, talk him out of it. *grin*
rob mcCathy
3. roblewmac
tread carefully when playing with Alien superman is! I dont want to see him learn English from TV say "foolish humans" Or "What is love LO-AZZ"
Greg Lincoln
4. glshade
I really have enjoyed some of the Chris Roberson stories and will be sorry to see them stop. That said I am going to check out Morrisons Action comics though I have reservations.

For Grant was great on both his Animal Man and Doom Patrol runs but his JLA and Invisibles both left me feeling let down. With both of them I felt that his endings were either lackluster or completely disconnected from the tales he was telling. He is a great idea man whos imagination I envy and as a story teller he is strong too but in some cases he runs out of gass before the finale sometimes.
John R. Ellis
5. TheAdlerian
Superman is an example of the principles of Adlerian Psychology, which is somewhat a secular version of the Talmud. Adlerian Psych was very popular at the time making national headlines and so on. In addition, the Nazi interest in Nietzche was well know and Superman was developed as a response to his idea of a Superman.

In Adlerian Psych the idea is that a civic minded person who is not selfish has the best mental health. He uses his "powers" to help the group and in turn gets help from the group, which is largely realistic. Adler opposed Freud on the idea that sex is the evolved primary drive and said that working together is the primary drive as it's hard to have sex without that ability. On the other hand, Nietzche believed that a strong and talented person should not care about the needs of weaker people and take power and do what he likes. Nietzche was disgusted by the ethics of middle east religions like judaism and christianity because he thought they bred weakness in people (Read The Antichrist).

SO, that's Superman and all of his villains.

Superman isn't just a story, it's a duel between types of values. I've always noted that those villains jealous of Superman, could be Superman, if they just got rid of their intense self-focus, and that's a big irony. But the overall theme of Superman is that he's like a nomal good man in a sea of Ubermensch from the superpowered to the normal human.

Superman ought to be a bit more like Spiderman when everyone thought he was a criminal and it was tough for him to continue on. In addition, Superman should have villains that are as serious as what inspired his creation. The character should be very dramatic.
Scott Skocy
6. skoce
This one has me excited. If the rest of the re-whatever sounded this good I wouldn't be so anxious about it. But I guess Morrison can't write all 52 comics. All-Star Superman was absolutely the best Superman story. It might be my favorite Morrison story as well. More Morrison Superman is always good.
Stephen Aryan
7. StephenAryan
I'm not a fan of Morrison in general so I won't be picking this up, despite being a fan of the character. I prefer the sound of the Perez Superman title.

I enjoyed Morrison's run on the JLA years ago, but his Batman and Batman Inc stuff has left me cold and uninterested. For me some of the best Superman stories were the Death of Superman, and his eventual return, Superman for All Seasons by Loeb, and Superman: Secret Identity by Busiek.
rob mcCathy
8. roblewmac
A new Superman is simply done to screw up the copyright case pure and simple DC says "You have no claim on THIS Superman! Go home kid."
That said Morrison has done good stuff with Superman so it's not a bad idea until you read "the world does not trust the first Superhero" then you think "oh dear this is the X-MEN "
John R. Ellis
9. jonmwilson1979
This book is top of my list when it comes to what excites me about The New DCU. I've been a fan of the Golden Age version of Superman for years, and the idea that some of those notions are going to be brought to fore here is beyond amazing to me. Since you posted this entry, Morrison has gone on to say more and more about what he's going to do with this title, and not a single word has put me off yet. Quite the opposite, in fact. So I agree. JL may be intended as the flagship title, but this book is going to be the one I wait for every month.

Golden Age Superman podcast

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