13 Underrated ACTION COMICS Covers

The Man of Steel has been on thousands of covers — and some deserve another look…

In September, we posted 13 UNDERRATED DETECTIVE COMICS COVERS (click here), followed by 13 UNDERRATED BATMAN COVERS (click here). Both received nice receptions, so I told myself I’d go back to this well when I had a chance.

I didn’t realize it would take this long, but we’re back now with 13 UNDERRATED ACTION COMICS COVERS.

These are all from the Bronze Age, a period that, all things considered, stands relatively unheralded compared to the bizarre ’60s or John Byrne’s takeover in the ’80s. (If you’re a bona fide Superman fan, you’re likely to think differently. Still, I’d argue — strenuously — that Superman’s high point in the ’70s was the movie.)

Anyway, dig these groovy 13 COVERS, in no particular order:

Action Comics #425. I’m sure Superman die-hards are very familiar with this one but it strikes me that this lovely cover by Nick Cardy should have been a much bigger deal.

Nick Cardy

Action Comics #503. Great framing, great colors, compelling mystery. That’s enough right there.

Ross Andru pencils, Dick Giordano inks

Action Comics #488. Boy, this was an era of weak adversaries for the Man of Steel, wasn’t it? Look at this guy! Why the pointy mask? And the big “MW” on the chest! But it’s fun and exciting, which is all that really matters.

Jose-Luis Garcia-Lopez pencils, Dick Giordano inks

Action Comics #494. Great borderline horror cover by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. It’s not shadowy but both the green soldier and the utter terror on Lois’ face and in her body language make this a really effective piece.


Action Comics #413. I remember seeing this one in a house ad in the ’70s and thinking “What in the world could hurt Superman like that?” Man, I love Nick Cardy.


Action Comics #526. Pretty much a straight-up punch-out cover but Andru frames it so well and the lines, inked by Giordano, are so, so clean. The clock underlay adds tension and the Metropolis background gives a sense of scope. Another forgettable bad guy (he looks a lot like Wildfire), but you can’t have everything.

Andru and Giordano

Action Comics #479. You’re right, generic bald guy who kind of looks like Julius Schwartz: I never thought anything could hit Superman that hard either, but Rich Buckler and Bob Oksner bring it. The upshot camera angle works really well, especially since it emphasizes the imminent collapse of the building behind the Man of Steel.

Rich Buckler pencils, Bob Oksner inks

Action Comics #456, DC. OK, this isn’t really underrated at all. You’ve probably seen it a bajillion times. I just wanted to include it because it was such a craven attempt to cash in on the Jaws craze. You can’t help but laugh.

Mike Grell

Action Comics #574. It’s no longer a novelty to see such a somber Superman cover but this one really stands out, given its time period. I wish I knew who the colorist was because damn. (If you know, post it in the comments!)

Eduardo Barreto

Action Comics #518. Not really that great a cover but I wanted to take a moment to appreciate just how well Andru drew Superman in flight. It’s an underrated talent and Andru always gave the Man of Steel such a sense of movement from angles like this. Very cool. Very cinematic.

Andru and Giordano

Action Comics #412. I’m a sucker for subterranean worlds that have their own light sources and clouds. Not to mention a T. Rex in the distance!


Action Comics #548. As far as I know — and correct me if I’m wrong — but this was the first time the comics started to mimic Superman: The Movie’s crystalline Phantom Zone window.

Gil Kane

Action Comics #405. How can a Neal Adams cover be underrated? Simple, when he appears to have aped his own iconic cover from Superman #233. This one isn’t as powerful as that “Kryptonite Nevermore!” cover but Superman still looks pretty badass. (By the way, Adams claims to hate the cover of #233. Why? Read here.)

Neal Adams pencils, Giordano inks


— DAN JURGENS Ranks the 13 Greatest ACTION COMICS Covers. Click here.

— 13 Top Artists Pick Their Favorite ACTION COMICS Covers. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. You could have just posted any 13 of the early 70s Nick Cardy covers and made me happy! Kudos to you for keeping me honest!

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  2. I miss Dick Giordano. He made everyone he inked look good.

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  3. So glad to see the cover to ACTION COMIC #494 included. One of my all-time fave Superman-related covers. And really, who can go past a Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez cover?!

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  4. Ya, gotta love the bronze age. Cardy, Lopez, Giordano and Adams…..wow.

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  5. You selected well here. As underrated as these old “Action Comics” covers are, they really stand out in their own right. I especially like the Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez covers in this collection.

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  6. Some great choices. Thanks for putting the list together! I’m really partial to some of these Nick Cardy covers! Was the cover from Action #428 a “sequel” to the cover from Action #425? Those look like they may be the same kids & dog. The covers to Action #423 and #463 were great too!

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  7. Great selection as usual! The ghost soldier on 494 bears a striking resemblance to General George Patton.

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  8. You missed Action 417. It has a one of a kind factor that I’ll leave to you to figure out. E-Mail me if you can’t, but I have faith you’ll figure it out. Why this doesn’t premium pricing I don’t understand.

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        • I’ll just tell everyone: Look at the “DC” on the RIGHT side of the logo and the “20c” price on the LEFT side. It id (as far as I know) the ONLY time the layout was done this way. Experiment? Error? I have no idea.

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          • Oh, great spot! Thanks.

  9. Top list, Dan! Your speculation that the bald chap on the cover of Action Comics #479 is Julie chimes with me… I bought it at the time and thought the long-haired blond guy looked pretty distinctive. Later that year I spotted him on another Rich Buckler cover, Black Lightning #10, and wondered if Panicking Man was the artist himself. I wrote to Answer Man Bob Rozakis and it turned out that was indeed the case.

    Hey, it made my day, anyway!

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