SUPERMAN WEEK: The outgoing Action Comics writer/artist makes his selections…
UPDATED 4/18/20: Action Comics #1 debuted 82 years ago today. Perfect time to re-present this piece from 2018’s SUPERMAN WEEK celebrating the Man of Steel’s 80th anniversary and the publication of Action Comics #1000. Dig it. — Dan
Dan Jurgens is one of the most important Superman artists and writers of the last 30 years. He was not only one of the guiding hands behind Superman in the ’90s, he was one of the main forces behind the mega-blockbuster crossover The Death of Superman. His acclaimed return to the Man of Steel in Action Comics two years ago, meanwhile, heralded a back-to-basics approach embraced by hardcore Superfans.
His final regular issue — Action Comics #999 — came out a couple weeks ago and he wraps up his latest run with the Action Comics Special in early May. But he also has the lead story in Action Comics #1000, out now, as well as two Action #1000 variant covers — a 1990s tribute cover …
… and a Dynamic Forces retailer-exclusive cover:
So we asked Dan to come up with his list of the 13 Greatest ACTION COMICS Covers. He agreed — and even ranked them.
All told, Dan was the ideal choice for this special SUPERMAN WEEK guest column. But he’s not alone: We also asked 13 other great artists — including Mike Allred, Kevin Nowlan, Jerry Ordway, Dave Gibbons and David Mack — to pick their single favorite Action Comics covers too, and you can click here to see their choices. (You definitely want to. Great stuff.)
Now, here’s Dan:
By DAN JURGENS
As Action Comics celebrates Issue #1000, I was asked if it might be possible to identify the title’s 13 best covers.
With well more than 1,000 covers (variants will do that) it was remarkably difficult to narrow the list to 50, much less 13, but I think this is a pretty good representation.
My criteria were pretty simple, starting with the basic question of, “Does this cover make me want to read the book? Does it properly symbolize its era or perhaps contribute something to Superman’s legacy?” The more emphatic the answer, the more likely it made the list.
Note that this is simply my list. You might come up with something entirely different. The fun thing about comics is that we can all have our own opinions! Note as well that anything I worked on personally was eliminated from consideration.
Now, on to the 13 Best ACTION COMICS Covers!
13. Action Comics #256
There was a time when a lot of DC covers featured heroes that were somehow transformed and many of them were quite enticing. It feels a bit like the creative team may have been channeling Grant Morrison when they concocted this one, but a Superman from the year 100,000 has to be worth reading, right?
12. Action Comics #309
This wonderful cover by Curt Swan and Sheldon Moldoff combines two classic approaches to Superman covers. The first is the pairing of both Clark Kent and Superman on the same cover, which was used often. The second is an array of heroes, including not only Superman, Batman and Supergirl but the Legion of Super-Heroes as well. Would’ve been an easy and instant way to slap 12 cents on the counter and run all the way home to read it.
11. Action Comics #300
Everything about this Curt Swan/George Klein effort works. Superman is obviously alone and powerless on a post-apocalyptic future Earth, helpless to leave due to the red sun. Lots of intrigue here, especially when combined with Superman’s unkempt hair and beard!
10. Action Comics #644
This fabulous George Pérez effort is so ominous in its appearance that it virtually jumped off the stands. A sneaky side bonus of the cover is that the suit is actually colored the same as the suit George Reeves wore during the first two seasons of the old Superman TV series. Since the show was shot in black and white, Reeves’ suit was actually gray and dark brown rather than blue and red.
9. Action Comics #484
Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez draws, perhaps, the best version of Superman we’ve ever seen and this effort, inked by Dick Giordano, exemplifies his talent.
8. Action Comics #500
Infinity covers are covers that have their own image replicated as part of the design, theoretically stretching to infinity itself. This is one of those and it’s a brilliant piece of work by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano. The fact that it highlights my favorite Supergirl costume had no influence whatsoever on my selection.
7. Action Comics #242
For those who say that Superman has a rather weak cadre of villains, this one’s for you! Not only does this 1958 Curt Swan/Stan Kaye effort work with solid composition and a striking color palette, it features the first appearance of Brainiac.
6. Action Comics #361
Speaking of villains, #361 features another of Superman’s enemies — Parasite. What makes this cover so noteworthy, however, is the sense of power and dynamics as rendered by Neal Adams. Compare it to the 360 covers that preceded it and this represents quite a leap in the direction covers were going at DC.
5. Action Comics #583
The passing of an era is marked by this sad cover as rendered by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson. Superman was about to be refashioned by notable writer/artist John Byrne, but before that happened, Alan Moore wrote the two-part crossover Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? one of the best Superman stories of any era.
4. Action Comics #252
I doubt readers knew how important it was at the time, but this iconic image featured the remarkable debut of Supergirl. Superman’s young cousin would become an integral part of his mythos and will celebrate her 60th anniversary next year.
3. Action Comics #52. This brilliant Fred Ray cover is the perfect balance of composition and use of color. Add the grand concept of a group of heroes charging forward, backed up by an air force, and it screams, “Buy me!”
2. Action Comics #419
Our first runner-up, in my own humble opinion, goes to Action Comics #419. This cover, brilliantly conceived and drawn by Neal Adams and inked by Murphy Anderson, does a remarkable job of conveying the joy and spirit of Superman. Couple Superman’s dynamic shot with a photographic background and it virtually begs to be bought. If this doesn’t make you want to read Action Comics, nothing well.
1. Action Comics #1
Can there be any other choice? It’s quite possible that without this book, we wouldn’t have comics today. Not only is it the cornerstone of Superman, but the industry itself. When it hit the stands, Superman was a character unlike any other so his extraordinary abilities needed to be displayed in no uncertain terms. Quite possibly the best-known cover our medium ever produced, lovingly drawn by Joe Shuster.
— 13 Top Artists Pick Their Favorite ACTION COMICS Covers. Click here.
— 13 Top Artists Pick Their Favorite SUPERMAN Covers. Click here.
— For the complete SUPERMAN WEEK index of features and tributes, click here.