In the age of populism and such, which I have bitched about numerous times, and corporate oppression, etc, etc, I picked up a couple of issues of Superman - related comics the past couple of days. DC Comics ( Yes, a subsidiary of Time/Warner.) has been relaunching new, improved reboots of their characters (Batman hasn't been affected that much. He IS the top seller after all. ) for a new generation, risking alienating the already loyal fans. Their argument is that if you'd be more loyal, our sales wouldn't be dipping. Not a bad point, but it's still a gamble.
Well, Action Comics #1 appeard in June of 1938, with a Superman smashing a car into a rock while gangsters ran in fear. In it Superman tackled, in a mere 8 pages, government corruption, spousal abuse, and the ethics of the death penalty. This was a Superman of the people, not yet the sci - fi character who would take on giant robots or rogue Kryptonians. He was an immigrant, much like his creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
Action Comics needed maybe 2 and a half years before hitting the millenial mark, as it was in the 900's. Detective Comics, I might add, which brought us Batman at issue # 27 in 1939, was also in the 900's. DC decided it couldn't wait. It was time to start their timeline over, and The Flash would be the main character of the change, but it would be Superman at the center of the new (old) universe.
So, the verdict? OUTSTANDING!!!!!!!!!! Action #1 was a re - telling of the original, as Superman would be taking on a robber baron and corruption in Metropolis. Action would be 5 yrs ago, when Superman first appears on Earth. He, like his original incarnation, would not quite be able to fly, not able to maintain it just yet. He would NOT be married to Lois Lane, and NO TRUNKS. Action Comics' Superman wears jeans, a t - shirt, and a cape, but is very impulsive and idealistic, and not quite aware of his role in this world. Clark Kent is not a pussy, either,but a hard - nosed and incorruptible investigative reporter, a man with an obsession with TRUTH.
Superman, the title that bears this name, will be his adventures in real time (or whatever that is in comic books), and he is more powerful. He can fly. He has a costume, seemingly a Kryptonian design, but still the blue and red. He has been getting stronger, and is more in control of his power. Clark, a man of great integrity, still hasn't seemed to tell Lois how he really feels, and is a bit of a loner. Superman is still trying to figure out his role in the world, but has a greater grasp on what "Truth, Justice, & The American Way" really mean, and is ready to stand up to anyone, even his new boss - Lois Lane. She is the news director with the Daily Planet's new multinational news organization, and an anchor. She has to deal with a megalomaniac in Morgan Edge ( So far he seems to be a black Ruppert Murdoch) and even has to find out what Superman already understands - at what price is your soul?
The first issue of Superman is actually about media, and it's role in a free society. Will you bring news to the people, or only make it serve corporate interests? Is it news anymore? Is it a free society at this point? Clark Kent seems to be the only voice of sanity, as is Perry White, but now Lois has to decide. In Action, Lex Luthor seems to be a shadow figure, a government contractor who only serves his own agendas. So, no, hasn't really changed.
I am glad to see these changes to keep these characters relevant. The socially conscious Superman is more necessary than ever, and I believe Siegel and Shuster would approve.