Suddenly: Action Comics No. 500!

No idea why, but a few days ago I remembered that I had a black-and-white digest of this comic when I was a lad and was prompted to check it out again. And I am super happy that I did, because this is exactly the kind of book that planted the seeds of my later love of the genre. For those of you who don't make a habit of reading Superman comics from three decades ago: the issue involves Superman giving a tour of a recently-completed museum built in his honour and also foiling an evil plot.

Over the course of the tour, Superman ends up telling his life story, and since this issue takes place four or five years before Crisis on Infinite Earths that means a summary of the entire Silver Age and part of the Golden. It's pretty neatly done, actually, with a few tweaks to smooth over some of the olde schoole ridiculousness. For instance, Ma and Pa Kent still die of a mysterious illness that Superman is unable to cure (thus making him even more determined than ever to save those he can) but without the ridiculous aspect of them having contracted the disease while on a time travel vacation to a pirate-infested island with their son. It's the sort of thing that is likely harder to do properly than a reboot, but ultimately ends up being a lot more satisfying.

It's going to take a couple of passes to cover this one fully, so today I just want to point out the things that bring me the most delight:

1. Father/Son Flying Lessons. 


As I said, I encountered this story fairly early on, so this image has been stuck in my head for most of my life. I'm actually kind of sad that Jonathan Kent helping Clark learn to fly by flying him like a kite isn't an established part of canon, because it's a wonderful scene. And as a bonus: it's one of the few places I can think of where Superman's flight is treated as something more than purely will-based, that he has to actually steer rather than moving through space effortlessly, and I am very fond of that.

2. Kent Family Product Testing Procedures.

The classic explanation for Superman's uniform not constantly being vaporized is that it is made out of his old Kryptonian baby blankets and that they are just as invulnerable as he is. This of course raises the question of just how the Kents learned that said blankets were invulnerable, which leads to the above, wonderful, panel. Ma and Pa do not believe in half measures, so it's a lucky thing that the blankets imperviousness didn't drop off sharply past the buckshot level. As far as I know, "I was trying to see if a blanket could survive an explosion," is not a reasonable excuse to give someone treating you for dynamite-related injuries.

Also, does this origin imply that Superman's uniform is made out of wool?

3. The Super-Dads Get the Best Lines.

 "I swear to you, the clock cannot be trusted!" and "We can't just keep him, for corn's sake!" are without a doubt two of the best things written in the year 1979.

Also, having a big clock with your data on it was an accepted part of the Kryptonian Scientific Method.

4. The Museum Guides' Uniforms. 

It's not just the blouses, it's the hats.

5. Super Stunting. 

Superman used to do this kind of thing all the damn time, so I'm glad it made it into this anniversary issue. Whenever there was a mundane task to accomplish, he would embiggen it or otherwise make it amazing. Is it your birthday? Here comes Superman with an enormous cake and a knife he made out of a girder. Need to clean your aquarium before the weekend? Superman'll help out by placing your fish in a glass bubble he forged out of some nearby sand, then flinging them through time so that they arrive just as you finish refilling the tank. Does Superman owe you a hundred bucks? Good luck cashing the check he just wrote on the surface of the moon.

6. Brainiac.

I'd just like to restate here my preference for insane villain Brainiac over logic-monster Brainiac. Someone that will steal cities out of a desire to possess all knowledge is creepy and all, but I just think it's better if that added element of irrationality is added. He still steals cities because he wants all knowledge, but he also does it because he's crazy for cities. Also necessary: pet monkey.