At C2E2 this past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Action Comics #1000 panel, which had a lot of information about that specific issue as well as reveals of upcoming Superman artwork and stories, mostly involving new DC Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis. Along the way, the talented group of creators on the panel talked about their connection to Superman while teasing their stories, and some surprise swag was given out at the end…
It’s seriously insane that a monthly comic book has hit four digits in issue numbers and has basically been published since 1938. Some of DC’s best creators convened at the Action Comics #1000 panel to talk about their work on upcoming Superman titles, their relationship to the iconic hero, and most importantly, should his costume have underwear on the outside, or not? The panel included writer Brian Michael Bendis (Alias), who is making his DC Comics debut on Action Comics #1000, writer/artist Patrick Gleason (Superman), writer Tom King (Batman), artist Clay Mann (Batman), artist Jill Thompson (Beasts of Burden), and artist Philip Tan (Suicide Squad: Rebirth).
It kicked off with some information about the 80 page celebration that is Action Comics #1000 as well as a 384 page hardcover book called 80 Years of Superman with all kinds of essays, tributes, stories, and art that looked perfect for a coffee table along with an unpublished story by Jerry Siegel and artists from Joe Shuster’s studio. Continuing with the unpublished theme, Bendis reminded the moderator that Action Comics #1000 has some unpublished art by legendary Superman artist Curt Swan that Marv Wolfman scripted over and geeked out about it. He showed a real passion for being involved with Superman and DC Comics on the panel.
After saying he had almost no time off between doing his last Marvel book, Invincible Iron Man #600, and his first DC book so he could jump in on Action Comics #1000, Brian Michael Bendis set up the first reveal of the panel. It was four pages of lettered Jim Lee art as well as his and Bendis’ first original DC creation, the mysterious villain Rogol Zaar. (There was a snarky joke about red trunks in there too.) Bendis said that the villain will be connected to a secret from Superman’s past. The secret will be revealed in Action Comics #1000 and then expanded upon in the weekly Man of Steel miniseries. He then told Rogol’s secret origin, which was connected to his hospitalization for a MRSA infection in late 2017. Dr. Rogol was a no-nonsense doctor in the hospital, who helped him get better so he decided to name his first big DC villain after her. When Bendis told Dr. Rogel this, she nodded like he was crazy. The next day, she had Googled him and brought out an old Marc Silvestri drawing and said she should look like a bloodstained, bikini wearing barbarian woman. It’s safe to say she wasn’t impressed with Jim Lee’s final design. In his first DC story, Bendis made sure to “write big” for Jim Lee and was influenced by some of his collaborations with Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder on Justice League and Superman Unchained respectively in the salad days of the New 52.
The topic turned to May 2’s DC Nation #0, which is coming out the same week as Free Comic Book Day, but is on sale for $0.25 so the comic could feature more story pages. The book has previews of Tom King’s upcoming work on Batman and Scott Snyder’s upcoming work on No Justice as well as a brand new Superman story by Bendis and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. Working with the 70 year old Garcia-Lopez was on Bendis’ bucket list, and he came out of retirement to deliver some beautiful pages featuring group shots of the Daily Planet bullpen reacting to Superman. Also, apparently he’s a super nice guy and still lives for collaborating on comic book stories.
About a month after DC Nation, The Man of Steel #1 will be released with Brian Michael Bendis writing and Ivan Reis and Joe Prado on artwork. In each issue of this weekly miniseries, Bendis is collaborating with a new artist he’s never worked with before except Kevin Maguire and diving feet first into the DC Universe. Bendis talked about how he wanted to make Metropolis a lived-in setting where each nook and cranny has its own story much like Gotham and also how he wants to show why Clark Kent became a reporter to “tell the truth Superman can’t”. He pointed out that unlike his powers and coming to Earth as an infant, becoming a reporter was his choice. Plus there’s going to be a big space conspiracy story featuring various alien races, including the Guardians of the Universe, and its logo was based off of John Byrne’s Man of Steel even if the stories aren’t really similar.
The Man of Steel leads into Action Comics #1001, which will be written by Bendis and drawn by Patrick Gleason, who previously was the co-writer with Peter Tomasi and occasional artist on Superman. Gleason says that Action #1000 is the celebration/jam issue while the real story starts in issue 1001. He talks about how Superman is an all-out superhero book while Action Comics will focus on the Clark/Superman dichotomy and also build up Metropolis and the Daily Planet. He then proved that he is one of the harder working creators in comics and said that he had to draw 15 pages of Action Comics #1000 while also doing full interiors on Superman #45, his farewell to the title. Luckily, all 15 pages of his Action Comics #1000 story “The Neverending Battle” were splashes and was a love letter to Superman stories across time. One of them featured the old Superman “S”, which his six year old son said was incorrect. His son ended up appearing on a page where Superman stops a train, and all four of his kids helped ink a page with Superman fighting Nazis in World War II with Sgt. Rock.
The moderator turned the focus to Tom King and Clay Mann’s five page Action Comics #1000 story, which is already available online. It is set way in the future, fairly depressing, and King began with a little joke about how Batman was better than Superman. King said that he when was he younger that he thought Superman was a fairly “generic” hero. However, through his grandmother, who is from Nebraska and his wife, who is from Chicago, he began to see him as an embodiment of Midwestern values aka focusing on the solution, not just the problem. Then, artist Clay Mann got a nice ovation from the audience for his art skills and talked about King giving him reference material of Mars to draw this future Earth. He also joked about Superman’s tears not evaporating in the sun, which severely hurt Tom King’s “scientific” credentials. King’s explanation was “super tears”, which led to Bendis telling a story about how he wrote an angry letter to John Byrne while he was a comic book store clerk about how Superman shaves with a mirror and heat vision and ended up getting roasted by Byrne in the letters page of Next Men #8. The ghost of John Byrne definitely seemed to be haunting this panel.
Next, Jill Thompson teased some of her art for the upcoming Action Comics Special story with Mark Russell, which is about Clark Kent roasting Lex Luthor at the White House Correspondents Dinner. It looks super hilarious, and various members of the Justice League are there in dressier versions of their costumes. The wrestler Alex Chamberlain posed for her art. Then, the moderator asked her and the panel who their favorite Superman artists were. Thompson said she liked Steve Rude, especially his work with Dave Gibbon on World’s Finest, where he gave Metropolis and Gotham two distinct looks. Philip Tan’s definitive artist was Alex Ross on Kingdom Come and Mann’s were the aforementioned Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Jim Lee, Dan Jurgens, and John Byrne. King picked Byrne and Curt Swan because “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” is his favorite Superman story. Patrick Gleason said he liked the Superfriends and Bruce Timm Superman cartoons before getting into comics, but his favorite artists were Jurgens and Ross. Bendis closed by giving a shout out to the jam issue (He loves those.) Action Comics #400, which featured Steve Ditko, Jim Steranko, Moebius, and more’s take on Superman. And they all commiserated over the difficulty of drawing the Superman “S”.
Towards the end of the panel, Brian Michael Bendis talked about how what a solid foundation Dan Jurgens, Peter Tomasi, and Patrick Gleason left him on the Superman titles as they went from having two Supermen to just one hopeful, optimistic Superman even with some super crazy stories like the Boyzarro and Rozarro starring Superman #45, which is basically a Bizarro-verse version of the DC Rebirth one-shot. Bendis says the ideal is taking over a struggling book, like Frank Miller on Daredevil, because you have creative freedom, but it’s a tougher challenge to take over a book that has hit a creative peak like Superman.
Bendis said that his take on Superman wouldn’t be a reboot and that he had a seven page manifesto of Superman is relatable to him, especially as a father. (Of course, King quipped about Batman being more relatable.) Plus there is a lot of adoption in his family. He retold a story where as a struggling artist in Cleveland, he took on a gig to do art for a Superman parade where he was paid for Superman merchandise. Siegel and Shuster cancelled so Stan Lee of all people was the guest of honor and called him by name, but it was really because he was wearing a nametag. However, this parade gave him to the opportunity to talk with many comic creators about his career, including George Perez, who gave him 20 minutes of solid advice, including to focus on one project at a time, which has helped him with all those crazy deadlines and juggling multiple books.
The panel concluded with a roundtable discussion about the return of Superman’s red trunks, and Gleason talking about how he and Jim Lee basically designed around them when they were coming up with Superman’s new costume for DC Rebirth. But the panel seemed pretty pro-trunks, and each member of the panel audience was rewarded with their own pair of Superman trunks (Mostly XL.) with #TheTrunksAreBack embroidered on the back.
Basically, Action Comics #1000 seems like it’s going to be historic and epic, and you should pick it up when it drops on April 18.