<p>This year marked the 75th anniversary of the appearance of <em>Action Comics #1</em> - the first one, that is - and the debut of Superman into a world that was waiting for his arrival, whether it knew it or not. <p>As part of the celebration this year, DC Comics launched a third <i>Superman</i> solo ongoing, as well as two new team-up books (with pals Batman and Wonder Woman). <i>Man of Steel</i> hit big screens, and he hit the small screens twice in direct-to-video films <i>Superman: Unbound</i> and <i>Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox</i> (though his role was limited in the latter). <p>Then at New York Comic-Con, they held a party for Superman's 75th, and released <a href="http://www.newsarama.com/19258-superman-75th-anniversary-animated-short.html">this amazing animated short</a> that honors major moments from his comic book, live action, and animated history. <p>That made us want to look back on our own, and take a look back at some of Superman's previous big celebration issues, to see how he previously brought the party to comics.
The first centenary for a Superman book played things relatively cool, with a mix of multiple stories (not all of them even starring Kal-El Zatara, the Vigilante and Congo Bill all had back-ups in this 1946 issue) and Superman playing down any idea of a special celebration with a story about a detective from Scotland Yard who <em>almost</em> figures out Superman's secret identity. <p>That's so classically Superman, of course: Playing down his importance and sharing the spotlight.
Actually, it turns out that the idea of someone figuring out Superman's secret identity may have been a centenary tradition, accidentally; the 100th issue of the first <em>Superman</em> series saw a criminal figuring out that Superman was actually Clark Kent, and trying to blackmail him into nefarious activities in order to keep the secret. <p>That was just one of three Superman stories in the issue, though, and the others were slightly less impressive... unless you've always wanted to see the Man of Steel become a substitute teacher. Yes, things were very different back in 1955.
DC pulled out the stops for the 300th issue of <em>Action</em>, giving Kal-El an anniversary adventure worthy of his time. In the classic "Superman Under the Red Sun!" the Man of Steel found himself powerless when trapped in a far future Earth where humanity was extinct and, yes, the sun had turned red (don't worry; this all happened in the year 1,000,000 AD, so we have some time left before we have to start thinking about our inevitable end just yet). <p>Powerless and the accidental survivor of <em>two</em> dead planets? Now <em>there's</em> a man who knows how to celebrate three hundred issues!
For the 1976 three-hundredth issue of <em>Superman</em>, writers Cary Bates and Elliot S! Maggin teamed with iconic Superman artist Curt Swan to offer an imaginary story that brought the character right up to date... and beyond. <p>In "Superman 2001," we saw a Krypton that was destroyed in 1976, and a Superman that grew to adulthood in gasp! the 21st century. "Just imagine the Man of Steel coming to Earth as a baby <em>today</em> and growing up in the world of <em>tomorrow</em>!" promised the cover, and even though the world of tomorrow looks curiously dated by contemporary standards, it's still thrilling, fun stuff.
By 1979, Superman was 41 years old and reaching the point of his life where he wanted to stop and consider what he'd done with his life. <p>Thankfully, he didn't have to do that alone; in "The Life Story of Superman," the good people of Metropolis open a "Superman Pavilion" at their local World's Fair to celebrate the life and good deeds of the Man of Steel, even as Lex Luthor makes himself a Superman clone to undo the hero's good reputation. As you might expect, things didn't really work out for Lex or his faux Superman, but what kind of anniversary issue would it have been otherwise?
The legacy of Superman was the subject of "The Living Legends of Superman," Elliot S! Maggin's 1984 anniversary issue that saw the hero thrown into the far future again but only to the 60th century this time, so there was still a yellow sun to keep him powered up. <p>When he arrived in the future this time, a much happier discovery awaited him than in <em>Action #300</em>: He had become a mythical figure as the result of his actions, with families celebrating his life on a special day known as Miracle Monday. Christ allegories laid bare for a less subtle time, perhaps?
A lot has changed between Superman's 50th and 75th anniversaries. For <em>Action</em> #600, the Man of Steel was a couple of years out of a controversial reboot that coincided with a universe-wide reboot spinning out of an event book, and was exploring the possibility of a romance with Wonder Woman while facing off against Darkseid. <p>Whereas these days, he's, uh... Wait. <em>Has</em> anything changed in the last 25 years? (Only joking: No DC book these days would John Byrne and George Perez on art and have Mike Mignola doing a back-up strip, obviously).
Whereas the first <em>Superman #100</em> saw a criminal work out that Superman was really Clark Kent, the second attempt saw Clark Kent killed off altogether. Well, the Clark Kent <em>persona</em>, at least; Superman had, of course, died 25 issues ago, and that didn't stick, either. <p>This was back during a period where DC's 100th issues tended to feature big events of this nature: Wally West "died" in <em>Flash #100</em>, and was back by the end of the same issue. The '90s, everybody!
For <em>Action</em>'s first anniversary of the 21st century, Joe Kelly got his inner Elliot S! Maggin on and offered up an all-star jam issue mixing fictional and real-life testimonies to the power of Superman as an inspirational figure helping others to try and be their best and make the world a better place. <p>With artists including Ed McGuinness, J.H. Williams III, Jim Lee, Tim Sale, Pascual Ferry and Alex Ross, this was an impressive tribute to the example set by the world's greatest superhero and the guy that started it all.
The final centenary issue for the Man of Steel well, for another few years, at least, barring any more reboots or renumberings might have lacked the big standalone impact of previous editions, but it did feature not one but <em>two</em> big storylines in one issue, as Paul Cornell wrapped up his "Black Ring" arc for Lex Luthor and brought Superman back to the series for the first time in a year just in time for "Reign of Doomsday" to begin in earnest. It also included a story written by <i>The Dark Knight</i> screenwriter David S. Goyer where Superman renounces his U.S. citizenship, which received a healthy amount of mainstream publicity upon release in April 2011 but was never really brought up again. <p><em>Flashpoint</em> and The New 52 were just around the corner, but at least this incarnation of Superman was trying to go out with a bang.