Action Comics #500

Action Comics #500, October 1979

Just been re-reading this celebratory tome from 1979. Beneath the fine Ross Andru/Dick Giordano cover is a 64-page story written by Marty Pasko and drawn by Curt Swan (of course!). The plot sees the opening of a new Superman Pavilion at the Metropolis World’s Fair. Naturally enough the Man of Steel is in attendance to act as guide for the very first tour. As the public is led through the various rooms, we see events from Superman’s life as his memories are triggered by the displays.

A specially-created device allows Superman to probe deeply into his subconscious and recount his days on Krypton. As the planet explodes, Superman cries out in pain at his terrible loss. Later, there’s a wonderful moment when he recalls his adventures with Krypto and explains that, until the mutt’s arrival, no one human could understand the “little things” about being super: “The feeling of the wind on your face… or the sound bullets make when they bounce off living flesh.”

As the plot unfolds, it’s eventually revealed that the whole Superman Pavilion thing is a setup by Lex Luthor to tap into Superman’s brain and use the memories therein to create a perfect clone. Thus prepared, the clone is sent to replace the Man of Steel while the real hero is kept powerless under the light of a red sun. This state of affairs doesn’t last long however, and soon Superman has managed to free himself and switch off the red sun lamp. Luthor, rather brilliantly, is dispatched with a mere flick of a super finger, and Superman flies off to defeat the clone.

All in all a wonderful celebration of a milestone event: the first American comic to reach the magic number 500. While Swan’s art is not the strongest, and hampered by Frank Chiaramonte’s lazy inks, it does the job, and there are some great moments, such as the aforementioned “super-flick”. Marty Pasko, however, does sterling work, using his theme-based scripting techniques to get inside the head of the Man of Steel, asking the question, how would it feel to be super, knowing you were all alone in a world of inferiors?

This was a comic I longed to read when I was a kid. Giant-sized issues of anything were not distributed in the UK in the late-70s, so all I had to go by were the numerous ads in other DC books. As such, it was one of the first comics I sought out as a back issue once I finally had access to comics shops in the early-80s. And I wasn’t disappointed. Action #500 is a great read.

Cover ©2008 DC Comics