Last week was a momentous week for Superman – Action Comics #1000 was released, marking the Man Of Steel’s 80th birthday!
The milestone issue (which will be reviewed tomorrow) also marked new Superman scribe Brian Michael Bendis’ debut for DC Comics after his much-vaunted move from Marvel Comics, and featured a host of variant covers and stories, as well as a new Jim Lee-designed costume which will see the return of Superman’s, er, red underpants.
The bigger question for me, however, is whether Action Comics #1,000 will be an issue to remember in years to come, like Captain America #700 was the week before.
For the record, Action Comics isn’t even the longest-running comic book title ever, as that honour goes to Beano Comics (presently at #3,913), followed by 2000 A.D. (#2,060).
Today’s focus is very much on the quality of anniversary issues, as the standard of such milestone releases has been generally poor over the last decade. This is very unlike the products of the 1970s to the 1990s, when the effort put into the issue can be seen from cover to cover, and no expense was spared in recruiting the finest and biggest creative talents. Best of all, there was also a sufficient impact to commemorate the auspicious moment.
While these are sorely missing in today’s anniversary issues, what irks me most is the addition of reprinted tales just to make the book thicker, which also increases the cover price!
Anyway, to justify my point that old is indeed gold, let’s revisit 10 past anniversary issues that set the benchmark for all anniversary issues.
Batman #400 (1986)
Writer: Doug Moench
Artists: George Perez, Art Adams, Bill Sienkiewicz, Joe Kubert, Brian Bolland, Rick Leonardi, John Byrne & others
The Stephen King introduction is already worth the cover price, but what’s most important in this milestone is Ra’s al Ghul’s statement of intent in becoming the Dark Knight’s biggest villain, as he orchestrates two full scale breakouts at Arkham Asylum and the Gotham State Penitentiary.
To further up the stakes, loved ones and key people related to the Batman are also kidnapped, forcing our hero (and his sidekicks) to embark on a marathon gauntlet session!
The Amazing Spider Man #200 (1980)
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artists: Keith Pollard & Jim Mooney
The long awaited sequel to Amazing Fantasy #15 finally takes place here (after 17 years!) as Peter Parker takes on the burglar who killed Uncle Ben. With the odds evened courtesy of Mysterio’s depressants, a powerless Peter’s quest for revenge is made more difficult. To make things worse, Aunt May’s life is at stake!
To ensure that closure is finally achieved, the burglar dies from a heart attack, putting a full stop to the event that marks the Parkers’ darkest hour.
The Amazing Spider-Man #300 (1988)
Writer: David Michelinie
Artist: Todd McFarlane
Featuring the first full appearance of Venom, McFarlane at his finest, and the return of the red-and-blue duds!
And there’s also a milestone-within-a-milestone, as the Spidey pose on the cover set the template for many future illustrations to come.
Justice League Of America #200 (1982)
Writer: Gerry Conway
Artists: George Perez, Jim Aparo, Dick Giordano, Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, Brian Bolland, Joe Kubert & Pat Broderick
If there’s one issue that best sums up the diversity and chemistry within the League, this has to be it!
In addition to the Magnificent Seven (ie Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Flash and Martian Manhunter), this star-studded event also boasts the inclusion of Atom, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Elongated Man, Firestorm, Hawkman, Red Tornado, Zatanna, Adam Strange, Phantom Stranger – and even Snapper Carr!
Conan The Barbarian #100 (1979)
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan
The dream medieval couple would have been Conan-Red Sonja BUT there is actually another who is worthier of the Cimmerian’s attention, namely the late Belit aka the Queen of the Black Coast. Well, if you don’t know her, this milestone issue won’t help much, as it features Belit’s swan song.
Apart from her death, what makes this issue memorable is the rare glimpse of emotion from Conan.
Groo The Wanderer #100 (1993)
Writers: Sergio Aragones & Mark Evanier
Artist: Sergio Aragones
If I have to choose one single comic to be used to promote the importance of reading – this is it! Since his introduction, Groo has been typecast as an imbecile mendicant with no logical justification to his savage actions.
However, a freak confinement accident in a library proves that a little knowledge (and the ability to read) can do wonders, even for Groo!
Fantastic Four #500 (1998)
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Mike Weiringo
Back when the Fantastic Four still had their own title, they always knew how to celebrate their anniversaries and in “Unthinkable” fashion too.
As part of the finale of the Unthinkable story arc, Reed Richards and Doom partake in another duel to the death, with a few big differences – Reed is now mystically trained, Franklin is trapped in Hell, and both combatants emerge from the battle scarred and burnt! This Reed-Doom face-off certainly sets the benchmark for all future encounters.
Uncanny X-Men #200 (1963)
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: John Romita Jr
The Trial of Magneto marks Magneto’s transition from evil to good Mutant – and potential leader of the X-Men!
After (then) decades of battles between the X-Men and Magneto, this epic turning point has them uniting for the sake of Mutantkind – after they iron out some internal irreconcilable differences, that is.
Incredible Hulk #300 (1962)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Sal Buscema
When it comes to Hulk-tales, it’s always predictable: he runs amok and it takes a group of heroes to stop him. Well, this is the perfect script for that scenario.
With Bruce Banner no longer in control of the Hulk, the Green Goliath is fuelled by mindless rage and it takes the combined might of the Avengers, Power Man and Iron Fist, S.H.I.E.L.D. and Dr Strange to halt his trail of destruction.
To cap this hollow victory, the Hulk is exiled to the Crossroads realm, which sounds a lot more humane than what the Illuminati did to him in Planet Hulk.
Action Comics #600 (1988)
Writer: John Byrne
Artists: John Byrne, George Perez, others
Apart from Byrne and Perez collaborating on the same tale, this 50th anniversary tribute addresses pressing issues like “Why aren’t Superman and Wonder Woman an item?” and “What are the risks of wearing a Kryptonite ring?”.
Best of all, this is where Superman and Wonder Woman lock lips for the first time! Check back here tomorrow to see if Action Comics #1000 lives up to this milestone issue!