Action Comics is the home of some of the best Superman characters and stories. But it’s also had some insane ones too.
With DC’s landmark 1000th issue of Action Comics finally here, I skimmed through every single issue of Action Comics printed to date to try and find the weirdest, craziest moments it had to offer. Yeah, that’s how dedicated I am to this job. Let me preface this by saying, going through Action Comics was a wild ride. You don’t realise how many issues nine-hundred and ninety-nine (plus annuals) of anything is until you’re three-hundred in and questioning your life choices. Ninety percent of the early Superman stories should really be on this list, but a lot of the early stuff was so insane that they almost weren’t even trying. So instead, I tried to narrow it down to ones that stood out the most.
So, here it is folks, the crème de la crème. Fifteen of the craziest, weirdest, and sometimes coolest moments from Action Comics.
15. SUPERMAN GOES TO HELL TO SAVE JIMMY OLSEN AND JERRY WHITE’S SOULS – Action Comics #656 (1990)
Both Jimmy Olsen, and Lex Luthor’s son/Perry White’s step-son, Jerry White, are shot by gangsters outside of a Metropolis nightclub. On Death’s doorstep, they’re rushed to the hospital in unstable, critical conditions. Sensing an imbalance in the universe, one of Death’s messengers, Black Racer, tells Superman that Jimmy and Jerry’s souls are being unjustly held in Hell by a demon called Angelica Blaze. Superman goes to to save them, but is only able to rescue Jimmy in time. Jerry, sensing they won’t all get out in time, sacrifices his own soul to the demon in order to give Jimmy and Superman a head start in escaping.
In the real world, Jimmy Olsen pulls through and wakes up from his coma but Jerry never does, leaving a grieving Mr. and Mrs. White (and Lex Luthor). On a slightly more positive note, the issue ends with Black Racer calling Jerry out of Hell and guiding him to Heaven, but still… Poor Jerry… No wonder Lex hates Superman.
14. SUPERMAN MAKES OUT WITH HIS COUSIN, SUPERGIRL – Action Comics #260 (1960)
Superman is seen kissing a new hero called Mighty Maid, and much to Lois’s dismay, Superman and Mighty Maid announce their intent to marry and move to another dimension. It’s revealed later on that Mighty Maid was really Superman’s cousin, Supergirl all along, and the two were trying to trick alien-invaders into thinking Superman had moved to another dimension. Uh, yeah… Ok, Clark. As if getting some Les Cousins Dangereux action wasn’t bad enough, that’s not the worst of it. Later on, it’s casually dropped that Kara is still only 15 years old. Yikes. YIKES.
But wait, there’s more! In a continuation of the freaking weird, repressed sexual urges from back in the day, I present this cover from Action Comics #289 (1962):
The cover depicts Superman embracing another woman and Supergirl saying “I’m so happy for Superman. But how strange that the woman he is finally going to wed looks exactly as I will when I grow up!” I want to also stress that the story itself ends up having nothing to do with a connection between Supergirl and Luma Lyna. None whatsoever. Neither Kara, Superman or Luma brings up the fact that Luma and Kara look similar in the issue. This was purely one of those clickbait covers that should have never existed.
13. SUPERMAN RED AND SUPERMAN BLUE – Action Comics #732-744 (1997-1998)
During the late 90s, DC tried to revamp Superman by giving him a set of entirely new, energy-based powers. Coined “Electric Superman”, Clark’s new powers included the ability to transmute himself into energy and teleport instantaneously across large distances. He could also control magnetic fields, see and differentiate between energy signatures, heal himself while in energy form, and access digital information by touching computers.
Electric Superman was a pretty cool concept while things lasted, but it got weird when Cyborg Superman split Electric Superman into two different beings: Superman Red and Superman Blue. Each Electric Superman represented different aspects of Clark’s personality, and each version believed they were they true Superman. Both versions also spent a fair bit of time trying to win over Lois Lane too, which was weird. It took a little while for Superman Red and Blue to re-merge into the same person, but shortly after they did, writers scrapped Clark’s new powers too. Since then, Superman Red and Blue have occasionally popped up in other storylines, including most recently in the DC Rebirth story, Superman Reborn (2017).
12. SUPERMAN RE-ENACTS BEAUTY AND THE BEAST WITH LOIS LANE – Action Comics #243 (1958) (suggested by Robin Woldt)
Superman saves a woman who turns out to be an ancestor of the Wonder Woman villain, Circe. She invites Clark back to her house, proposes to him, and after he politely declines, she reveals that she’d poisoned his nice, refreshing glass of mineral water with her “evolution serum”. Superman turns into a Lion-creature the next day, and things only get crazier from there. Trying to cheer Superman up, Lois takes him to a play, which ironically turns out to be a production of Beauty and the Beast. After Lois Lane is unable to kiss him – Belle style – out of being a beast, Clark gets real down in the dumps – but Ma Kent didn’t raise no quitter. Ever the optimist, Clark tries to make the best of his situation by cheering up some “orphan boys” at the Zoo in truly some of the most haunting panels I’ve ever seen.
I’d mention how illegal that sounds, but honestly… Clark looks so dead inside in that second panel that I’m too afraid to push it. Superman ends up finding a way to reverse-engineer a cure, but eh. No cure can undo the memory of squatting behind a curtain to let kiddies stick their heads inside your mouth.
11. JOR-EL SURVIVED KRYPTON’S DESTRUCTION (AND KIDNAPPED TIM DRAKE) – Action Comics #987
This wasn’t necessarily a bad story, but Jor-El reappearing in Action Comics as an antagonist definitely belongs on this list. In recent comics, Jor-El took the pseudonym of Mr. Oz – a cloaked, morally ambiguous character responsible for having abducted characters such as Red Robin (Tim Drake) and Mr. Mxyzptlk from the timestream. He kept these characters for months in an unknown location – and in Mxyzptlk’s case – for what seemed like years. So, you can imagine everyone’s surprise when we found out that Mr. Oz was really an anachronism of Superman’s biological father, who had somehow survived Krypton’s destruction and gone insane. Furthering the Jor-El/Oz-mystery, it was also strongly insinuated that Watchmen’s Dr. Manhattan was the one responsible for plucking Jor-El from Krypton as it was destroyed, although currently we’re still unsure why.
10. SUPERMAN MUTATES HIMSELF INTO AN ANT-MAN AND SCARES THE UNITED NATIONS INTO NOT USING NUCLEAR WEAPONS – Action Comics #296
In Action Comics #296, Superman turns himself into an ant-creature so that he can communicate with giant, mutated alien ants who are “invading” the Earth. Clark, of course, is a fashion icon in this issue (note the bold ant-eyes). People are always so quick to jump to Conner Kent as the super-family member with the most style, but here you can clearly see which parent Kon gets it from. As the story progresses, it’s revealed that the ants aren’t actually there to invade, but rather have come to warn humanity against using nuclear weapons (lest they mutate into ants themselves). The best part of this is the ending though, when Clark deadass relays this warning to the whole General Assembly at the United Nations. Iconic.
Featured in the Gallery below are some old Action Comics covers that didn’t need an explanation – they speak for themselves. Click to enlarge.
9. LEX LUTHOR IS SO PETTY THAT HE CAN’T GIVE THE UNIVERSE ETERNAL BLISS – Action Comics #900 (2011)
In the debate over whether Lex Luthor really is a misguided philanthropist, or just a guy that really hates Superman, this issue is probably the biggest advocate for the latter. In the mega-issue Action Comics #900, Lex Luthor inherited the Phantom Zone Child’s infinite power, with one catch: he could only use it to eradicate negative emotions. As Lex begins granting a “wave of bliss” across the entire universe, he realises one thing – eradicating negative emotions meant that he couldn’t kill Superman. What’s more, he’d be giving Superman eternal bliss too. Needless to say, the moment Lex realised this conundrum was priceless:
Suffering with salt. Anyways, Lex ends up getting so mad that he loses his powers, and to top it all off, he dies too. Rest in peace, buddy. See you again in the New 52!
8. PERRY WHITE’S SUPER-CIGARS – Action Comics #435 (1974)
Great Caesar’s cigars, this one was short but essential: that one time Perry White helped Superman save some four-thumbed mutants, and out of gratitude they gave him special cigars that granted him superpowers. The story itself is pretty standard – Perry steals some of Superman’s thunder and whatnot – until Perry realises that he only has one super-cigar left. Instead of using it, Perry puts the cigar away for a rainy day, and as far as I’m aware, Perry’s never used it either. I mean, too bad he didn’t think to use it to save Jerry’s soul from Angelica Blaze but, uh, whatever. The point is, DC may have rebooted their universe multiple times since, but there could still theoretically be one of Perry’s super-cigars out there. So, Superman writer Brian Michael Bendis, if you’re reading this-
7. THE 13TH FLOOR OF GALAXY RECORDS IS AN ALIEN VACAY PORTAL – Action Comics #448 (1975)
In the 70s, Clark and Lois’ fellow reporter, Steve Lombard, accidentally discovered that the 13th floor of Galaxy Records was a portal for vacationing aliens from the planet Tybalt. Aliens from Tybalt would disguise themselves as real Metropolis citizens and spend a couple of days in the city. The operation wasn’t exactly human-safe, either. Steve was literally blown directly out of their elevator shaft into space, and then beamed into their base of operations, all by accident. What’s more, some unstable Tybaltians caused some trouble for Superman around Metropolis too. However, at the end of the issue, Clark – bless his soul – decides not to interfere with their tourism trade. So presumably, this is still happening in Metropolis. And THAT is why Clark will always be my fave.
6. JONATHAN KENT SAW CLARK’S FUTURE BEFORE HE DIED – Action Comics #508 (1980)
As a young man, Pa Kent (may he rest in peace) helped out some aliens in Smallville (as you do). In return, the aliens promised to grant Jonathan his greatest desire when the time came. Flash-forward to Jonathan Kent as an old man, and the aliens grant him is wish of visiting the future for a 30 hour period, so that he can see Clark’s future before he dies. The aliens slightly alter Clark’s perception of the future during this time too, so that Clark is unaware that is father is dead.
So sure enough, Jonathan gets to see one day of Clark galavanting around as Superman and saving lives. However, things are complicated when Pa Kent outs Clark’s secret identity to Lois Lane, believing that they share a special bond and she should know the truth (right on, Mr. Kent!). Shocked that his father would betray his trust, Clark leaves him in Lois Lane’s apartment, and by the time Clark gets over everything and goes looking for his father again, Jonathan’s 30 hours are already up. The timeline slowly fades and resets itself, wiping away Jonathan’s visit from history – but effects from his visit remain. The next day, Clark visits his father’s grave, uncertain as to why he was overcome by the need to stop by.
5. BATMAN BAKES A GIANT-ASS ANNIVERSARY CAKE FOR SUPERMAN – Action Comics #241 (1958)
People always seem to forget that before Batman was a Dramatic Goth™ that was BFFs with Superman, he was just a man – that was still BFFs with Superman.
In Action Comics #241, Batman breaks into Superman’s Fortress of Solitude in a light-hearted show of how easy it is for him to break in. But how did he do it, you ask? He encased himself inside Superman’s giant, metal Fortress key and waited an entire day inside of it for Superman to unlock the Fortress again. Yeah. Bruce then uses his time alone in the Fortress to play some pranks on Superman, including finishing one of Superman’s paintings for him and writing hidden messages all over the walls. Superman eventually figures out that it’s Batman who broke in, and plays his own trick on Bruce by getting him to think the Fortress is collapsing. After they’ve both laughed it out, Batman tells Superman that it was all in jest for Superman’s anniversary of landing on Earth.
As a gift for Clark, Bruce invites Superman back to the Batcave, where Bruce has literally baked a giant-ass anniversary cake for him. Not only is the cake bigger than the both of them, but Bruce straight up sculpted (or, more likely got Alfred to sculpt) both Superman and Clark Kent’s face into giant freaking birthday candles. That’s love, bitch!
4. SUPERMAN AND WONDER WOMAN SPEND 1000 YEARS IN VALHALLA TOGETHER – Action Comics #761 (2000)
Clark and Lois’s relationship is put to the test when Superman and Wonder Woman get stranded in Valhalla together. In a story very similar to a recent issue of Batman, in Valhalla, time passes at a different rate to that on Earth, and Thor – the god who sent them there – is too weak to send them home. Days turns to months, months turn to years, and years to decades. By his four hundredth year, Clark can’t remember what Lois smells like, and by the eight hundredth, forgets her middle name. In total, Superman and Wonder Woman spend around one thousand years in battle together. Eventually, Clark and Diana make their way home (where no time on Earth has passed), with all the while Clark having remained faithful to Lois. The comic was really cute, and did a good job of not just cementing Clark and Lois’s relationship, but Diana and Clark’s friendship too.
3. MULLET SUPERMAN – Action Comics #691-727 (1994-1996)
Pretty much every Superman fan knows about this one, but it’d be criminal not to put this on the list. In 1992, Superman died during the famous “Death of Superman” arc, and was resurrected with a new look: a black supersuit and a luscious, lustrous mullet. I think I speak for all Superman fans when I say that merely “missing” the mullet is an understatement. It was what fueled us, gave us life and hope and emotional support. “#TheTrunksAreBack” for Action Comics #1000, but DC missed an opportunity to bring back the real hero here.
2. SUPERMAN AND BIG BARDA’S SEX TAPE – Action Comics #592-593 (1987)
Warning: this is definitely the creepiest one on this list.
The Apokoliptian sewer criminal, Sleez, steals Big Barda’s Mega-Rod and uses it to put her under his mind-control. He makes her dance for him for days, and it’s pretty heavily insinuated that he assaults her too. Superman drops in to rescue Barda, but is caught by the Mega-Rod himself. With both Superman and Big Barda under his control, Sleez hires an adult filmmaker aptly named “Grossman” to make a sex tape between the two superheroes. Why, you ask? Allegedly so that Sleez can make enough money to raise an army against Darkseid… Uh, sure, Jan. Luckily Mister Miracle drops in to save the day before anything happens, but I think we can all agree that the decision to publish anything like this was utterly perplexing and a giant mistake.
1. SUPERMAN’S MISSING 100 YEARS – Action Comics #370 (1968) (suggested by Robin Woldt)
This one truly is the best one, so settle in. The fact that this managed to beat out Big Barda and Superman almost making a sex tape for the #1 spot is saying something.
Superman is plagued by nightmares of another lifetime and discovers that his rocket ship is in fact over 100 years old. As it happens, between leaving Krypton as a baby and arriving on Earth, Superman had experienced a whole other life which he’d forgotten about. Yeah, that’s right, folks! Pre-crisis Superman didn’t actually grow up in Smallville for the first time, he grew up on another “primitive” planet where he’d had a whole other life as Superman – and another family too.
For reasons which are way too convoluted to get into, Superman (called “Sonn” here) and his unique Kryptonian “radiation” becomes a crucial factor in the planet’s populace evolving too quickly and everyone becoming evil. So Sonn, once the beloved leader of the planet, becomes an outcast. Forty freaking years pass, and Sonn has gone all “Old Man Logan” on everyone, spending his days growing out his scraggly grey beard and eating cans of beans in the wilderness. Sonn’s own son, now all grown up, manages to track him down in a last-ditch effort to save their world – by “devolving” it back to a primitive state. Superman’s son reverts Superman back into being an infant again, and he sends him to a different planet (Earth) so that he can relive his life.
From there, Jonathan and Martha find baby Kal-El, who has no recollection of his wife, son, or the entire freaking world that he left behind – and then Clark grows up to become Earth’s Superman.
Yeah. Let that one sink in.
So, what did you think? Got any other crazy moments from Action Comics that didn’t make the list? Leave them in the comment section below.
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