Review: Superman #400

Superman #400 cover
Cover by Howard Chaykin

Superman #400
Published and © by DC, October 1984

Title: “The Living Legends of Superman”
Synopsis: At different points throughout their future, humanity recalls legends of Superman, champion of “truth, justice and the American way.”

Writers: Elliot S. Maggin and Jim Steranko
Pencilers: Joe Orlando, Al Williamson, Frank Miller, Marshall Rogers, Wendy Pini, Michael W. Kaluta, Klaus Janson and Steranko
Inker: Orlando, Williamson, Miller, Terry Austin, Pini, Kelly Alder, Janson and Steranko

Review: This reviewer has long felt Superman works better as an archetype than a character, so it’s little surprise that this sci-fi-flavored collection of iconic Super-tales scores big. The book is built around several excellent short stories by Elliot S. Maggin (along with one written and drawn by comics legend Jim Steranko), and is illustrated by an all-star cast of talent old and new. EC alumni Joe Orlando and Al Williamson help establish the book’s sci-fi flavor. Other artistic highlights include some Ronin-era Frank Miller and, of course, the beautifully designed Steranko story.  Altogether, a spectacular anniversary issue.

Grade: A+

Second opinion: “Editor Julius Schwartz has brought together one of the most impressive rosters of comic artists ever seen in a single comic. Read it, and you will no doubt feel a measure of the wonderment that must have been experienced by every child who opened that first issue in 1939.” – R.A. Jones, Amazing Heroes #56, Oct. 1, 1984 … “The chapters vary, but are generally good – and the art is, for the most part, excellent. Even if you’ve never read a Superman story before, you’ll enjoy this comic.” – Jay Longstaff, Fantasy Advertiser #86, August 1984 … Recommended by The Slings & Arrows Comic Guide (second edition), 2003.

Cool factor: Everything! This one offers a copious helping of cool. Perhaps the best anniversary issue ever.
Not-so-cool factor: A few minor quibbles – No contributions for Curt Swan or Neal Adams? Steranko’s generations of Supermen helped conquer the universe? – but they’re minor, indeed. This issue is a celebration.

Notable: Also includes an introduction by Ray Bradbury; pin-ups by Brian Bolland, Jack Kirby and Terry Austin, John Byrne, Jack Davis, Leonard Starr, Walter Simonson, Bernie Wrightson, Will Eisner, Steve Ditko, Mike Grell, Moebius and Bill Sienkiewicz; an inside back cover by Jerry Robinson; and a back cover by Frank Miller.
Collector’s note: According to the Grand Comics Database, there is a $2.00 Canadian variant of this issue.

Character quotable: “I … will … remember you … forever!” – Superman, taking the day off to remember Krypton (and setting the tone for this terrific collection of tales)

Editor’s note: This review was originally published by Comics Bronze Age on Sept. 14, 2012.

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