A Look Back at Action Comics #544

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

I just love it when comic book creators really pushed their creativity and bold concepts to make an anniversary celebration comic book fun, engaging and memorable. As seen in the history of American superhero comics, such great comic books become essential when their concept sets a new standard of quality or when it sets its series (and its featured superhero) to a new and well accepted direction (which then opens up many opportunities to keep the series and the superhero fresh creatively).

Such greatness was achieved by DC Comics and its creators with Action Comics #544 published in 1983.

AC544cover
The cover.

As seen in the cover above done by artists Gil Kane and Dick Giordano, Superman in the background could do nothing but be surprised to see his two foes Lex Luthor and Braniac presented in doubles reflecting a change of design – Luthor getting his now iconic powered suit of armor and Brainiac having a more robotic design.

So you must be wondering…how is the quality of the story and art of this particular comic book that celebration Superman’s 45th anniversary?

We can now start with my retro comic book review of Action Comics #544.

Early Stories

This special-sized comic book features not one but two separate Superman stories titled “Luthor Unleashed!” (written by Cary Bates and drawn by Curt Swan) and “Rebirth” (by Marv Wolfman and Gil Kane).

“Luthor Unleashed!” begins with Luthor already down on the ground hurting from the crash of his aircraft and with Superman present. Even though Luthor’s already helpless, Superman flies away to an unknow destination confident that the super villain will still be there once he returns. However, Luthor got assisted by a robot of his who took him to a secret lair and rode a spacecraft going into deep space. Luthor arrives on the planet called Lexor.

“Rebirth” begins with Superman saving a lady and dog from getting hit by a car on the city street. Afterwards, he flies into space and arrives at a computerized planet that Brainiac created. Just nearby, the star of Epsilon 4 is about to go supernova which prompts him to do something so that many lives will be saved.

Quality

Visually, the art of both stories, respectively done by Curt Swan (arguably the most memorable artist to draw Superman during the pre-Crisis age) and Gil Kane is still good to look at. Both artists knew how to frame the action in interesting ways, put enough details on the people and environment surrounding Superman or Luthor or Brainiac.

When it comes to the storytelling and characterization, not only were both stories really well written, they succeeded in humanizing Luthor and Brainiac. In “Luthor Unleashed!”, the portrayal of Lex Luthor as a family man (he has a wife and a child) as well as a highly revered leader among the citizens of Lexor was excellently done. By just reading that story, it really looked like Luthor could have been a great contributor for the good of the DC Multiverse had he not been a super villain. What writer Cary Bates made clear was that Luthor’s hatred for Supermen was deeply embedded within him.

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Lex Luthor the husband and father.

The story of Brainiac meanwhile was very engaging. Marv Wolfman really went all-out on portraying the death and rebirth of Brainiac who got reshaped in the form of a futuristic robot armed with his own octopus-like spaceship. What is great about this cybernetic form of Brainiac was that he not only looked more sinister but also proved to be a more dangerous super villain than before. Also, Superman’s first encounter with Brainiac in his new form is very memorable.

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A great debut for Brainiac in his new form.

Conclusion

While Action Comics #544 is a celebration of Superman’s 45th anniversary, it is truly a showcase of the two classic super villains who not only got new looks but also went on to become more challenging to Superman on a new and higher level. Before he got his iconic powered suit of armor (designed by the great George Perez), Luthor was not much of a physical challenge to Superman. Before he got his robotic body, Brainiac was not as deadly and had much less resources to be cause chaos to Superman and others. To say the least, this comic book is a true classic of superhero literature!

If you are a collector, be aware that as of this writing, a near-mint copy of the newsstand edition of Action Comics #544 is now worth $77 while its other edition’s near-mint copy is worth $39 at MileHighComics.com.

Overall, Action Comics #544 is highly recommended. This great comic book also has another thing of value: great inspiration and references that Warner Bros. should use when making a new Superman movie with Luthor and Brainiac as the super villains.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at Action Comics #454

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Long ago in the history of American comic book publishing, there was a time when superhero comic book storytelling were not told as dramatic serials but rather as standalone stories laced with outlandish ideas.

For this retro comic book review, we go back to the year 1977 as we focus on a Superman story that would not be told again in this day and age. To say the least, its cover art is, by today’s standard, over-the-top in terms of presentation. kapiHere is my look back at Action Comics #454 published by DC Comics with a story by Cary Bates and visuals by Curt Swan and Tex Blaisdell.

A454cover
The cover.

Early Story

The comic book opens with a preview of things to come showing a weak Superman urged by a few people to fly and chase the Toyman.

And then there was the question: What good are super-powers without the stamina and endurance it takes to use them?

The story begins with the Toyman escaping after pulling off a bank robbery. As he flies higher, he sees Superman coming towards him. After using a trick to delay Superman, Toyman uses a special trick to twirl Superman at high speed and literally throws him away to an unknown destination. The villain escaped and, some time later, Clark Kent/Superman finds himself too tired and drained. Because of this, he becomes desperate to consume food and beverages just to keep going. This problem affects both his career and social life.

A454p1
When was the last time you saw Clark Kent so exhausted?

Quality

Action Comics #454 explores what would happen if Superman lacks energy and requires a lot of rest and many meals to stay active. To see him eat as many as sixty hamburgers per minute is quite funny to see.

Being weak puts Superman at a disadvantage when it comes to stopping the criminal Toyman. As the Man of Steel flies at high speed to chase the bad guy flying in a personal aircraft, the chase drains him a lot.

When it comes to storytelling, this one is pretty short lasting only thirteen pages. What I find impressive is that the creators managed to tell a standalone story of good-versus-evil as well as answering the question as to what caused Superman to be so weak in the first place.

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Superman flying tired.

Conclusion

To put it clearly, Action Comics #454 is definitely a very short literary escapade that still manages to be fun to read. It sure is outlandish and I strongly doubt DC Comics will want to put Superman through heavy eating in today’s age of comics. Is this comic book a classic? Not exactly but it sure is a satisfying, fun read from an era when outlandish superhero storytelling in comic books was the norm. If you are seeking this as a collector’s item, be aware that a near-mint copy of Action Comics #454 is worth $23 at MileHighComics.com as of this writing.

Overall, Action Comics #454 is recommended.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com