(Collected Editions is a listing of the various trade paperbacks, hardcovers, omnibuses, etc. that are in my Superman collection. The goal is to not only inventory my collection of trades, hardcovers, etc. but also to display said collection and produce something resembling a resource for other Superman readers, collectors and fans.)
Nuts and Bolts
- Released on January 7, 2015
- Original Price $16.99
- 176 pages
- Cover by Kerry Gammill
- Faster Than a Speeding Bullet! from Action Comics Weekly #601
- “They Can Run But They Can’t Hide!” from Action Comics Weekly #602
- “More Powerful Than a Locomotive!” from Action Comics Weekly #603
- “Final Escape?” from Action Comics Weekly #604
- “Aftermath” from Action Comics Weekly #605
- “The True Believer” from Action Comics Weekly #606
- “Familiar Face?” from Action Comics Weekly #607
- “Questions and Mysteries” from Action Comics Weekly #608
- “And There Will Be A Sign!” from Action Comics Weekly #609
- “Show and Tell” from Action Comics Weekly #610
- “…Beyond Mortal Men!” from Action Comics Weekly #611
- “Where Lurks The Evil?” from Action Comics Weekly #612
- “Wicked Business!” from Action Comics Weekly #613
- Death Comes Calling… from Action Comics Weekly #614
- Fatal Flaw? from Action Comics Weekly #615
- “Dead Men Tell No Tales” from Action Comics Weekly #616
- “Missing Person” from Action Comics Weekly #617
- “Out On The Town” from Action Comics Weekly #618
- “Protective Shield?” from Action Comics Weekly #619
- “Too Late The Hero?” from Action Comics Weekly #620
- “Let The Punishment Fit The Crime” from Action Comics Weekly #621
- “Seeds of Doubt” from Action Comics Weekly #622
- “Revelations” from Action Comics Weekly #623
- “Pin The Tail…” from Action Comics Weekly #624
- “Out of the Frying Pan…” from Action Comics Weekly #625
- “…Into The Fire!” from Action Comics Weekly #626
- “Panic in the Sands!” from Action Comics Weekly #627
- “Wipeout!” from Action Comics Weekly #628
- Journey’s End from Action Comics Weekly #629
- The Power From Beyond! from Action Comics Weekly #630
- “Point Blank” from Action Comics Weekly #631
- Holy War from Action Comics Weekly #632
- “Blood and Sand” from Action Comics Weekly #633
- “Breathless!” from Action Comics Weekly #634
- “Power Failure!” from Action Comics Weekly #635
- “The Face and The Voice!” from Action Comics Weekly #636
- The Power of Darkseid! from Action Comics Weekly #637
- “The Power Within” from Action Comics Weekly #638
- “An Eye For An Eye” from Action Comics Weekly #639
- Where There’s Smoke… from Action Comics Weekly #640
- Justice For All from Action Comics Weekly #641
- The Sinbad Contract Part One from Superman (Vol. 2) #48
- The Sinbad Contract Part Two from Adventures of Superman #471
- The Sinbad Contract Part Three from Action Comics #658
This trade brings up an odd mix of emotion in me. On one hand I am excited that it came out. On the other hand I find myself asking the question, “Who asked for this?” It seems a tad disingenuous to do so because I’m the guy that’s chomping at the bit for more of the Post Crisis era of Superman to get put into collected edition form but at the same time if you had told me two years ago that this book was coming out I would have told you that you were crazy. The reason for the split feeling is simple; Action Comics Weekly is not a title that people remember fondly. At best it is considered a noble failure and at worst it is considered to be a joke.
Let me back up for a minute here. It is possible that some of you have no idea that there was a book called Action Comics Weekly. Back in 1988 DC decided to shake things up a bit and attempt to publish a weekly series. Action Comics became Action Comics Weekly with issue 601 and the book went back to its anthology roots with a rotating series of features. Deadman, Wild Dog (don’t ask), Blackhawk, Catwoman, Nightwing, Phantom Lady, Captain Marvel and others all had strips during the book’s 42 issue run and some of them, like Blackhawk, even spun off into their own short lived series. The only two features that were a constant were Green Lantern (fresh from his own title coming to an end) and Superman. Most of the stories were eight pages long but the Superman strip was a two pager right in the middle of the book.
In the interest of full disclosure I did not read Action Comics Weekly when it first came out. At the time my comic purchasing was almost exclusively through the newsstand and this title was not on any of the spinner racks I haunted. Being a regular buyer of the Superman titles meant that I knew that Action Comics had gone weekly but outside of leafing through the odd issue at the orthodontist’s office it wasn’t a going concern for me. This was the early days of my collecting career and I wasn’t as…focused as I would be later on. Back in 1997 I made an effort to collect Action Comics Weekly, which was not an easy thing because while most of the issues were both readily available and cheap there were a few that gave me some problems, most notably the final issue. It took me the better part of a year to find Action Comics Weekly #642 and it was only dumb luck that the manager of the comic shop I went to at the time found two at the warehouse because every other comic shop I went to in the Metro-Atlanta area and some in Pennsylvania that I went to while visiting friends did not have it. Before Chuck found those two copies I was beginning to think the book didn’t exist even though I remember seeing it at the orthodontist’s office when I was a teenager.
The struggle was real.
There were two main stories that ran through the Superman strip in Action Comics Weekly. The first concerned a group (which could be called a cult) that worshiped Superman and even featured a confrontation with Darkseid. The second, which only lasted a few issues, concerned Clark Kent and Superman having to deal with what is now called hate crimes in a section of Metropolis populated mainly by people of Middle Eastern descent. To me the second story line stands out more than the first but I think that says more about me than about the quality of the tales being told. I liked the idea of exploring what would happen if a group of people actually started worshiping Superman as a deity but even though the writing was a bit heavy handed in places a story about Superman standing up for a group of people targeted solely because of the color of their skin or their ethnicity speaks to me on a deeper level. It also introduced a new area of Metropolis populated by people from the fictional Middle Eastern country of Quarac, which had been created by writer Marv Wolfman in New Teen Titans and carried over to this strip.
Those last few strips are why The Sinbad Contract, a three part story that ran through the October 1990 cover dated Superman books, were included at the end of this collection. While there isn’t a direct connection between the two there is enough connective tissue to let one story flow nicely into the other. The unrest brought up during the Action Comics Weekly stories continued into The Sinbad Contract so it made sense to include those three issues in this volume. It also bumped up the page count and made it a more well rounded trade. Davood Nassur, the “Sinbad” of the story, was an interesting character and it was a shame he didn’t appear much after these three issues wrapped up. Sure there was some more of that heavy handed writing at times but this was a solid story that tried to deal with some deeper issues and how Superman chooses to deal with them.
The creators involved in these stories are some of my favorite. Roger Stern had written one of the stories in Action Comics #600 and the main story in Superman Annual #2 but the strip in Action Comics Weekly was his first regular Superman assignment. He would bring back the cult introduced in the first story line during the Reign of the Superman, which is one of the only callbacks to these stories after Action Comics Weekly ended. Curt Swan was no stranger to Superman and while I wasn’t all that hot on his work back in 1988 I have since come to have a deep respect for Swan’s place in Superman history. The Sinbad Contract was part of something DC called Curt Swan Month. The three main Superman books from cover date October 1990 as well as Superboy The Comic Book #8 all featured art by Swan. The fact that Swan drew all of these stories gives the trade a more unified feel. Writer William Messner-Loebs was not part of the main Superman creative teams in 1990 but his story fit in with the ongoing narrative and he even got to introduce a major story point involving Lex Luthor.
Superman appeared on the cover of nine issues of Action Comics Weekly and two of those were group shots. The decision to make the cover to issue 606 the cover to this volume was a good one and if I am correct it marked the first time Kerry Gammill drew the character as a professional. While the other Superman covers were all great pieces of art this is the more traditional one. It also features people worshiping Superman and while I have no proof of what I am about to write I don’t think it is a coincidence that there images of people bowing down to Superman in the two Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailers and this cover features people worshiping the Man of Steel. That seems like some forward thinking on DC’s part and a good way to move some product.
Plus it’s Kerry Gammill drawing Superman. I am such a mark for that.
All in all this is an odd but welcome trade. As I wrote earlier in this piece I am always for having more of this era of Superman in collected form but this one also has a sort of novelty aspect to it. It is almost a forgotten era of Superman that I am willing to bet is pretty much unknown to most of the reading population. The storytelling is a bit strange because the trade is comprised of mostly two page stories making it feel like you are reading a collection of newspaper strips but I think that is part of the charm. It takes skill to write two pages of story to carry things along and Stern more than steps up to the challenge. Seeing The Sinbad Contract reprinted also does me good because it’s not one of the flashier Post Crisis stories and I honestly thought it would never be in trade paperback form.
File this under “Who Asked For This?” but at the same time file this under “So Glad DC Decided To Print This Collection”.