Off My Mind: 'Action Comics' Vs. 'Superman'—Which is More Essential?

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Posted by G-Man (40746 posts) - - Show Bio

In DC's 'The New 52,' we have two different Superman comics, 'Superman' and 'Action Comics.' Besides a different title, the Superman inside each has a distinct feel. Taking place in two different time periods, the books have a clear difference in tone and direction.

With so many new DC titles, many readers have asked how they can keep up with each book. Some have even asked if it's necessary to read both Superman titles. In the past, the different Superman titles told similar stories only with different villains each month. Based on the first issues, we get the immediate impression that readers will be able to choose one over the other depending on what flavor Superman they prefer.

We've already seen the changes Superman has gone through in Action Comics #1. Because that series takes place in an earlier time period, there's obviously more changes that will occur in between the two series. The two titles may eventually end up on the same page but looking at both titles, is it essential to read both titles at the same time.

== TEASER ==

In the 80s, there used to be four different Superman titles. One came out each week and the story from one continued into the next. Each cover had a number telling you the reading order in case you missed out on one. That's obviously not the case with 'Superman' and 'Action Comics,' since 'Action' takes place in Superman's early days.

'Action Comics'

This isn't quite Superboy but it has that younger/brasher feel to it. We're seeing Superman in his beginnings. He's not brand new to the game because the people of Metropolis know who he is. He isn't as powerful as we're used to seeing him. He leaps over tall buildings instead of flying over them.

As he gets used to his powers or they slowly build up, we're going to see a Superman that has to do a little more thinking. He won't be able to just fly in and carry the bad guy away. In the first issue he's going up against the brilliant mind of Lex Luthor. The experienced Superman can simply fly around at super-speed or use his strength to defeat his enemies. Seeing this Superman learn to deal with the dangers around him will be interesting.

He also has a bit of an attitude which gives him more of a human feel. A common complaint has been that Superman often comes across as unfeeling. As Clark, he is supposed to be more human than other characters. But when Superman is portrayed as all-powerful, he can get a little...boring.

This Superman also jumps into the action. It's almost as if he's seeking out the trouble rather than sit around and wait for the cries for help. It's a fine line he'll be treading as he would have to be careful to not become a judge, jury and executioner. This Superman is more spontaneous. You're not sure what he's going to do. He's willing to take it on but not quite ready to. And that's not going to stop him.


The current Superman is closer to what we've seen recently. He has his powers but feels like he's suffered some sort of loss. Superman was the people's hero but here, you get the impression he is keeping to himself. Whether it's the changes at the Daily Planet or friendship/relationship with Lois Lane, he feels a little distant.

Along with distance, it was mentioned that he wasn't around Metropolis for some time. We don't know exactly how long or what he was up to. This also adds to the feeling that something has driven him away. Most likely it wasn't a Justice League threat because he's always managed to serve the League and still watch over his city.

What should be the case in this title is the opportunity for Superman to go up against his bigger villains. Because of Superman's great powers, writers always had to give him huge threats. Since he has less power in 'Action Comics,' we probably won't see him face a Doomsday-level villain anytime soon.

Superman might have pulled back from Metropolis and his strong sense of being there for the city but this title is more likely to give us something closer to the Superman we've been reading the last few decades.

Which is More Essential?

This is the tough part. The big question is what kind of Superman do you want? It might be unfair to make a drastic decision based off of one single issue but with the vast number of titles that come out each week, sometimes one issue is all a reader is willing to give.

'Action Comics' feels like it has more heart. This is a Superman learning to be a hero. He won't do things perfectly but he has the enthusiasm to jump right into the action. Being at a lower power level, he won't be able to take on the big villains. He also won't have run ins or team-ups with other heroes since we saw his first encounter with Batman and Green Lantern in Justice League #1.

'Superman' will have a more familiar Superman. He's in his new suit and is at full strength. We will see more of his presence and connection to the rest of the DC Universe. There is more of a chance for guest appearances from other heroes if that's something you want to see outside of Justice League.

When I first saw the covers and solicits to these first issues, I thought I would prefer 'Superman' over 'Action.' It turned out my liking was the opposite of what I expected. Of course I'm going to continue to read them both but based off of one single issue, I'm far more interested in 'Action Comics.'

Superman fans should be reading both. We'll have to see if 'Action' stays in the past or eventually catches up to the current time. It could also be fun to see what connections the two books could have, assuming there will be a lot of coordination in both titles. For example, something first seen in 'Action' could return in 'Superman' with different results. I like the idea of seeing Superman in two different stages. 'Action Comics' has won me over and I expected more from 'Superman.' Hopefully my first impression of 'Superman' will be proven to be premature and next issue will knock my socks off. There is room for two Superman comics. I just want them both to be...super.

#1 Posted by Saren (27517 posts) - - Show Bio

The version from Action Comics interested me more.

#2 Posted by _OMEGA_ (71 posts) - - Show Bio

Superman's art looks better than Action. Than again maybe that's just OMEGA.

#3 Posted by PrinceGumball (12 posts) - - Show Bio

I can't choose!

Action Comics is essential because its his history that determines how he became who he is, but Superman is important because I want to know where he is going now in the present. They're both necessary!

#4 Posted by Doctorchimp (63 posts) - - Show Bio

I didn't even think I'd ever pick up a Superman comic. But after recently reading All Star Superman over the summer I wanted to know what Grant was going to do with a young Superman. And he took him the complete opposite way.

It's pretty incredible that the same guy who made the most ridiculous and fantastic Superman story that actually gave him a real challenge with real drama and tension, even after Grant powered him up even more, goes off and gives me Action Comics with a rash Superman who can't fly.

#5 Posted by GraveSp (335 posts) - - Show Bio

To me it is Grant Morrison doing the writing. Honestly I care less about Superman than the person doing writing the comic which is why I am picking up Action Comics but not Superman even though Superman seems to be connected with Stormwatch a book I am picking up.

#6 Edited by hitechlolife (194 posts) - - Show Bio

Action Comics, without question. It's completely new ground and helmed by Morrison. More than that there's an essential mystery to the title - how do we get from this Supes to the more familiar version found in Perez' book? That's far more provocative than any questions I had after reading Superman #1.

#7 Posted by UltimateSMfan (1891 posts) - - Show Bio


#8 Posted by ravisher (726 posts) - - Show Bio

so jimmy is justin bieber

#9 Posted by GraphicCasualFreak (347 posts) - - Show Bio

Action Comics has the best story, art, etc... Superman #1 is more of a side story. If I had to choose one, it would be Action all the way!

#10 Posted by Hawkeye446 (3975 posts) - - Show Bio

Hard to say. I feel as if Superman is more essential as it matches (time-wise) of the rest of the DC Universe. I didn't really find either book better than the other, they were just, different.

#11 Edited by sethysquare (3965 posts) - - Show Bio

action obviously

#12 Posted by ssejllenrad (13028 posts) - - Show Bio

Action Comics -Great read. Must-read. I need.
Superman -Good read. I want.
It's AC for me all the way. It is the more  "Essential" of the two. For me it's like comparing Byrne's Man of Steel to Up Up and Away... One's essential cause it's his origins (Birthright's better but it was canonically dead right from the start and I didn't really like Secret Origins) while the other is just a "quasi-beginning" in the middle of his heroic days.

#13 Posted by saoakden (1223 posts) - - Show Bio

Well I like Superman & I think he's still a cool hero. I only read the Action Comic though so I don't know how Superman is in the Superman title. All I can go off on is the reviews here on comicvine.

Still, this is THE NEW 52, well probably the old 52 next month, but in the DC Universe, Superman's history was changed cause the events of Flashpoint. Plus, DC has said the Kents have died earlier then in Superman's life. So its not like the guy can talk to them to become more "human".

As far as I can tell, Superman in Action Comics, is still young & is learning about his powers as time goes by. Plus his coustme reminds me of an older version of Conner Kent. Like if Conner still kept the causal clothes coustme when he got older & decided to put a cape on it. In the Superman title, he proabaly has some pressure on him since he was gone apparently for some time. He possible he went to the Fortress of solitude & trained with The spirit of Jor-El or had to go find & kick Darkseid or some bad guys from space's ass. Maybe further down the Action Comics line, it will tell us why he left for a while.

#14 Posted by Sanj (19 posts) - - Show Bio

@ravisher: Oh god you're right.

#15 Posted by Grim (2190 posts) - - Show Bio

Superman one was very... boring. Idk. Too much narration. And seeing Superman just sort of being a dick and a rookie out of context was weird.

Action#1 on the other hand was more sensible action and was more interesting from the standpoint that we are going to see him mature. See him take on aspects of his personality.


#16 Posted by chalkshark (1264 posts) - - Show Bio

Action Comics, because I don't have to look at Superman in that stupid armor.

#17 Posted by Michiel76 (192 posts) - - Show Bio

I have to say i did not enjoy the Superman comic, i felt i couldn't get through it, the narration was awful. It's like for everything that you see happening in the panel some dickhead feels the need to also tell you what is going on, which i find very annoying. Like i'm not blind you know i can actually see him flying through the air and punching some bad guy/thing.

I was surprised not liking this comic since it is one of the DC flagship titles in the new 52, i mean we all know that the Superman comic will still be around in one year while some others may not be so sure. Still i find Demon Knights for example for more enjoying.

#18 Posted by ltbrd (651 posts) - - Show Bio

People are going to have to explain to me why you get the impression Superman was being a jerk/dick in this issue. Because he wouldn't pose for Jimmy to take a picture? Is he supposed to? keep mentioning the fact that Superman looks like he suffered a loss. Your absolutely right. It was right there in the issue. The Daily Planet building was demolished and the paper bought out by a man and company he doesn't respect. WHY IS THIS SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND! The whole start of the issue was the fact that Clark was not happy about the transition and therefore not posing for pictures or going to banquets doesn't mean Superman is a complete loner anymore. If were happy he's being more human in Action Comics why are we upset he's doing the same thing by having visible emotions in Superman.
I also don't think there is a great difference attitude-wise between Action Comics and Superman. The big difference, to me, centers on the fact he is more aware that his secret identity could be found out should too many photos be taken of him and such. It seems like a complete break of Superman law but lets not forget that after the 1986 reboot there was an issue where Lex Luthor does learn who Superman is due to a computer program he writes. That was in the 90's. Its almost 20 years later and our concept of what technology can do (and what we expect to see in the new 52) has advanced alot since then. In every iteration of Superman and Batman, at some point Bruce always figures out his identity. While Bruce is a genius he is not the smartest person on the planet so if he could do it why not others (aside from the detective thing). So how does Superman limit those limiting how often people see him clearly. In a way this is a nod to both the Golden and Silver Age stories. At the very start of the Golden Age Superman would rarely stop for interviews or even be seen unless he was doing something heroic. In the Silver Age he would vibrate his face when in public to make sure none of the pictures of him came out clearly. Its only been since the '86 reboot that he hasn't cared about who seems him or takes a picture and so we grew up with a very publicly open Superman. But in a world of facial and voice recognition programs that idea doesn't make alot of sense. If one of DC's objectives was bringing things down to Earth a bit then this was a good way to start. 

#19 Posted by Jake Fury (21678 posts) - - Show Bio

I plan on reading them both. I enjoyed them both but I probably liked Superman a bit more. The costume is growing on me as well.
#20 Posted by KRYPTON (2422 posts) - - Show Bio

They seem both essential, determining on your p.o.v.

#21 Edited by doordoor123 (3810 posts) - - Show Bio

I think I might be done with Superman. I liked the style of the book and I liked what happened with him as Clark but the rest of the issue didn't work for me. I'm not really a Superman person but I loved Action Comics, Supergirl and Superboy. Maybe ill try the next issue if it has good reviews.

And if he had super hearing, couldn't he hear Lois in bed with another guy before he walks in on them?

#22 Posted by MrGutts (279 posts) - - Show Bio

@doordoor123 said:

I think I might be done with Superman. I liked the style of the book and I liked what happened with him as Clark but the rest of the issue didn't work for me. I'm not really a Superman person but I loved Action Comics, Supergirl and Superboy. Maybe ill try the next issue if it has good reviews.

And if he had super hearing, couldn't he hear Lois in bed with another guy before he walks in on them?

After both issues, I am done with them. Most of the DC comics. Not going to pay 2.99 a book to only get 21 pages ( or less ) of fluff.

#23 Posted by DoomDoomDoom (4337 posts) - - Show Bio

I'm trying to budget somewhat and I'm thinking about going with just Action.

#24 Posted by Sobe Cin (602 posts) - - Show Bio

I'd rather just read Superman over Action Comics- because at least in Superman, the boy scout has proper grammer.

#25 Posted by MetropolisKid41 (523 posts) - - Show Bio
@Jake Fury said:
I plan on reading them both. I enjoyed them both but I probably liked Superman a bit more. The costume is growing on me as well.

I AGREE!! I enjoyed both reads, and am starting to really dig the costume.
#26 Posted by keithmoon316 (36 posts) - - Show Bio

I liked both, I think all 4 Super books were great. If I had to rank them I would say Action, Superboy, Supergirl, Superman...but I plan to keep up with all 4.

#27 Posted by abeyance (261 posts) - - Show Bio

I already saw superman as a kid, learning the ropes. I prefer progression in my reading. So Action Comics is a no go. I like Superman's new suit it looks less 'tight' and more armor like (not that he needs armor)

#28 Posted by hajime76 (27 posts) - - Show Bio

Great article Tony! I enjoyed Action Comics because I like the concept of a younger, inexperienced Superman. I don't have much prior reading experience with Superman but I like that he is not impervious to pain and he has just as many problems to deal with as Clark Kent. It's good to have both titles so there is a variety in the storytelling and perspectives. I like your point of Superman being spontaneous in Action Comics. I could see this being weakness, in a way, since he wants to help everyone. I would like to see if this leads to situations where he can't always be there to help everyone or be in two places at once and how Superman deals with this—either through guilt or having to cover it later on as the reporter Clark Kent. I was always fascinated by all of the Superman-related characters and setting (Krypto, City of Kandor) but knew very little about these things I read in All-Star Superman, so I am curious to see if Morrison touches on any of this in this ongoing series.

#29 Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus (6958 posts) - - Show Bio

I take the whole approach to this question from the standpoint of my love of history. In the end, history is the study of change over time, whether in society or people at that. Action Comics tells the tale of a rough and round the edges Kryptonian who is still in the process of maturing and getting used to his powers. He's maturing both physically and emotionally still. Superman tells us the tale some time later when Clark is experienced in his use of power and is comfortable with what he can and cannot do. Which is better? Well that's the same as asking if you prefer apples or oranges. In truth, I think both titles compliment each other and for the true Superman fan like me, you would love to read how the Man of Steel progresses in his life from one title to the other. In truth its like watching an Oliver Stone video that has flashbacks from the past to the present, and I always enjoy a good narrative like this. Both titles all the way!

#30 Posted by fenixREVOLUTION (921 posts) - - Show Bio

I haven't gotten around to Superman yet, but the in your face style of Action Comics Superman made me smile and felt fresh, so I'll be sticking with it. The Superman In JL seemed to have the same attitude, so it may be a while before we see why he is distant.

#31 Posted by kartron (535 posts) - - Show Bio

I have subscribed to both! I am a huge superman fan and dont want to miss out action on any of these. If there was a third, I would have that too!!

#32 Posted by BatUniverse (153 posts) - - Show Bio

@ravisher: I was thinking that too!

#33 Posted by cbdath (1 posts) - - Show Bio

I love both! (I swear, the new DC universe is gonna break me $$$!) I'm actually hooked on the T-shirt and jeans look, but after seeing the art in Superman, I think his armor look can work too (depending on who draws it). I can't wait another month for #2!

#34 Edited by BatUniverse (153 posts) - - Show Bio

I'm going to go with Action Comics, I'd like to see a younger Superman, wich looks like the Action Comics #1 of the 30's, He Can't fly... Morrison is giving us more perspective over this Comic, that I really got to read the Second one, It was very Interesting...

Superman, don't surprise me, I was trying to look at the draws instead looking to the Script, Jimmy looks like Justin Bieber and I hate that!

Lois Lane is no more Supey's wife, or even his girlfriend!

I don't like the changes in Superman #1 so I'm going with, Action Comics #1...

I hope Grant give Superman a suit soon!

#35 Posted by webofdarkness (28 posts) - - Show Bio

@ravisher: Another reason I won't be buying the superman comic.

#36 Posted by IamKryptonite (43 posts) - - Show Bio

I liked all the SUPER titles. Superboy prob the least, but I thought Supergirl and Action Comics were exceptional! I think Superman will end up being great aswell. I'll continue to read all four and Justice League also.

#37 Posted by Eivion (117 posts) - - Show Bio

The concept as Action Comics is good, but I have to say that the writing did very little for me while I absolutely loved Superman #1. If I was collecting only one it would be Superman though lucky for me I have brother who is collecting both.

#38 Posted by Or35ti (1133 posts) - - Show Bio

I might pick up Superman if I see it in my shop one day but I'm not going to go out of my way to buy it. Action was fantastic on the other hand and I plan on subscribing soon.

#39 Posted by Doctor!!!!! (2135 posts) - - Show Bio

He starts as action Comics Superman, AND then turns into Current Superman, it's science.... duh!!!

#40 Posted by Doctor!!!!! (2135 posts) - - Show Bio

He starts as action Comics Superman, AND then turns into Current Superman, it's science.... duh!!!

#41 Posted by Lvenger (25718 posts) - - Show Bio

Screw choice I'm getting them both. I mean GM's Action Comics covers the old school origin/retelling of the character whereas Superman gives us the more classic Superman with a twist. Besides Superman is my favourite hero and in terms of the new 52, any books where Superman regularly appear in are a priority for me.

#42 Posted by InnerVenom123 (29887 posts) - - Show Bio

Action Comics is easily the better of the two.

#43 Posted by Jake Fury (21678 posts) - - Show Bio
#44 Posted by sesquipedalophobe (5051 posts) - - Show Bio

I waited months for Superman. It was different, but basically the Smallville (show) Superman defeating the villain in the most pacificistic manner possible, but it was fairly typical. I expected something more. Maybe it was the writing, maybe the art. I didn't feel it. I especially didn't enjoy the short lionized panels of his face and fists shooting toward the city's suspect demise. If the city were in peril, who cares? It's his story I'm reading, not a foretold man's triumphs over a threat of some ubiquitous metropolis. Like I said, I felt nothing. Where was the umph?

Action Comics Superman felt so vibrant, like almost a person at odds with the world. His biggest threat wasn't the bullet train colliding with a predictable force, but the continual threats from the world. Everyday threats. It was more raw, like back to his roots. I don't care how powerful he is (he will survive regardless) or how much pressure there is, he is written to be like the everyman rather than of the overman. Isn't this what the revamp was meant for?

#45 Posted by TwistedGamer (79 posts) - - Show Bio

action comics is the one im gonna stick with that. i dont like reading muilt character books, im only reading "Batman" and none of the others, for example

#46 Posted by The Stegman (31761 posts) - - Show Bio a boss

#47 Posted by LordTaronji101 (332 posts) - - Show Bio

i kind of like...both

#48 Posted by Baddamdog (2832 posts) - - Show Bio

I really like Action Comics but really didn't like Superman

#49 Posted by Durakken (1930 posts) - - Show Bio

Neither. They are both Garbage and each writer that has written Superman in their books has made him out to be a completely different character.

#50 Posted by pahphoenix (36 posts) - - Show Bio

Its too soon to tell.Action starts off feeling fresh because we're getting Supes from a fresh perspective.

Superman #1,unfortunately I think,got info-dumped on by shoving in New 52 continuity crap.

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