Dan Jurgens, Who Has Killed, Married, and Revitalized Superman, Talks 'Action Comics' #1000

After spending a few decades with a character, how much do you still have left to say?

Quite a bit, actually, if you're Dan Jurgens talking about Superman -- especially on the occasion of the Man of Steel's 80th "birthday," marked by today's release of Action Comics #1000.

Admitting that it is "a bit surreal" to be working on the thousandth issue of an ongoing superhero comic, Jurgens will be off Action and headed to the Green Lantern titles next, clearing the way for Brian Michael Bendis and Patrick Gleason on Action Comics.

Before that, though, Jurgens has another Superman story to come: next month's Action Comics one-shot featuring Lex Luthor, which promises to set a new status quo for Superman's most famous foe.

Jurgens joined ComicBook.com to talk about the issue, which hits the stands today. You can enter for a chance to win an Action Comics #1000 prize pack including all of the "decade" variant covers and an Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman hardcover here.

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(Photo: DC Entertainment)

You have the distinction of having been involved in Superman #100, Adventures #500 and now Action #1000. Have you gotten used to these big anniversary celebrations yet?

No. It’s definitely a bit surreal and I think even when I came back to the series with 957 and we were sitting in a room and someone said, “Yeah. And then you’ll get the number 1000.” I just put it off and said, “Yeah. It’s a long way down the road.” But, as we got into issues 997 and 998 and then really when I wrote the script for Action #999 and typed that out, that’s when it hit. And it’s like, whoa 999. And then all of a sudden, yeah it became special.

How was it to get to draw Superman for an issue like this? Because, obviously you’ve periodically gotten the chance to come back and drawing Superman usually for anniversary style stories but you haven’t been drawing a ton lately.

No, I haven’t and a lot of that had more to do with the publication frequency of Action than it did my desire to draw or not to draw. I did a couple of issues that had Booster Gold in them. And it had always been my intention, to be able to try and find more time to draw, and it just wasn’t there. A book that comes out twice a month will do that to you, especially combined with the other stuff I’m writing.

So that finally when it became this idea of getting to Action #1000, there was no way I wasn’t going to draw. That was going to happen no matter what.

Besides the '90s variant that has been widely circulated, you also drew a Dynamic Forces exclusive cover [above]. How did those come together?

Mark Chiarello, who really handles almost all of DC’s covers, just said, “Hey, do you want to do the '90s cover to Action #1000?” I said, “Hell yes.” So that was that. We just kept around basic concepts and the one thing I knew with that one is that I wanted to have Lois Lane on the cover as well because Lois also first appeared in Action #1.

As for the Dynamic Forces cover, that was them coming in and asking specifically for me to do the cover. They wanted the wrap around and wanted something that showed Superman through the ages. So the fun idea of that one was starting with Superman as he first appeared in Action #1. And then just trying to isolate the high points through this 80-year experience of Superman that we’ve enjoyed one degree or another and get that on the cover as well.

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(Photo: DC Entertainment)

So you're the man to ask: on the '90s cover, why doesn’t Lois have her '90s hair color?

There is a couple of reasons for that, one of which is if you go back to those '90s books because I also cheated this way a little bit on the cover. If you go back to some of the '90s issues, Lois had even as I drew her, far shall we say bigger, poofier, boofed out hair even then. She wore a lot of jackets with shoulder pads and everything else and all of which I look back at now and just find ridiculous.

So I didn’t give her the short hair of now, but I did pull back on the hair a little bit and then I did take out the shoulder pads because they weren’t there all the time.

And then the other part of it was, in using that brown wall. It causes her hair to get lost against the background. I think back then actually it’s interesting, because our color choices and palette and options were so much more limited. Basically, everything back then was getting colored by the old formula of Y2 B3 which correlates to the percentages of yellow or blue we were going to be using in the book.

So we were even more limited then and also, always had to be a little bit more conscious of, shall we say of the way Lois was going to get framed against the background and everything. It’s actually a little bit easier now.

With your run on Action running to a close, you have this one-shot and you had #999 and #1000. Did you consider trying to craft something continuous out of those three, or did you think it was better to make each one a standalone statement of your Superman?

The answer to that is a little bit more complex and it’s because if you look at #999, it serves two purposes. One, it serves as an epilogue in a way with what we saw in the Booster Gold story that went earlier. But at the same time, I think we made something of a statement about who Superman is and why he does what he does. That theme is also a part of Action #1000 and to me even though the story that I have in Action #1000 is its own self contained story, I think from a thematic standpoint, that it is consistent with what we saw in #999.

By extension, when you get to the Action Special, it addresses Lex Luthor -- which, if we go all the way back to #957, I started with something of a Lex Luthor story. This one focuses thematically on who Lex is and his relationship with Superman. It also stands alone as its own self contained story.

This, long drawn out answer (which I apologize for) is my way of saying that I tried to have my cake and eat it too. That there is a thematic thread that continues through these books in a way but at the same time can be enjoyed on their own.

I actually think and you can correct me if I’m wrong, this is slightly off topic. But I liked the fact that in #999 it also felt like an epilogue to Lois and Clark. In the sense that you introduced this concept of the undercover Superman not fighting bad guys but mostly just trying to prevent terrible things from happening to people. And that felt like what was going on with Henshaw even at the very end of your run.

Yeah. One of the things you’ll see in both those stories is, I think one of the aspects of what happens in superhero stories constantly is we see the hero beat up the bad guy right? Someone is getting mugged in the alley, Batman swings down, takes care of the four guys who are committing the crime and then he takes off. I think part of who Superman is that yes, he takes the victim into account as well and tries to deal with that and that was part of #999. It’s part of the way he operated in the Loise and Clark series that I wrote and which drew that, to me this is consistent with who I think Superman is.

Obviously we’ve seen bits and pieces of your story because DC released a handful if preview pages. What can you tease about it prior to the book coming out? Because having read it, obviously it isn’t all outer space even though that’s where we see Superman in a preview page that was released for him.

Right. I think really, what I have talked about is this idea that one of the greatest Superman stories ever which was written by Allan Moore is what do you get the man who has everything? And conversely, I think by having Superman in their presence, in a way Metropolis becomes the city that has everything. And so the title of the story is from the city that has everything. If you’re a city like Metropolis, how do you thank Superman for everything he’s done? They don't know what he does in his off hours and they can only speculate. But I think they have this concept that, for him to do what he does requires some sense of sacrifice and that truly there are things that he gives up to be Superman so how do you say thank you?

You just can't go buy him a new car. You can't send him on a all expenses paid vacation to wherever, although I suppose they could try. It’s how do you express that? And I think at the same time it wouldn’t take a genius to realize that this is also me saying thank you in a way as well. I’ve had this long association with the character that I have really enjoyed and I like to think it’s been mutually beneficial.

One of the things that I noticed also on those preview pages is you have the Superman Day. And I couldn’t help but think you and Jon Bogdanove and Mike Carlin, you actually attended one of those for Lois and Clark. Did that occur to you while you were drawing those pages?

No it didn’t! Just as you mentioned it is like, "whoa." Yeah I guess we did at that! I never gave that a thought. I guess that’s a little bit too far in my rear view mirror.

Obviously at this point you've been doing Superman intermittently and it’s really not even fair to say intermittently because it’s been really consistent for big chunks of time but for almost 30 years. Do you feel like in a year and a half you’re going to have another story that you just can't not tell?

Oh gosh. I don’t know. I think there are always a lot of Superman stories to be told and a lot of them are bouncing around in my head. I had a couple of different ideas for Action #1000 that I think would have been a lot of fun to explore. And I think that he is such an interesting character and there are so many aspects of his character that are fun to explore. I think those things are always there whether I do or not, who knows? Part of what happens when you work in comics is it’s just trying to get a handle on the next thing because you’re always behind the deadline clock. The clock is always ticking it’s just like, let me get done what I have to get done today. So worry about a year and a half from now.

The first question I asked you was about all the anniversary issues that you’ve done with Superman over the years. Obviously comics are a lot different now than they were when you started and when I started, particularly with all the relaunches and renumberings of legacy books. Do you think that Action #1000 is one of a kind at this point?

First of all, I agree with you 100% that this is a big deal and it’s a unique deal but I think there are other things that go into that.

Right now, we’re thinking of it as this is where Superman first appeared. I was recently engaged in a discussion with Paul Levitz where he made this point and he’s absolutely right: I think that it isn’t just where Superman first appeared, it is the cornerstone of this entire industry. That at that time in 1938, there was no real comic book industry. There were basic reprints of Sunday Funnies and things like that, comic strips.

Action #1 and Superman built this industry. They became the cornerstone of the industry and have served that way all along. And I think that’s how we have to look at this. That obviously Detective Comics is going to make it to #1000 and that will be cool. But this is so unique in part because to me and I think to a lot of people it represents not just something for Superman but for the industry as a whole.

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Beyond that, as to whether or not we’re going to get Action #1500, Action #1200 [without renumbering], I don’t know. But I think as a number, 1000 stands for something in and of itself.

When I was a kid and new comics would come out, I was firmly convinced that the higher the number, the better the comic must be because it meant that it lasted longer. That was just me and my innocence. I remember when Batman #200 came out. I was like, “Batman #200; that shows how good Batman is.” But I think using that same sense of thought, Action #1000 still symbolizes that for me regarding both Superman and what we enjoy today as the comic book industry.