The Library of Congress (LOC) hosted a Q&A and book signing session on Thursday, March 29, with two legends of DC Comics. David Betancourt, a staff writer for the Washington Post, moderated the evening’s Q&A. Paul Levitz, a former publisher and president of DC, and Dan Jurgens, DC writer and artist, had much to share about their work and the legacy of the beloved character Superman.
DC hits not one, but two major milestones this year, reaching the 1,000th issue of its series Action Comics and commemorating 80 years of Superman. The LOC event coincides with Awesome Con, an annual pop culture and comic book convention also held in Washington, D.C.
“Here’s something that was created that is still a living, growing, changing part of the culture,” said Levitz, marveling about the Kryptonian’s popularity. “Dan is writing it again. Movies are being made. The television series Krypton started a week ago looking at a different aspect of the character’s life. That’s an extraordinary thing in a culture that has the attention span of a mayfly.”
Fans may have noticed that Superman appears in recent comics and the newer Henry Cavill films without the red-trunks part of his Superman suit. It’s worth mentioning that those trunks make a comeback in the 1000th issue. Whether they stay remains to be seen. Jurgens, a longtime comic book artist best known for “The Death of Superman,” is a good panelist to weigh in on the subject because he’s drawn the iconic superhero both ways: with trunks and trunk-less. He confirmed to Betancourt that after the trunks went away, he continued to draw their outline in his underdrawings or preparatory sketches. “We always saw the trunks as part of the uniform as though it were all one piece, not necessarily something he put on the outside,” Jurgens shared.
The Man of Steel has been through many adventures over these 80 years. More recently, he and Lois Lane welcomed a son, Jonathan Kent, into their family. Jurgens sees a lot of potential in that storyline. He said, “If Superman is out there serving in terms of a beacon of hope and inspiration, and trying to guide those around him, would it be fun to do stories where we see him trying to do that as a parent? Is there some kind of duality there? Because ideally as a parent, you’re trying to be the exact same thing.”
Superman often joins forces with other superheroes in the DC universe, collaborations that continue to draw a lot of interest among fans. “When you put Superman among the other heroes, you really see his iconic nature because he’s fundamentally different from the rest of them,” said Levitz. “There are many other heroes that have incredible powers but in this mythology, he’s the primal figure. You see people reacting to him that way.”
It’s interesting to explore how the comic book industry has changed over the years. By the 1980s, the business model for selling comic books was changing. Initially, the newspaper stand was the only place to purchase comic books and when those started disappearing, companies faced a new challenge. “For a few years we were petrified we were never going to have new kids because we don’t have the newsstands to recruit them with,” Levitz recalled. “Turns out in fact, you can recruit people to read comics at a later age…I’m really comfortable that at this point we’re recruiting a lot of new people of all ages to come into comics. They’re just coming through very diverse paths, not the same that my generation came in.”
For more information about Superman’s legacy, be on the lookout for DC’s upcoming release of a special hardcover book called Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman.