This epic anniversary comic also features the DC debut of Brian Michael Bendis

To certain comic fans, collectors, and retailers, issue numbering is really important. It can help keep track of superhero stories over time or signal a change in direction. This is why, whenever DC or Marvel announce a new publishing initiative, numbering is usually an important factor that explains the company’s priorities at the time. DC reboots like the New 52 and Rebirth reset all their series with new number-one issues to appeal to new readers, while Marvel Legacy recently returned its books to their original numbering to please longtime fans. But there’s really only one series for which original numbering truly matters, and that’s Action Comics — the first superhero comic. Keeping track of this series’ numbering means keeping track of the history of superhero comics. Action Comics #1, released in 1938, first introduced the world to Superman. And now, 80 years later, the book is celebrating issue #1000 with a jam-packed, star-studded comic.

Action Comics #1 boasts probably the most iconic comic cover of all time: That shot of Superman smashing a car on the street and normal people running in terror from his power. To live up to that legacy, legendary artist Jim Lee illustrated the cover image for Action Comics #1000, which can be seen exclusively above. One thing that will immediately jump out to fans is the return of the red trunks to Superman’s costume. Originally derived from the look of circus strongmen, the red underwear-over-tights look had become an object of derision over the years and was erased from Superman’s outfit as part of DC’s 2011 New 52 reboot. The no-trunks look stayed throughout the more recent reboot of DC Rebirth, only to now make its triumphant return for the big Action Comics anniversary.

Credit: Jim Lee/DC

Action Comics #1000 represents a watershed moment in the history of not just comic books, but entertainment, literature, and pop culture,” Lee said in a statement. “There’s no better way to celebrate Superman’s enduring popularity than to give him a look that combines some new accents with the most iconic feature of his classic design.”

Unlike a typical issue, Action Comics #1000 will feature an assortment of stories from multiple big-name creators. Notably, it will feature the first published DC story by Brian Michael Bendis, a popular longtime Marvel writer who recently switched over to the House of Ideas’ main rival. On top of that, DC veteran writer Marv Wolfman — who wrote the original mega-crossover superhero event series, 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths — will script a new Superman story based on previously unpublished art from Curt Swan. Swan is one of history’s most iconic Superman artists, giving the character his signature style throughout the so-called “Silver Age” of comic books — that would be the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s… basically everything up until Wolfman and artist George Pérez radically restructured the DC Universe with Crisis on Infinite Earths!

There will also be a story from Superman movie director Richard Donner and DC superstar Geoff Johns (who previously co-wrote issues of Action Comics together in 2006), alongside art from Olivier Coipel. The post-Rebirth Superman team of Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason will also contribute stories to the book, along with current Action Comics writer/artist Dan Jurgens. Other creative teams include Paul Dini with José Luis García-López; Tom King with Clay Mann and Jordie Bellaire; Brad Meltzer with John Cassaday and Laura Martin; Louise Simonson with Jerry Ordway; Scott Snyder with Tim Sale and more to be announced.

Speaking of creators, celebrating an anniversary this momentous should also mean honoring the men who originally brought Superman into the world: Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Like Marvel’s Jack Kirby, Siegel and Shuster were denied credit for their magnificent creation for decades. They were taken advantage of by DC editors like Mort Weisinger until finally reaching an agreement with the company in 1976 that restored their bylines to all products featuring the Man of Steel.

“The one-thousandth issue of Action Comics is an incredible milestone in pop culture and a testament to the vision of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster,” said DC publisher Dan DiDio. “Without this book, along with Siegel and Shuster’s fertile imaginations and boundless creativity, the superhero’s place in literature may have been wildly different, if not altogether nonexistent.”

Action Comics #1000 hits stores on April 18.