With the announcement of the oversized Action Comics #1000, DC’s long game was revealed to be to take away Superman’s underpants for seven years and then bring them back for the big thousandth-issue anniversary. Their absence was designed to make the fans’ hearts grow fonder.
But Superman’s red underpants actually carry a much deeper meaning, and DC Comics has been fully aware of their power for decades. That is why Action Comics #1000, on top of including stories by veteran writers and artists, will feature essays by some well-known academics.
This includes a piece by Italian semiotician Umberto Eco celebrating the importance of Superman’s underpants, and a long-lost, recently unearthed treatise by the late French philosopher Michel Foucault on Superman’s underpants as the symbolic representation of capitalist stability and American hegemony. Media outlets like the New York Times have been alerted in hopes of getting the prestigious book reviewed.
On top of the academic essays to be included in the book, a company-wide memo has also declared the publication day of Action Comics #1000 would also be “Red Underpants Day”, whereby the entire staff at DC’s Burbank offices would spend the day wearing red underpants on the outside of their normal work clothes. The decision is believed to have come from on high. A special dispensation has also been granted to the Vertigo and Young Animals staff where they would be allowed to walk around wearing the red underpants on their heads that day, in keeping with that division’s wild and crazy bacchanalian ethos.
Now, before you think all this fuss over a pair of red underpants is wildly over the top, there is a much deeper meaning to it all. It was revealed by writer and magician Grant Morrison, who has long advocated the notion that Superman is the current avatar of the Sun God archetype, and thus the evolution of his symbolism over time is meaningful and important. In an excerpt from an essay he has written for Action Comics #1000, he goes on to explain (best if you read it while imagining it in Morrison’s deep Glaswegian brogue):
“The red underpants were the ultimate talisman that held the forces of darkness and chaos at bay. To remove them in the New 52 was a bold experiment: to see how well the DC Universe could withstand the total onslaught of horror and chaos without its protection, and hopefully emerge stronger than ever. That experiment is over, and we are all relieved and happy to don the red underpants again with pride and gratitude. That is the true meaning of Red Underpants Day,” wrote Morrison.
“The red underpants protect us, both literally and metaphysically.”
DC Comics hopes retailers and fans will join them in celebrating Red Underpants Day when Action Comics #1000 is published.