Superman is the first true superhero, and he set the standard for what has become one of the most powerful and profitable entertainment genres in the history of movies and TV shows. His creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, set the rules for the superhero genre, including secret identities, capes, love interests, and supervillains. Since 1938, everyone who has written superhero stories has had to deal with that legacy and decide how to embrace or subvert it.
Being a paragon is both good and bad. Superman is often criticized because of the traits he has. He’s too good, too strong, or too heroic for us to accept. Where he first made people believe that a man could fly, today people are more likely to be snarky when they see him.
Even so, there isn’t a character in comic books that has made people both excited and awestruck as much as Superman. The stories show why the last son of Krypton is so important to DC Comics and all superhero stories. These comics see Superman’s strength as a good thing, not a bad thing. More often than not, they also look at the Man of Steel’s flaws that have nothing to do with kryptonite.
Many of these comics have other superheroes in them, which shows that Superman is often defined by how he affects other people. They talk about how he came to be, how he was friends and enemies, and even how he died. Because you read them, you may or may not fall in love with Superman. They will help you learn more about him and what he stands for.
1. All-Star Superman
By Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
In either case, All-Star Superman would be at the very top of the list. After Lex Luthor plans to make him more powerful, but also leave him with a year to live, the story imagines how he would spend his last days on Earth.
In this crazy story, time travelers flirt with Lois Lane, Luthor’s goth niece helps him with one last big plan, and a sentient evil star. As a result of the absurdity of the big threats Superman faces, he has the chance to show off all of his abilities while also proving that his greatest strength is his heart. When Superman takes the time to help a suicidal girl, he doesn’t just fly her down from the ledge. Instead, he stands by her and gives her words of comfort that make all the difference.
There has always been a hint of divinity in Superman, who becomes a kind of guardian angel for Metropolis and his friends and family when he saves them from bad things. In the Man of Tomorrow, Morrison makes the character look like a benevolent god who changes everyone who knows him. Quitely’s soft touch with angles and colors makes the character look like a heavenly figure. This is a great way to sum up how fans feel when the character is done well.
2. Kingdom Come
By Mark Waid and Alex Ross
The idea of superheroes as gods was hinted at by Morrison in All-Star Superman. In Kingdom Come, which takes place in an apocalyptic world, the Justice League must reunite to stop a new kind of merciless superheroes. This is a story that has a lot of superheroes, but the real star is Superman, who leads all the other DC heroes away from the world years before the story’s main events start. He then inspires them to come back and finish their exile.
Lois Lane and the rest of the staff of the Daily Planet are killed by Kingdom Come, which makes Kansas a radioactive desert. As they try to find meaning and hope in their old age, Alex Ross’ painterly art style makes the story even more eerie.
When it comes to anti-immigrant “heroes,” the story has only become more relevant over time. It also talks about how unity and reconciliation can be more important than harsh punishment. It’s also a slam on the casual violence and destruction that dominates so much modern superhero media. It’s a reminder that restraint and forgiveness can be the most powerful shows of strength, though.
3. Red Son
By Mark Millar, Dave Johnson, Andrew Robinson, Walden Wong, and Kilian Plunkett
There have been a lot of stories about what would happen if Superman was bad, but Red Son is the best one. If you want to read a book by Mark Millar, you’ll have to wait. In 1938, a rocket that had a baby who would become the most powerful man on Earth landed on Earth and didn’t come to land in Smallville, Kansas. He becomes a champion for the Soviet Union, which changes the Cold War and DC Comics as a whole.
For example, the alternate universe of Marvel 1602 or Flashpoint also lets Millar think about Batman and the Green Lantern Hal Jordan in a new way. Millar rethinks their origins and how they do good things. But Lex Luthor, Superman’s archenemy, is the one who shines the most because he leads the fight against the alien communist.
In this movie, both Luthor and Superman are at the very top of their abilities. This helps turn a long-running geopolitical fight into a fight between two men. They both think they are the heroes in their own stories, and Millar knows this. Both think they have the best chance to lead humanity to a better future.
4. Secret Identity
By Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen
The Clark Kent you know isn’t in this story. The limited-run series looks at big questions about and for Superman through a very meta lens. Kansas boy: His parents had an unfortunate sense of humor when it came to picking a name. But when he finds out that he has the powers of the world’s most famous comic book hero, he can’t believe it.
True to the title, Kurt Busiek focuses most of the story on the dilemmas that come with keeping a secret identity. Clark is a lonely, isolated teen who dreams of how the bullies and his secret crush would treat him if they knew what he could do. What at first seems like a Spider-Man story told through a different lens grows along with Clark, who is trying to figure out how a character with so much power and a big secret would interact with the woman he loves, the government, and his kids.
Superman fights crime with his kids, cat, and dog, and is found by Lois Lane in retro panels that are a fun throwback and a nod to the hard work that both Busiek and his Clark Kent are aware of when they deal with the same problems. There are panels in the comic that show how the character has been depicted by different artists, from Alex Ross’s realism to Max Fleisher’s animated series with its bright colors and smooth lines. Stuart Immonen does a great job of bringing that history to life.
5. Superman Smashes The Klan
They go back in time for this year’s three-part story, “Superman Smashes the Klan” (opens in new tab). This book has a lot of mainstream bookstore appeal thanks to Gurihiru’s clean colors and manga style. Luen Yang’s funny and sensitive script balances the message with a hearty dose of old-fashioned fun.
Based on an old radio show called “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” Gene Luen Yang tells a story about integration and discrimination in 1930s America. He uses this time before Superman had the full power of flight to tell the story. As soon as Robert and Tommy Lee’s family moves to the white-majority suburbs of Metropolis, the Ku Klux Klan harasses them for being black. It’s time for Superman to come in!
As the son of immigrants, Luen Yang can relate Superman’s clean-cut image to how he felt as a child growing up in the early 20th century. This is how he came up with the idea for his book. When Gurihiru draws, he doesn’t use a lot of lines. He paints primary colors over bold shapes to make them look like they’re moving.
As a modern introduction to the Man of Steel, Smashing the Klan is the best example. The book is sure to be used as a source by the creators of the future. It doesn’t avoid talking about the bad things that happen every day, but it also makes the story easy to read for people of all ages. This is an important story that is unfortunately very relevant.
6. Funeral for a Friend
‘Funeral for a Friend(opens in new tab)’ was a 1993 line-wide crossover that told the story of Superman’s death in nine different stories. It was between ‘Death of Superman’ and ‘Reign of the Supermen!’ As a way to make sure people know that Superman is dead, “Funeral for a Friend” is a look at a weird time in Superman history and an honest attempt to remember the best of heroes.
With bowed heads and solemn tones, we look into the Kent family’s grief for both Superman and Clark Kent, who is said to have gone away. Lex Luthor feels empty now that his arch-rival has been removed from the game. Supergirl, who can change shape, is taking the Man of Steel’s place in the world. As they search for emotional closure, “Funeral for a Friend” moves around Metropolis. Kal-friends El’s and family need to be able to move on. As honest people want to honor a friend, so do people who want to make money off of memorial goods.
Dan Jurgens’s art is all over this crossover. His coiffed hair and impossibly pumped musculature are always there to remind us of the time and place where this is taking place. Jerry Ordway’s first part is called “Morbid.” Metropolis is forced to face the sobering truth of the body, while Roger Stern talks about Luthor and Supergirl’s reactions to it. Louise Simonson is the author of Man of Steel #20, which has a very bad funeral. Glenn Whitmore is the artist who colored the whole thing.
Isn’t the best technical work or the best example of elegant drawing. “Funeral for a Friend,” on the other hand, isn’t perfect. It is an honest look at a world without Superman that tries to rise above the excitement of “Death of Superman.”