5 Essential Superman Comics

With the release of Man of Steel I thought it would be good to put together a list of five Superman comics, well trade paperbacks, that are well worth reading. Everyone likes a good list and I think these are a really good place to start if the movie has made you curious about Kal-El.

In no particular order…

  • Superman Birthright. This is a retelling of the Superman origin story, set in the modern era. It’s fantastically drawn, it looks wonderful and I really liked the style of it all. This is a story that covers all of the major milestones in Superman’s origins, from the last days of Krypton, to donning the suit and messing about with Kryptonite. There’s introductions to a lot of the major players in Superman’s life, including his parents (biological and adopted), Lois Lane and Lex Luthor. This story seems like it must have had a major influence on Zack Snyder and David Goyer in the run up to Man of Steel as it covers a lot of similar themes. There’s the focus on Clark Kent trying to find his place in the world, as he wanders from place to place helping people doing the Littlest Hobo act from Man of Steel. 
  • Superman For All Seasons. As with Birthright this is another look at the origin of Superman. I think this series of comics was actually part of the inspiration behind the Smallville TV series, and it’s definitely worth the a look. It was originally published as a series of four comics (one for each season) that focus on Clark Kent’s journey from life in Smallville right through to dealing with Lex Luthor in Metropolis. Each of the four seasons, issues, is narrated by a different character who has is pivotal in Clark’s life – so there’s his father Jonathan Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, and Lana Lang. It’s a really good read, particularly if you’ve seen some Smallville, there’s enough familiar characters to make things recognisable. 
  • The Death of Superman. This was huge when it first came out, a really big event and not just in the geekiverse. This was a huge mainstream media event, the death of one of the most iconic characters for the last 60 years. It’s a pretty simple story actually, an alien killing machine called Doomsday lands on Earth and escapes it’s prison cell. Doomsday then proceeds to destroy everything in sight. Initially the Justice League (the International flavour including the Green Lantern and Booster Gold) get involved to try and stop him but to no avail, so it’s down to Superman to sort things out. This is a pretty brutal comic book actually, there’s no shortage of violence that’s for sure. It may not be the most intellectually stimulating and complex story ever written but it’s interesting and shows the lengths Superman will go to in order to protect the world. It’s worth reading the two sequels World Without Superman and Return of Superman. 
  • Superman: Red Son. This alternate take on the story of Superman is written by Mark Millar, who has written some really great stuff for pretty much every major character you can imagine (he created Kick Ass as well). Red Son is a re-imagining of the Superman story but this time instead of Kal-El crash landing in Kansas and being raised by the Kents to fight for ‘truth, justice and the American way’ he ends up crashing on a collective in the Ukraine, thanks to a difference of only a few hours in the original time line. In this version of reality Superman’s secret identity is a closely guarded state secret and he fights for the expansion of the Warsaw Pact, Stalin and socialism. It’s an interesting look at a different side of the story, that asks some questions about whether Superman’s morals and attitude are a result of nature or nurture. There’s a whole host of ‘regular’ Superman characters that show up during the story (Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, Green Lantern, Batman, Wonder Woman and more), it’s good to see a different take on such a tried and tested character. 
  • Kingdom Come. Ok, so this isn’t strictly a Superman comic but he’s definitely a big character in the story. Kingdom Come is set in the near future and centres on a building conflict between traditional heroes (like Superman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman) and a new breed of ‘heroes’. The newer heroes are more akin to vigilantes, and have none of the rules or moral codes of Superman and Batman. Basically they’re happy to do whatever is necessary to stop the bad guys, even if it means killing them. Poor old Batman is stuck in the middle of it all, doing his best to an all out war between the old and new heroes that could level the entire planet. 

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