I’m a big Superman fan. Have been all my life. If you’re just now discovering this about me, welcome to The Confusing Middle. This must be your first time here.
And there are top 10 lists for everything everywhere on the internet. I’m sure that someone somewhere out there has compiled other top 10 Superman story lists. So I realize that this blog post is not breaking any kind of new ground.
I’m okay with that.
All I wanted to do was share my opinion based on the Superman stories that I’ve encountered throughout my life. There have been a lot. Not all of them, of course. The character has been around for 80 years. That’s a lot of time to tell stories about a strange visitor from another world.
So, without further ado, here are my 10 favorite Superman stories…
10. Crisis on Infinite Earths – Some may not consider this one a Superman story. But it does involve Supermen from multiple realities within the DC multiverse. And they all kind of play a major role in saving what remains of the universe. This is the story that DC Comics tried to use to condense its 50 years of history into something a little more user friendly. Not entirely sure it worked. But it was still a good story.
9. Reign of the Supermen – This one was a little complicated, but I loved it. This story was told throughout four Superman titles in the 90s. It’s the story that followed The Death of Superman when four “Supermen” showed up, each basically claiming to be the real Superman. Only none of them were. I can still remember how psyched I was when the real Superman did come back and revealed himself to the pretenders.
8. It’s Superman! – This isn’t a comic storyline, unlike the rest of the stories you’ll see on this list. No, it’s a novel by Tom De Haven. I read this several years ago and loved it. It retells the origin of Superman set in the same time frame of when Superman was first introduced to the world in the pages of Action Comics. It really is a great take on the character and has the same kind of feeling you get when you watch the old Fleischer animated shorts from the 1940s.
7. Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? – Remember how I said Crisis on Infinite Earths was designed to pretty much reset the DC Universe into something more accessible? Well, when that happened, they had to reboot Superman. But, before they did that, this was Superman’s last story before his modern reboot. The story is meant to be a perfect send-off. He encounters enemies and allies from throughout his history, then we see that he got to live happily ever after.
6. Panic in the Sky – Okay, I don’t know that anyone aside from me will have this story on a top anything list. But this is the story that got me started with regularly collecting comic books. It was during this time (and carrying out through Superman’s death and return stories… and beyond) that each title featuring Superman had a “triangle number” on the cover. This let you know in which order to read issues. And they were all connected. This story spanned a couple months of titles and featured Brainiac after he commandeered the Warworld, an instrument of galactic destruction. And he had brainwashed Supergirl. And the entire Justice League got involved. It was pretty epic.
5. Brainiac – Speaking of Brainiac… This story came about in the mid-2000s and was meant to bring us a definitive vision of who the character of Brainiac really was. It attempted to explain that every version of Brainiac that Superman had faced throughout his history were really only emissaries of the actual being. This story reintroduced the bottle city of Kandor, a concept from Superman’s silver age. It also, tragically, saw the death of Jonathan Kent, Superman’s adoptive father.
4. Man of Steel (1986) – I feel the need to specify. Because there was recently a Man of Steel mini-series in the comics. And there was also that movie a few years back. No, this is the story that rebooted Superman’s continuity after Crisis on Infinite Earths. This is the story that gave me the Superman I grew up with. This Superman wasn’t overpowered. And he didn’t pretend to be a wimpy klutz as Clark Kent. In this reality, Clark Kent is who he was. Superman was what he did. For a while anyway.
3. The Death of Superman – This is the big one. I was already collecting comics at this point, since Panic in the Sky had taken place about a year prior to Doomsday’s arrival. I remember seeing the ads leading up to the story. I remember thinking, “They can’t kill Superman…” And then they did it. Obviously, it’s been a long time since I first read Superman’s death issue, but I’m pretty sure I may have cried in those final pages. It was brilliantly written. As the story progressed, it was told in fewer and fewer panels with each issue. And then in Superman #75, the whole thing was told in full-page panels, to give the weight of what was happening more scope.
2. Kingdom Come – This four issue series may be the most beautiful comic book I’ve ever read. It was written by Mark Waid as a very loose look at the book of Revelation through the scope of the DC Universe. The beautiful part comes from the book’s artist, Alex Ross. Each panel is a gorgeous painting and is a fascinating look at the world of DC Comics through the eyes of a preacher who bears witness to the return of an older Superman and a war between super-heroes.
1. All Star Superman – The greatest Superman story ever. I don’t even know what else to say. It’s been made into an animated feature, which is good. But as good as it is, it still pales in comparison to what can be read in the pages of the comics. I don’t always find myself liking what the writer, Grant Morrison, does with the books he writes. But this take on a dying Man of Steel is brilliant in every way.
So that’s my list. I do have an honorable mention with The Last Days of Krypton by Kevin J. Anderson. As you can tell from the title, it tells the story of the last days of Krypton, focusing mostly on the actions of Superman’s father, Jor-El. It may have taken the place of something else on this list, but since it doesn’t actually feature Superman, I left it off. But it’s definitely worth the read.