Favorite Superman Stories
A list of issues containing my favorite stories about the man of tomorrow.
A list of issues containing my favorite stories about the man of tomorrow.
This is my favorite issue of All-Star Superman. Knowing he's about to die, Superman wants to know what a world without him would be like. To gain the answer to this question, he creates life on Earth-Q in the infant universe of Qwewq. We see the ages pass on Earth-Q and all the events that lead to the creation of its Superman from cave paintings, the Renaissance, Friedrich Nietzsche, and, finally, Siegel and Shuster coming up with Superman in their New York apartment. We learn that in a world without a Superman, one is simply imagined.
Probably my favorite individual issue of Silver Age Superman. In the main story, Clark Kent is made to believe he was never Superman. The world turns against him to make him think he was deluded the entire time he thought he was a superhero. Superman must reaffirm his own identity in a world that sees him differently than he sees himself. A paranoid epic. The back-up is great too. Mr. Mxyzptlk becomes a superhero and shows Superman up. Does Superman get jealous or is he happy to have another hero on the block? If you really think about it, the ending is hilarious.
This story was billed as "The Greatest Imaginary Story Ever Told." It asks the very basic question of: What if there were two of me? Superman splits himself into two equally-powerful Supermen designated Red and Blue to solve all of the problems Superman can't normally solve on his own. Possibly the ultimate happy ending for Silver Age Superman and a hopeful story for anyone who has ever wondered what life would be like if they were twice as capable. Alan Moore even sees fit to mention it in his "Twilight of the Superheroes" proposal. This is simply beautiful.
A beautiful way to cap off an amazing Superman run. First off, I love how Luthor starts to act like someone coming down off of an intense hallucinogen when his super formula starts to wear off (I'd imagine that's what it would be like to have all of those powers one minute and be back to normal the next). We also see typical Morrison-Meta-fiction when Luthor looks up into the sky with his super-vision (likely right at Morrison) and states "I should be writing these..." What really got me about this issue was when Jor-El sums up what Superman is supposed to represent: "You have given them an ideal to aspire to, embodied their highest aspirations." No one's put it better.
I'd be committing a grave sin if this wasn't on my list. This was the story that started them all. Superman's first appearance and he's a depression era social crusader. He does great deeds like stops an abusive husband from beating his wife and harasses a corrupt lobbyist. This sets the standard for every superhero comic.
This is the issue that really hooked me to All-Star Supes. Atlas and Samson trying to steal Lois from Superman took me back to the Silver Age Superman back issues I love. Back in the 60's you'd see historical and mythical figures pop up to challenge or befriend Superman all the time since it was long before DC had an entire universe of its own characters to do it. Samson's exclamation of "By Yahweh" also took me back to the Bible classes I took in college. Morrison writes very smart silver age stories.
I didn't think I was going to like this story from the preview page, but now it's hands down one of my favorites. Superman gets turned into a lion-man by the mythical witch Circe. He's absolutely humiliated that his good looks have been ruined which shows off his ego. However, he still manages to humble himself by using his new, frightening image to make a group of orphans' day amazing. He pretends to be an actual lion and lets each orphan put their head between his jaws letting them feel bold and confident. This shows how Superman is willing to do just about anything if it makes someone else happy. Lois also proves she has a heart of gold in this story.
Contains "The Girl who Didn't Believe in Superman." This story is about standing up in the face of ultimate cynicism. Superman meets a blind girl who doesn't believe he has powers. Since all of Superman's deeds are visible things, a smart, blind girl doesn't buy them because she can't see them (and if you think about it, most people have trouble believing in things they can't see). The ending is WAAAY too happy and a bit of a celebration of the nuclear family, but this story is powerful and thought provoking.
I picked this issue up for a dollar on a whim and didn't regret it. The main story involves Superboy going to the planet Zumoor and meeting a boy from Earth, Mighty Boy, who was sent to Zumoor and gained powers much like Superboy. In the end the two are forced to part ways when they learn that the yellow solar rays in Superboy's cells act like kryptonite to Mighty Boy. The back-up story was just as good. Superboy learns about Abe Lincoln's assassination and flies back in time to try to stop it only to be thwarted by a Lex Luthor from the future packing red kryptonite. Both stories are classic.
A grand rebirth for Superman. Grant Morrison returns him to his Golden age roots as a champion of the oppressed to fit our modern recession. Superman clashes with a corrupt businessman and charges the law for not treating the rich and poor equally. This fast-paced adventure is fun and action-packed.
Perhaps the most sentimental chapter in All-Star Superman. We're taken back to his early college days when he's back home visiting Smallville. He and Krypto meet three Supermen from his future looking for a time-devouring monster, the Chronovore. They trap the monster but at the expense of Superboy missing out on the chance to save Pa Kent from a fatal heart attack. The speech Superboy gives at his father's funeral is touching. I love the idea of the time-spanning Superman dynasty.
I'm picking this issue more for the first story "The Day Superman Broke the Law" than the cover story. Superman goes to a small town where a crooked politician creates situations where Superman will be forced to break petty laws to save the day. This gets Supes arrested a number of times so the politician can aid in a heist. Superman wins by using a petty law to his advantage. A great story that tells you how the law can be blind and obnoxious, but a superman uses it to his advantage.
Alan Moore is one of my favorite writers of all time so there was no way this story wasn't going to make the list. This was the last story about Pre-Crisis Superman, and there was no better person to write it than Moore. He introduced the Silver Age Superman to the new "gritty, realistic" world of comics that Moore himself helped usher in. One thing I noticed about this issue from a second reading was the furniture in Lois Lane's apartment. It looks like furniture from a Post-Superman, Silver Age future and not the slick, cyborg futures we're used to seeing from comics. Leave it to Alan and Curt Swan to keep that kind of thing in mind.
The very last issue featuring Pre-Crisis Superman. In this story, Mr. Mxyzptlk really represents the nature of super-hero comics as a whole. Pre-Crisis and Silver Age Mxyzptlk was a michief maker just like all the villains and problems that superheroes faced in the Silver Age. Now he's decided to be truly evil and a killer. Modern comics wanted villains to be just as deadly and complicated as the problems in the real world. Superman's send off happens when he realizes he can't solve these problems without becoming something he's not. When faced with problems that make him fall from his ideal then he becomes a regular person just like everyone else. Great stuff.
This is the imaginary story where Superman and Lois get married and adopt Supergirl. Lois is forced to quit her job to make the adoption work, and has to stay at home bored while her Super husband and daughter go off to do their great deeds (like watching your husband go to work and your daughter to school). I really do think it makes a feminist statement by showing you what happened to many housewives in the 50's and 60's. A generation of American women languished in suburban depression without the opportunity to pursue their interests or exciting lives of their own. In the 60's women would be actively stepping out of that role and this story reflects on why that was happening.
The Watchmen duo of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons team up to deliver this great tale. Mongul sends Superman an alien flower that causes an overwhelming hallucination. In the hallucination, Superman imaginations Krypton never blew up and that he lives there with a wife, family, and career. He starts to notice that Krypton is a little off, though. In fact, it now resembles the "grim and gritty" world Alan Moore helped birth into comics. I believe this is a statement on what things would be like if Superman lead the life of a normal man. It eerily predicts the path of the Post-Crisis world of Superman.
All-Star Superman, as a whole, is perhaps the greatest Superman story ever told. All the individual issues are going to make this list. What grabbed me about this issue was the trip through Leo Quintum's P.R.O.J.E.C.T. to see all the weird science Superman has inspired. The big, blue men made to float through space and the tiny explorers made to search through atoms reminded me how comic book science should be about the impossible.
In this imaginary tale, Earth blows up instead of Krypton and Lois is sent from Earth to Krypton where she grows up with Super-powers and constantly has to rescue powerless Kal-El. This story shows young, male readers how to act when you feel dependent on your more capable spouse which would happen to young men more and more as Women's Lib. gained steam. Critical feminist readers might not take kindly to the end of the story which sees a kind of return to status quo (perhaps wishful thinking from a male view?), but I would argue that this story is a step in the right direction as you get many examples of Lois saving and looking after a hapless, but well-meaning Kal-El.
An imaginary story where Superman has two boys: one with powers and one without. The son without powers gets depressed and discouraged next to his super-brother and Superman struggles to find a way to raise his son's confidence like any good father. Here Superman is dealing with the direct consequences of how powers like his make normal people feel. The dynamics here do reflect real families. How do you boost the confidence of a child who is less naturally gifted than his brother?
This is just great story telling. In this imaginary story we wonder what would've happened if the Kents adopted a young Lex Luthor along with Clark. Pete Ross grows up to be Superman's nemesis instead (possibly the inspiration for "The Death of Clark Kent" villain Kenny Braverman). This has some of Curt Swan's most moody artwork. You can almost see the moment Lex Luthor decides to become good in his eyes.
Get ready for a wild one. Superman teams up with a squad of supermen from across the multiverse in this Final Crisis tie-in. To save Lois' life, he and the team must help solve a crisis in the society of Monitors. In this issue, Superman and Captain Marvel lift a book that contains every story. Ultraman goes toe-to-toe with an extra-dimensional destroyer. They all end up in Limbo. A dizzying adventure made breath-taking in 3D.
The second issue of Superman's Final Crisis tie-in is just as crazy as the first. The mutiversal squad of Supermen must escape Limbo and solve the corruption in Monitor society. Superman, the force of good, must combine with Ultraman, the force of evil, to leap into the Monitors' 4th dimension. A grand statement about why a multiverse is needed and the final phrase of the issue gives you the most hopeful message for comic books: "To be continued..."
That's a great cover, but ignore it for now. I really enjoyed this issue because of the second story:"The Star of Steel" scripted by Otto Binder. In this tale, Clark Kent gets cast to play Superman in a movie. Deciding that the name Clark Kent doesn't have enough flare to it, the producer makes him take the screen name of "Claude Keith." Because they don't know Superman's true secret identity, the writers of the film make one up for him: Dr. Stan Sage. So, in essence, Superman has to juggle four different identities: Superman, Clark Kent, Claude Keith, and Stan Sage. In the midst of filming he ends up falling in love with the actress playing his romantic interest thereby letting a part of the film's fiction to become reality. The boundaries between fiction and reality get blurred in this story. Some of the actors even die tragically during the filming which, if you think about it, parallels the actual Superman film curse. Spooky stuff.
This is the greatest Superman vs. Luthor story. They battle on a planet with a red sun so Superman has no powers just like Lex. By the end, we see how heroic Lex can really be when he gives up his own selfishness and petty desires to save a civilization (we could all be great if we did those things).
In this story, Smallville is invaded by the Nazis shortly before America joins WWII (this is poor continuity work by the writer who I assume is taking Superman in the late 60's early 70's as the same Superman who fought in WWII) and is held ransom against Superboy who is given the order to leave Smallville or the Nazis will destroy it. Instead of standing up to the Nazis to help the boy who has saved them on so many occasions, the people of Smallville become scared and give in to the Nazi demands by turning on Superboy to try and chase him out. This is a wonderful metaphor for what happened in Nazi Germany and many of the Nazi-occupied countries during WWII. The fear of Nazi power was so great that people would rat each other out or stay silent and hope they would be passed over instead of fighting back. A true statement on what happens when good men do nothing (except Superboy of course).
This is one of Mort Weisinger's triumphs. It's the first appearance of Supergirl AND Metallo. Robert Bernstein does pretty well with the Metallo story. The fortune cookie warning to Lois Lane is a particularly nice touch. The story that introduces the girl of steel really sets the scene for her more than anything else, but you can't help but love the fact that they finally gave you a female paragon.
This story shows Pa Kent struggling to properly punish Superboy who is more powerful and clever than Pa in almost every way. It speaks to any parent struggling to deal with a gifted child who may intimidate them in certain ways (you can see this happen in grocery and department stores across America). The end of this story might come off as a bit cruel and dysfunctional if you take it too seriously. I've always liked this view of Superman's childhood better than the Post-Crisis childhood of Clark. It makes more sense to me that an extraordinary guy like Superman would be a particularly brilliant and strange kid.
Another great Alan Moore Superman story. Supes catches a deadly disease from a red fungus that fell to Earth with a Krypton rock. Swamp Thing saves his life without Superman even knowing about his aid. What I love about this issue is how cinematic the art is. You can see many of Rick Veitch's panels working as movie frames.
This is my favorite issue from Kirby's run on Jimmy Olsen. It chronicles Superman's first visit to the home of the New Gods. Supertown is a wonder to behold with Jack Kirby's art. You watch gods zoom by on cosmic chariots and others using strange kinetic powers. Superman tries to save people in Supertown only to annoy its inhabitants (Gods don't even neeed help from Superman). Jack Kirby had ten times the imagination that most people have.
Officially my favorite Superman/Flash team-up. They both wake up with amnesia and in each other's uniforms. Flash believes he must be Superman and Superman believes that he's the Flash. Barry even comes to the conclusion that he has to use stage make-up to make himself look like Clark Kent. Very bizarre stuff. What's even more bizarre is that most websites don't know who wrote this one. Comic Collector Live says Jim Shooter so I went with that and added it to Comicvine. It feels like a Shooter story, but if I'm wrong...
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