1. The Death and Return of Superman
2. Peace on Earth
3. Camelot Falls
4. World of Krypton
5. Kingdom Come
6. Lois and Clark
8. For the Man Who Has Everything
9. For Tomorrow
10. World’s Finest
11. Superman For All Seasons
12. Secret Identity
13. Up, Up and Away!
14. It’s A Bird
15. Infinite Crisis/This Is Your Life, Superman
16. Earth One
18. Death of Superman
19. Thy Kingdom Come
21. Red Son
22. War of the Worlds
23. Last Son
24. Man of Steel
25. The Supergirl Saga
As you’ve probably surmised by now, I loved putting together my top 25 list! Even though it should be said that all such lists are completely subjective and these are all just my personal favorites, which I stand by, I still should make a couple of notes about what isn’t on this list.
As with any comic book property, certain stories come to be seen as seminal works which most fans can attest to, and the Man of Steel is no exception. There are Superman stories which have been published over the years that few self-respecting Superman fans would dare to leave off such a list, even though I did. This post is just a few of my personal thoughts about them, without intending to be a knock on anyone who does enjoy them.
Here we go!
Superman Rebirth If this were a list of “Greatest Superman Runs of All Time,” extended takes on a character by the same creative team (which I still might do some day, come to think of it…), then the Rebirth books would be on my list without question! I loved both Superman by Tomasi & Gleason as well as Action Comics by Dan Jurgens a great deal, and think they should be seen as templates for future Super-writers to work from. If we were to consider it to be one entire story, then it would be in my top ten, maybe top five without a doubt.
The problem is I can’t quite justify putting 80+ issues on this list as “one story,” even though an argument can be made that it is. I think it’s clearly meant to work as many stories (and good ones!), and it reads as such. I just don’t know if any individual story in the run would make it onto a top 25 list like this one.
I considered several, and if I had to choose one from either book it would either be “Imperius Lex” from Superman 33-36, “Multiplicity” from Superman 14-16, or even “Superman Reborn,” from Action Comics 973-976, and Superman 18-19. Both titles were exceptional during this period and contain many worthy stories. They just didn’t have one in particular which quite made my list.
All-Star Superman I know full well I’m going to get a lot of flack for this one, which some see as the greatest Superman story of all time. While I fully respect its craftsmanship and the talent of its creators, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, it’s just not my cup of tea. Morrison, as many writers do, LOVES the zaniness and craziness of Silver Age Superman and fully embraces the goofy, silly stories that the era is known for. With All-Star, he succeeded in making a Silver Age Superman story in our present day using modern storytelling techniques. But if one doesn’t like the Silver Age, does it really matter how modern or updated it is?
The same, unfortunately, goes for Superman: Birthright, which was another well-crafted story. Acknowledging its effectiveness as a comic and the talent of Mark Waid, its downfall for me was that it succeeded in undoing what Byrne had scraped away in the 1986 reboot. Among other things, I can’t even begin to tell you how little I like the idea of Clark and Lex Luthor growing up together in Smallville. It just seems so cheesy and a plot device used only to make the Superboy book of the 40s/50s interesting. When brought to the present, it just makes Superman’s world feel smaller and Smallville, well, too big. The “Superman as an outsider” concept isn’t one that I care for so much either. I think it works better for a book like X-Men, not so much in the bright sunniness of Superman’s world.
Again, these are well-crafted stories that, if you like the Silver Age, can probably be considered some of the best ever. So no hate. It’s just an era in Superman’s history that I don’t care for as much as others.
Superman and the Legion of Superheroes I loved everything about this story, and consider it in many ways to be Johns’ best work on Action Comics. It just reads to me as more of a Legion story that a Superman story. It takes place in the 31st century for the most part, reintroduces many of the Legionaires and sets up the brilliant “Legion of Three Worlds.” It’s a book I love and highly recommend, I just couldn’t quite include it on a “best of Superman” list, per se.
What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way? Despite its divisiveness, I see this issue on too many lists not to comment on it. For me, nothing about this horribly overrated story works. Joe Kelly introduces the Elite, some early 2000s Wildstorm knockoffs that for some reason threaten Superman’s popularity with the people of the world. They are known for their viciousness and ruthlessness, tough-as-nails attitudes, leather outfits, foul language, and pretty much anything else Casey can include that screams “we are badasses!!” Superman ultimately fights and defeats them by “proving” he can be just as nasty and vile as they can, beating just about everyone to a bloody pulp (but letting them live).
I guess this was somehow supposed to be an exploration of how goodie-two-shoes/boy scout Superman can still be relevant in today’s world (real original premise there…). But the way one proves that any character still works is not by making them like the bad guys in an effort to “modernize.” It didn’t work in the ‘90s, and it certainly doesn’t work here. Even the whole point of Waid and Ross’ Kingdom Come was just this: sometimes a character can stay fresh and original in a changing world by staying true to, and not compromising, who they really are.
Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? I loved this story and love all of Alan Moore’s DC stories. I much prefer him to Morrison generally, and his Superman stories are genuinely superb.
“Whatever Happened” is a beautiful love letter closing out the Silver Age (and by extension, Bronze Age) Superman before Crisis and “Man of Steel” wiped the slate clean. Curt Swan pencils both books in a fitting tribute to his legacy on the character, and the book ends with, for me, the most perfect panel that anyone could come up with for this era’s Supes.
Not to sound like a broken record, but if you don’t care that much about the era that it’s closing, the story probably doesn’t carry as much weight as it does for others. Again though, no knock on anyone if you like it. 🙂
Those are my thoughts! I hope they weren’t too controversial for anyone, but either way thanks for reading!