Written By: JJ Simoes
Many people do not care for Superman, and they tend to proclaim a preference for Batman because he’s more ‘complex’. Well that’s just plain wrong, and I say this while admitting to not being much of a superman fan myself. However, this list contains five Superman stories I’m very fond of, and I would recommend that others read to better understand the man of steel. One quick note, I realise that none of these stories are considered part of the main Superman continuity and some focus on other heroes besides him, but they are great reads for any one interested in Superman. The fact that they are not solely about Superman or that they aren’t steeped in a literal fuck-ton of continuity may make them even more attractive to new readers. Also, the publication dates included refer to the release of the individual issues of each series, but they are all available at your local comic shop in graphic novel form (please visit comic shops as they need more support then Indigo does). I hope you all read at least one of these stories after peering at this list and as always, you chose this.
Writer: Mark Waid/Alex Ross
Artist: Alex Ross
This comic is written and illustrated by two of the biggest Superman fans working in the comic book industry. Mark Waid and Alex Ross love everything most people loath about Superman, but it’s this reverence for the character that leads to a captivating portrayal of the character in their graphic novel. This story focuses on the conflict between the older generation of superheroes and the new morally ambiguous generation of anti-heroes. The graphic novel’s story tests the man of steel’s resolve to stick to his beliefs, even when faced with the darkest of circumstances. Between Waid’s script and Ross’ art, the reader is shown a character with great moral resolve, and it tells us why that’s important. Superman is shown as a person (or alien) who at times does struggle to do what’s right, but he will always work through it for the betterment of humanity.
All Star Superman
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quietly
Speaking of essence, Grant Morrison perfectly captures the kind of hero Superman is in his aptly titled graphic novel, All-Star Superman. This comic embraces every aspect of Superman’s mythology, giving the reader a timeless take on the character that incorporates the best aspects developed over his 67 years of publication (at the time of the first issue’s publication). Morrison’s text, by focusing of Superman’s relationship with various supporting characters, is about what Superman means to people. Superman is humanity at it’s best, both in strength and empathy. He’s an all-powerful force for good who helps whoever needs him and instills hope in the hopeless (evident in one particularly compelling scene I will not spoil here). Morrison is known for captivating superhero stories filled to the brim with optimism, and this graphic novel is the best example of that.
Superman: Red Son
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Dave Johnson and Killian Plunkett
This is an odd one, as the Superman in this story is not a good guy per say, he does strive to do the as much good as he can (from a certain perspective). When Superman is adopted of the Soviet Union instead of America, he becomes a weapon of the communist dictatorship. Even though Superman is not fighting for the same ideals as he traditionally does, Superman goes above and beyond to do right by the world according to his beliefs. Superman may be the antagonistic figure in the comic, but he’s still the idealistic and caring individual he is in other works (you just need to take a very different perspective to notice this). There’s also more in this book that reveals all this about the character, but that would be entering spoiler territory so I’ll stop short of doing that. If anything, the fact that this Superman is a tool of an oppressive dictatorship may appeal to those of you who think Superman’s a little too clean, as contemplation of one’s actions is important to the work as a whole.
Superman: American Alien
Writer: Max Landis
The most recent of the comics on this list, Max Landis’ mini series is about the early years of superman, from child hood to his early days fighting crime. This comic is the genesis of the character and focuses on the important experiences that shape the hero Clark eventually becomes. Landis delves deep into Superman’s mind to tell his readers how the great morally staunched hero that they all knew developed from a farm boy in a land not his own. In this series, Superman’s a lot younger and far more rebellious, showing a different side to the character. For many who consider the characters difficult to relate to due to the God like power he possesses, this series very much focuses on Clark Kent, rather than Superman. It’s heartwarming and an excellent companion to other works on this list that focus on an older Superman near the end.
Injustice Gods Among Us: Year One
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Mike S. Miller and Bruno Redondo
First of all, there is a comic book prequel to the video game, and for those of you who say fuck that tacked on merchandising bullshit (my initial reaction), it’s actually really good. For those who don’t know the game, it revolves around Batman fighting against a tyrannical and brutal Superman. The comic book reveals the whole backstory to this dramatic change in the man of steel and becomes a year long breakdown for the character. Superman’s strict sense of morality is tested and broken in this series, though like Red Son, he still goes above and beyond to do what he thinks is right. Superman is very much the man he’s always been (in some ways), but he is clearly a broken and traumatised character. This comic dissects and examines Superman in what makes for a very painful read (it’s a good read, but some bad shit happens). This version of Superman is far worse then the Red Son incarnation, but it’s an intriguing take on a very old character.