As I’ve written on here before, people are dismissive of comic books. But they’re REALLY dismissive of Superman.
He’s corny. He’s old. He’s a “boy scout” (often said with a sneer). He has too many powers.
There’s all sorts of excuses for why people don’t enjoy Superman, or wouldn’t read a Superman comic, but the fact is…most of these people have NEVER read a Superman comic book.
I won’t argue that these people aren’t right in some way to carry some preconceived notions about Superman, but if I might get all analogical on yo asses for a second: There are more bad pizza joints in the world than good, but people are still willing to eat pizza so…OK, this is just collapsing on itself. I really want pizza right now.
Anyway, yes, there are probably more bad Superman comics than good, but there are some GREAT Superman comics out there. There are a bunch on sale RIGHT NOW at Comixology: http://www.comixology.com/Superman-Unchained-plus-Sale/comics-collection/1257
Here’s some of my favorites:
All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
I’ve mentioned it numerous times before. This is THE Superman comic. It’s earnest yet never corny. Morrison and Quitely pay tribute to what has come before them without a wink or a smirk, but don’t get lost in nostalgia. Their Superman is not only one that is “super” by having powers, he’s also trying to be the best in all possible ways.
This isn’t a Superman that takes Lois on some cheesy romantic flight. Or gives her an amnesia kiss. This is a Superman that analyzes Lois Lane’s entire DNA sequence and figures out to give her superpowers for 24 hours. And he even sews her a super-suit!
Not only is he a hero that has saved the world a thousand times over, he is the best scientist/boyfriend ever. In the opinion of your humble comic book recommender, it is the best Superman comic ever done. It’s all the best parts of the character told by two of the best storytellers in the medium.
Also written by Grant Morrison, with art by Rags Morales and Andy Kubert, is Action Comics (volume 2). It features a modern update to Superman, with a brasher, more idealistic Clark Kent/Superman.
He knows a bit less about his heritage or where he fits in. What he does know, is he hates corporate fat-cats, and goes after them hardcore. It’s a great examination of what any of us would do with super powers after taking our first mind-blowing college course about how unfair the world is. And I say that without dismissing how that feels. Rather than getting lost in the wonder of super powers, this Superman is about what happens when powers and raw ideals collide.
SPEAKING OF IDEALS. Superman: Red Son, by Mark Millar and Dave Johnson is a 3 part tale about a Superman that crash-lands in the Soviet Union rather than the United States. It then jumps back and forth as Superman and Lex Luthor act out their own Cold War until it culminates in a fun, Twilight Zone-y ending.
Also, it has freedom-fighter Batman!
Building further on the “what if Superman ____ in ____” theme, Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immomen is…well, it’s friggin beautiful is what it is.
Immomen can do really stylized, cartoony art. This is not it. This is realistic, but not over-realistic. It’s just…gorgeous.
Oh, yeah. But the high concept. It’s “Superman in the real world,” where a young man named Clark Kent, who has endured Superman jokes all his life just happens to wind up with the exact same powers as the fictional Superman. It’s really, really good. He even meets and falls in love with his own Lois.
I’ll follow up with a few more Superman favorites, but these are my top Superman comics. There’s no barrier to entry for these. Just good stories, that happen to feature an all around super man.