by Jeremy DeFatta
Much as this year is Batman’s 75th birthday, last year (the year of Man of Steel) was Superman’s. I’d like to commemorate that in much the same way I’ve been approaching this blogging thing so far, so here are my top five favorite Superman stories from the past 15 years, listed in no particular order. Superman fans are likely familiar with most or all of these, which should help get some discussion moving, but readers unfamiliar with the character’s more recent exploits will hopefully find helpful suggestions for new reading material.
All-Star Supermanby Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
I imagine a lot, if not most, of my readers have heard of this acclaimed Grant Morrison story. This is basically Morrison’s love letter to Silver Age Superman, and he does not disappoint. The basic premise is that Superman is dying and he has a limited amount of time in which to accomplish a few great works and leave the world a better place for all time in his passing. I won’t go into any more details (because I don’t want to spoil what this story eventually becomes) but if you read nothing else on this list, read this.
Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar and Dave Johnson
Many fans consider this to be the OTHER greatest Superman story ever, along with All-Star. In Red Son, Mark Millar creates an at first subtly different world that then spirals into something immensely unfamiliar to readers, all of which begins with a simple thought experiment—what if baby Kal-El’s spaceship had crashed in the middle of the Soviet Union instead of Kansas? What if Superman grew up to become the champion of communism rather than Truth, Justice, and the American Way? Millar is a genius at writing comics filled with confrontational ideas, and this one does not disappoint.
Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen
Though many will argue that this isn’t a “true” Superman story, I feel it still belongs on this list. Imagine living your life as you normally do, and one day suddenly developing superhuman strength, speed, senses, and the ability to fly. What would you do with your newfound powers? Kurt Busiek’s protagonist (unashamedly also named Clark Kent) decides to become a very real Superman, even down to the costume. This is worth reading for a variety of reasons, the exploration of the emotional appeal of the superhero (especially Superman) being chief among them.
The years before The New 52 also saw a couple of reinterpretations of Superman’s traditional origin story, one written by Mark Waid and the other written by Geoff Johns. Birthright by Waid is my preferred of the two listed here, mostly because of the epic, cinematic scope of the story as young Clark Kent travels the world deciding what his place in it will be. That, and the final moment of the story is just… Go read it, all right? Johns’ version is somewhat different, relying more on updating tried-and-true methods of introducing Superman’s early years. This is not to say it is inferior (Johns’ writing never disappoints), but I prefer Waid’s more daring project. New readers should take in one or both of these to get a good handle on where the character began.
Superman: Camelot Falls by Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco
Busiek’s second entry on this list is a somewhat lengthy story set firmly in DC’s pre-New 52 continuity. That being said, though the things that happen in this run on Superman may no longer be entirely canonical, they are still worth taking in. The core of the story revolves around time travel and Superman trying to figure out warnings from the future that he brings about some world-ending cataclysm. Interspersed with this story are many episodic asides that really dig down to the roots of Superman’s character and run the gamut from helping old ladies on the street to encountering other aliens stranded on Earth. If you’re up for a lengthier read, check this one out!
Bonus: Geoff Johns’ other work on the character in Superman and Action Comics is definitely worth looking into. I also enjoy J. Michael Straczynski’s work on the character, particularly his attempts at reinventing him under DC’s Earth One imprint. You can likely find all of these stories at your local comic shop, so go out and support it! I’ll return to Superman in future blog posts.
What are your favorite interpretations of Superman? Let me know below. Follow me on Twitter @quaintjeremy.
Image: Delirious Geek