Created in 1938 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Superman is one of the most iconic characters in pop culture. His iconic, red and yellow S-shield is everywhere, and with his recent appearance on Supergirl, played by Tyler Hoechlin, it was a wake-up call as to why the Big Blue Boy Scout is so great. So if you’re a fan of the Last Son of Krypton and you want to know more, here are ten Superman comics that you should read.
Golden/Silver Age – It might seem unfair to lump up the first four decades of Superman stories together, but there are not a lot of particularly notable stories to pick out. Instead, there are hundreds of really great, fun, off the wall stories featuring Superman, his girlfriend Lois Lane, his best pal Jimmy Olsen, and so many other wacky, zany characters. If you’re interested in getting into Superman from the ground up, DC has collected these stories into omnibuses, with the first Golden Age edition available here.
Man of Steel – The first, honest attempt to streamline Superman’s continuity, including his powers, supporting cast, and even what the character is about, came in writer/artist John Byrne’s 1986 series, the Man of Steel. Launched after the Crisis On Infinite Earths in 1985, which itself was meant to reboot the DC Universe, The Man of Steel is an exploration of just exactly who Superman is. While a lot of it’s ideas, have either since been abandoned or themselves rebooted out, the series got the continuity of the character under control, and laid the foundation for the next 25+ years of stories. It has since been collected into a trade paperback format, available here.
Marriage – After Lois Lane discovered Clark Kent’s secret identity in 1991, the two characters’ relationship quickly blossomed, resulting in their wedding in 1996, which happened alongside the TV show Lois Clark which focused on their relationship. While a superhero wedding may seem silly, the two characters had been together for over five decades of publication. The Wedding Album one-shot is available online here.
Death of Superman – In 1993, in an effort to revitalize the character, DC Comics killed off Superman in a showdown with the recently introduced Doomsday. One of the highest selling comic books of all time, Superman #75 was the comic heard round the world, and it set into motion one of the weirdest eras for the character. It has since been collected and is available online here.
Reign of Supermen – The 1990’s were a tumultuous period for comic books, with Spider-Clones, broke Batmen, and a dead Superman. Following the Death of Superman storyline was the Reign of Supermen story, which introduced four characters that all claimed to be the real Superman. Later, revived, the true Superman has to team up with the impostors to take down an even greater threat. This has since been collected and is available online here.
What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way – In 2001, writer Joe Kelly and artists Doug Manhke and Lee Bermejo put Superman up against his greatest challenge yet… ideals. Coming into conflict the Elite, a superhero team that actively used lethal force, Superman is forced to not only fight against super-people, but the idea that being non-lethal is the the wrong thing to do.
All-Star Superman – While technically the only entry on this list that is not considered to be canon, writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman series is a definitive story for the character. Embracing all of the weird and abstract ideas of the golden and silver age, Morrison weaves it all into gold, delivering one of the most poignant, beautiful comics of all time, while also just being a masterful take on the character. It has since been collected and is available online here.
Brainiac – Writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank’s 2009 story, Brainiac, was a breath of fresh air for the Man of Tomorrow. Injecting a lot of personality and humanity into the character, even making him look like Christopher Reeve, this story was exactly what the Superman series needed. Superman found himself facing the one, true Brainiac and dealing with both his Kryptonian heritage and his human family. They even adapted this story into an animated movie, called Superman: Unbound, with John Noble of Fringe playing Brainiac, or you can find the complete series online here.
New 52 – In the summer of 2011, DC’s event Flashpoint shook up the entire timeline, resulting in a new, streamlined universe, referred to as the New 52. This incarnation of Superman was younger, single, brash, and definitely not your dad’s Superman. It was such a departure for the character that many fans did not take to it, as it didn’t feel like the Superman that most people had been raised on. DC recently course-corrected with their newest relaunch, but don’t call it a reboot. With the New 52 over, you can catch up on the four years worth of stories here, in preparation for the most recent Superman series, but don’t call it a reboot… It can be downloaded here.
Rebirth – The most recent status quo for the Man of Steel has the classic, pre-New 52 version of the character returning, in an effort to bring the character back to his roots. With all of his pre-reboot memories intact, this Superman is more experienced, mature, married, and even has a son named Jonathan Samuel Kent with Lois Lane. This new Superman series is written by Peter J. Tomasi, with art by Patrick Gleason, and is currently ongoing. The series so far is available online or at your local comic shop, with issue 9 out now, available here.