‘Man Of Steel': Required Reading

by Brett White

Judging by the film’s ridiculously big opening, odds are you saw “Man of Steel” this past weekend. Whether or not you enjoyed it is almost irrelevant, because either way people are talking about Superman. They’re talking about him a lot.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of Superman’s greatest hits, designed to either keep your Super enthusiasm high after seeing “Man of Steel,” or reaffirm your faith in case the film shook it up a little.

“For The Man Who Has Everything,” “Superman Annual” #11 (1985)
Writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons unleashed this Superman team-up story just a year shy of creating “Watchmen,” and it has aged just as well as that other work. Batman, Robin and Wonder Woman pay a visit to the Fortress of Solitude to celebrate Superman’s birthday, only to discover that he’s been taken under mental control by the evil tyrant Mongul. While Kal-El’s super friends try to rescue him, we get to see inside Superman’s mind as he lives out what his life would have been like had he never left Krypton.

“The Man of Steel” #1-6 (1986)
Comic book legend John Byrne was charged with re-imagining Superman for the modern era (mid-’80s modern, at least) after proving he had the chops to do so on Marvel books like “Fantastic Four” and “Uncanny X-Men.” The limited series reintroduced Lex Luthor as a cutthroat business man and presented an overview of Superman’s early career, from his childhood in Smallville to his first encounter with Batman. Due to DC Comics’ desire for constant reinvention, “Man of Steel” isn’t really considered canon anymore. But with DC Comics canon being turned over on a near annual basis now, does that really mean anything? It’s a solid story and if you have even passing knowledge of Superman, you’ll recognize and appreciates elements of this story.

“Superman: Birthright” #1-12 (2003)
For the most part, Mark Waid and Leinil Yu’s “Birthright” replaced “Man of Steel” as Superman’s definitive origin when it was published (that is, until “Superman: Secret Origin” replaced it a few years later… see what we mean about that turn around?). A few elements from this series made their way into the “Man of Steel” film, including Clark Kent’s period of time spent wandering the Earth prior to becoming Superman. Waid and Yu tell a tale that’s big on action and big on emotional moments, including one at the very end that is guaranteed to get you every time.

“Superman: Secret Identity” #1-4 (2004)
This isn’t exactly a story about the character Superman; “Secret Identity” is actually a story about the impact of Superman. Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen present a tale that asks the question, “what if someone on our Earth, where Superman exists as a pop culture icon, got Superman’s powers?” The protagonist dons a fancy Superman Halloween costume and takes to saving people’s lives, but it being “our world,” no monsters or super-villains pop up. And since this isn’t really Superman, the story gets to tell stories that could never be told with Clark Kent proper. He gets married, has children, grows old, it’s a complete life story in four, gorgeous issues.

All-Star Superman #1-12 (2006)
But if anyone was was going to write Superman’s last story, it would be Grant Morrison. Together with artist Frank Quitely, Superman comes up against all of his greatest threats in this twelve issues series, while Morrison slowly deconstructs everything that makes the hero important. It’s best to have a solid understanding of the character so that you can really appreciate the thought, care, and insight the creative team provides in every panel of this story. It’s a jam-packed, trippy ride through Superman’s greatest hits that culminates in one of the greatest Superman issues of all time.

What are your favorite Superman stories? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Twitter!