In case you missed it, here’s part one of our list.
Please note that this list of recommendations isn’t coming from me as a critic. It comes from me personally based on comics I’ve read and owned. This isn’t even a full list of my favorites. There’s one I read in a book I used to get from the local public library often called Superman From The 30s To The 70s in which Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne are sharing a cabin on a cruise ship when a fire breaks out and they accidentally learn each others’ identities. Their first reaction is to team up and save the ship and thus became friends. I like Superman and Batman as friends from the start, bonding over their shared desire to help others even if they do it in different ways due to how crime works in their cities.
I actually pulled a lot of recommendations off because this list would be way too long and I don’t want to spend the whole month on this one list. I’d like to do some other Superman related stuff if I can, though given how many times I’ve done articles on why I love Superman, why I think he’s great, and that he is indeed relatable I don’t know how many other topics I can cover. Pretty sure I’ve even done a list of all my previous Superman-related articles at some point. So here’s the rest of the list of comics I think you should check out should you ask me “what Superman stories do you recommend?” and I pointed to…
Action Comics #775
“What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, And The American Way?”
See Linkara’s review here. It’s better than any review I could do in article form.
Also check out SF Debris’ review of the animated direct-to-video movie adaptation Superman Vs. The Elite, also written by Joe Kelly, which I highly recommend checking out; both the review and the movie. You may also know the story from when it was reworked into an episode of the CW’s Supergirl where they made the guy named Manchester Black into a black man because stereotyping is fun.
Evil Superman stories have become a dime a dozen. From stand-ins like the Plutonian, Homelander, Brightburn (evil Superboy to switch things up) or Omni-Man to the DC Injustice stories or the “Justice Lords” of the DCAU, these cynical takes on someone with the power of Superman are all over the place. Heck, Superman’s power set isn’t just a standard for super powered heroes and armored heroes who use at least two, they’re all over the place even within the DC Universe itself. It’s not his powers that make Superman a hero. Supervillains have powers, too.
This story is about what happens when people with power claim to help others but do so by being as dark and violent as the people they fight. It’s kind of a reverse deconstruction. Rather than deconstructing Superman as most of these cheap knockoffs do without reconstructing him, it deconstructs the then new wave of violent heroes, specifically Mark Millar’s run on WildStorm’s The Authority at the time. A group calling themselves the Elite come on the scene and use more lethal methods to eliminate villains and the people start rallying around them, afraid of the modern supervillain and the would-be dictators. Does this world really need a Superman? Superman proves that he does, that you don’t want him to go over the edge, and WHY he doesn’t take that step over, no matter how easy it is to do so. It’s one of the strongest cases in favor of the “boy scout” and why Superman is the way he is. It should be on everyone’s reading list.
“Day Of Destiny”
My copy was a reprint in DC Retroactive: Superman–The 80s. It probably seems strange to those of you who have read this that I’m adding a story that specifically keeps Superman out of action so others can save the day, but I actually like it. Destiny is worried Superman is doing way too much to help people and they’re becoming lazy and rely too much on him. So when an accident happens Lois and some other people inspired by Superman have to be the big heroes.
It kind of tempers Superman’s role a bit. Yes, they need him to save them but they are capable of doing good things as well. Remember, Superman is supposed to serve as an example not with his powers but what he does with them, to help others and try to make the world a better place. Here are people living up to that example, much like Steel in the post-Crisis DC universe and DCAU. It doesn’t say they don’t need Superman, but that you don’t need to be as strong as Superman to help people. Firefighters and other rescue workers do it all the time.
Adventures Of Superman #10 (2014)
“In Care Of” and “Dear Superman”
I don’t know the issue numbers of the corresponding digital versions, as this was an out of continuity digital-first series. However, both are pretty good. “Dear Superman” is the better one, where a girl fighting an illness is given the drive to fight on after seeing Superman not give up in a fight against Metallo, who is powered by Kryptonite. Without missing a beat, Superman flies off to see this girl and tells her that she is his hero, fighting something his powers are useless against and vowing not to let it get her down, fighting to overcome it. I teared up the first time I read that, no lie.
The first story is also about letters written to Superman. This is more about a series of letters, including one kid whose metagene is tied to his diabetes if I read my own review correctly, and the boy is worried its turning him into a monster. I don’t remember this one as strongly, but “Dear Superman” is definitely worth the read. And in that same vein…
Superman For The Animals
It’s kind of surprising this comes from Mark Millar. He likes his darker stories like his aforementioned takeover of The Authority, but this is actually a really good Superman story with very little Superman. Also titled “Dear Superman”, it’s all told from the perspective of a new kid in town who makes friends with the wrong crowd, especially the de facto leader of the group who likes doing terrible things to animals. Our POV kid isn’t sure about this, especially when he tries to toss a live cat off the bridge, who is saved by Superman on the way to rescuing the boy’s father from a fire at work, and learns just how cruel the kid is. Eventually he too follows Superman’s example and stands up to the kid, who reveals in front of the others just how vicious he really is. The kid gets help and the others become better people outside of his influence, our writer even adopting the cat.
It’s a Superman lite story but it’s a story where Superman inspires by example. Remember, this is the boy scout who rescues cats from trees, and we see even that brings a positive influence into the world, inspiring our letter writer to be a better person and stand up for justice. I love the ending where Superman congratulates the boy on his new life but I wish he stayed around here like he did for the sick girl…who was in class or in a hospital commons area at the time.
Adventures Of Superman #11
“The Dark Lantern”
A Green Lantern who covers the sector where Krypton used to be learns there is a survivor on Earth. He heads there to apologize for not saving Krypton and asks Superman to kill him since the Power Ring won’t let him commit suicide. Then Brainiac shows up and the two have to work together to stop him.
Even as Brainiac is on the verge of finally killing Superman his almost-last words are to the Lantern that Krypton’s destruction wasn’t his fault but that even if it was Superman would forgive him. This not only gets the Lantern’s confidence back but he is no longer suicidal. It’s a great scene. Superman rarely holds grudges, especially if there was nothing that could have been done. It’s not like the planet had a bunch of scientists who didn’t listen to their own science and got blown up because they didn’t want to build a rocket…oh. Yeah, it’s not on you, dude.
“And We Are The Dreamers Of Dreams”
Clark returns to Smallville to visit a teacher friend who is rather burnt out, not believing he’s really helping these kids. Meanwhile a boy has psychic powers that cause a shared dream, which Superman asks to help convince the teacher that he is doing good in Smallville and stay on.
Admittedly the story itself isn’t much of anything. However, there’s a scene I’ve actually focused on in a previous article that is worth it. It does a better job of stating why Superman can’t just end every war he comes across and make people play nice, that it won’t stop the cause of wars so it would be an even bigger losing battle than what the Elite and everyone who parrot’s Manchester Black’s commentary think his current methods are. It ties in well to the teacher’s situation, and it’s a good Superman moment in an otherwise meh story.
Superman And Spider-Man
“The Heroes And The Holocaust”
It may be the second crossover but it’s the better one. Events cause Superman and Spider-Man to switch cities and newspapers, Clark to find Doctor Doom and uncover his plans for the Parasite and Peter believing a city like Metropolis and a pro-hero paper like the Daily Planet may finally be a place where Spider-Man can get some respect. That doesn’t work out for him but he does get involved with rescuing Wonder Woman and helping stop Doom’s scheme.
What I like about this over the first team-up is that the heroes don’t fight each other. Doom and Parasite both play a strong role while Doc Ock was basically Luthor’s flunkie for most of the story. It allows all parties to shine and in the end the heroes end up working together to stop the villains. That’s what I like to see. I’m not the type of guy who wonders which hero would win if they fought each other. I just want to see them take out bad guys.
Action Comics #1000
I wish I had some of the better stories with Superman raising young Jon before Bendis aged him up to The CW demographic. Still, this collection of stories has a couple of stinkers but overall was a really good set of stories going over Superman. From wanting to get out of a ceremony filled with “Superman saved me” testimonies (one I focused on in my review was getting a henchmen out of the criminal life) to fun adventures with the characters to not giving up when caught in a death trap by Vandal Savage, there are some good stories here to check out.
I could probably add a lot more to the list but I think this is a good starting point. If you really want to see the Superman comics I think about even when I’m not reading them, and the moments that showcase why I love Superman these are the best recommendations I can make make. Find them and give them a read. Most of them may not be on the popular lists (I could have included the fight with Doomsday but I did get at least one of the obvious choices in this list) but sometimes the smaller stories are good as well. These two lists show who Superman is more than it focuses on the big fights or the status quo altering mega-event and that’s fine with me.