Superman is arguably the most recognizable superhero of all time. He has appeared in comic books, live action films, and a variety of other entertainment mediums for over eighty years now. As a result, there are a plethora of resources to explore if one wanted to get acquainted with The Man of Steel.
Now, I have noticed that a lot of people find Superman to be a one-dimensional character. In fact, many people I have interfaced with on the subject find Superman to be too powerful, lacking flaws and really any relatable characteristics.
Sure, there are plenty of one-dimensional Superman stories one can come across. Though, there are also plenty of Superman-centric stories that encompass some of the greatest comic book adventures of all time.
So, let's take a deep dive as I explore some quintessential Superman tales that any reader can get started with.
Superman #39 (2018)
Superman #39 is a standalone issue from Patrick Gleason and Peter J. Tomasi's run on The Man of Steel under the DC Rebirth launch. Though this particular run was not my favorite exploration of the Superman mythos, this issue truly moved me.
It follows our titular hero as he pays a visit to a children's hospital and brings them on a journey to the Justice League's watchtower. While there, Superman provides the children with a variety of activities including scavenger hunts and a mission to make Batman smile. His final activity, and perhaps the most exciting, features Superman bringing the children to the moon, providing them with an impeccable view of Earth.
Ultimately, Superman #39 is a wholesome tale that puts Superman's spirit on display. Sure, he can be recognized for his rivalry with Lex Luthor or his slug matches with Doomsday, but I find it essential to know what motivates Superman to go out and fight for humanity everyday.
As a result, I find Superman #39 to be that issue that highlights the Man of Steel's best qualities. He is an empathic person whose humanity serves as a strength rather than a weakness.
All-Star Superman #6 (2007)
From 2005 to 2008, writer Grant Morrison and artists Frank Quietly and Jamie Grant collaborated on a twelve-issue series entitled All-Star Superman.
The series itself is often noted as a quintessential Superman tale. However, in my opinion, the series as a whole may be too dense for a newcomer to dive into.
So, I recommend reading All-Star Superman #6 as it is more of a stand-alone issue. Most importantly though, it provides readers with insight into the youth of Clark Kent, especially his relationship with the town of Smallville.
Oftentimes, I find myself perceiving a superhero's home base (e.g. Gotham City, Themyscira, etc.) to be a sentient one, maintaining its own character and influence. I perceive Smallville to carry that nature as it exemplifies Superman's sentimental connection to Earth and its people.
Now, I don't want to give too much away in regard to the context of All-Star Superman #6, but the issue does a fantastic job in juxtaposing the Clark Kent before and after he decided to become Superman. As a result, one can easily get acquainted with the manner by which Superman was born.
Kingdom Come (1996)
Kingdom Come is not only one of my all-time favorite Superman-centric stories, but it is also one of my favorite comic book series of all time.
From incomparable duo of Mark Waid and Alex Ross, the series showcases a world in which perception of superheroes has changed drastically. Individuals no longer look at figures like Superman with wonder and awe. Rather, they look upon him with disappointment, perceiving him to have failed in his duties.
Well, because another superhero known as Magog has taken matters into his own hands as he kills a plethora of notorious supervillains including The Joker. Thus, humanity now looks upon Superman as the hero who failed to do what was necessary.
To be frank, my favorite Superman stories comprise the author deconstructing the character's essence. Kingdom Come executes this beautifully and challenges the symbol Superman has spent his career building.
So, Kingdom Come may initially feel like an overwhelming story. However, from the spellbinding art of Alex Ross to Mark Waid's impeccable narrative, the tale will be unlike anything you have experienced before.
Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? (1986)
Now, this is my favorite Superman story.
Firstly, "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" comes from one of my all-time favorite comic book writers, Alan Moore. So, if you are looking to broaden your reach, the works of Alan Moore are definitely an area you want to explore (e.g. The Killing Joke, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, etc.).
Additionally, "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" provides readers with a completely innovative and deconstructive perspective of the Man of Steel himself.
In many of his stories, Superman is presented as a character who maintains no qualms about his superhero persona. However, in the context of "Man of Tomorrow", we are presented with the idea that perhaps Superman just wants to be human.
As aforementioned, my favorite Superman stories comprise the author deconstructing the character. This particular does so in an unexpected way. It is no secret that Superman is an alien from Krypton. However, one cannot help but wonder how Superman perceives himself after all these years living amongst Earthlings and even falling in love with one.
Thus, "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" challenges Superman's identity and the way in which he perceives it without compromising his nature.
Up, Up, and Away!
To be honest, I never really spent the time exploring Superman the way I should have when I was growing up with comics.
I also shared the same perception may other people had about the character (e.g. Superman being one-dimensional, all-powerful, etc.). Now looking back, I wish I had done more research.
So, here I am to ensure that you do not make the same mistake when getting acquainted with the Man of Steel. These stories, amongst a plethora of others, should you start you off strongly and send you flying alongside the most recognizable superhero of them all.