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The 75 Greatest Superman Stories of All-Time! Nominees #11-20

In celebration of Superman’s 75th anniversary on April 18th (Action Comics #1 came out on April 18, 1938), you’ll be voting for the Top 75 Superman Stories of All-Time. With such a big list, we can’t expect everyone to know all the best Superman stories over the years offhand, so we’ll be providing you a list of 100 nominees over ten days (ten a day) that you’ll be choosing from on April 15th (basically, you’ll get 100 choices and then you’ll be putting them into order from #75-1). This is not the final list, these are just the stories that you’ll be voting on later on.

Here is the next batch of ten nominees (they are not in any particular order)!

11. “Return to Krypton” (Superman Volume 1 #141)

Jerry Siegel, Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye came together to tell one of the highlights of the Silver Age for Superman comics, with the incredibly bittersweet return to Krypton. The story opens with Superman being sent to check out an alien creature and in a slight fracas, he is sent back in time. He ends up on a pre-exploded Krypton. Robbed of his powers by Krypton’s sun, Superman ends up getting involved as an extra in a science fiction film (where he catches the eye of the female star of the film) and then meeting his own parents, who had just gotten married. They set him up with the aforementioned actress and after a number of attempts to help his father save Krypton, Superman eventually accepts his fate and decides to live out the rest of his time on Krypton with his parents and his new love. This is not to be, of course. Such a beautiful tragedy. It is filled with such rich pathos for a Silver Age comic. One of Siegel’s very best works.

12. Secret Identity #1-4

Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen take a different look at the Superman mythos by showing a man named Clark Kent who grew up in a world where Superman comic books existed but superheroes did not. So when Clark finds himself suddenly with super powers, well, things change in his life dramatically. He evens has his own Lois! This comic is touching and well-thought out and beautifully drawn by Immonen.

13. “Superman wrestles an angel” (JLA #6-7)

supernominee13

Grant Morrison clearly did not want to tell stories with Superman and his new energy powers, but damned if Morrison didn’t do a great job with it in this two-part JLA story that opens with Superman doubting himself and his ability to inspire now that he was so different in appearance and power set and closes with Superman, you know, wrestling an angel (not before he MOVES THE MOON!). Art by Howard Porter and John Dell.

14. “Time and Time Again” (Adventures of Superman #476-478, Action Comics #663-664, Superman #54-55)

In this charming adventure story, Superman is thrust into the timestream where he bounces around different eras while trying to get his way back home. In essence, though, it was just an excuse for Dan Jurgens, Roger Stern and Jerry Ordway to tell great “done in one” stories of Superman in different time periods, including the past (World War II), the PAST past (Superman versus dinosaurs) and the future (Superman teams up with the Legion of Super-Heroes at two very different points in their lives). The art was by Jurgens and Brett Breeding, Bob McLeod and Ordway and Dennis Janke.

15. “When You Wish Upon a Planetoid!” (DC Comics Presents #50)

Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn wrote this underrated classic with art by Curt Swan and Kurt Shaffenberger that shows what would happen if you split Superman into his Clark Kent identity and his Superman identity. You would learn, of course, that Superman is DEFINED by his humanity and that without it, he’s little more than a world-saving emotion-less robot. It is a strong piece of character-driven work in a time when Superman comics were not exactly brimming with such stories.

16. Superman/Batman Generations #1-4

John Byrne did an excellent prestige format mini-series detailing the concept of “What if Batman and Superman and their casts aged in real time from when they first appeared?” and Generations shows exactly how this would come about. Along the way, Byrne naturally alters his style to reflect the era that each story is being told in. Great stuff.

17. The Phantom Zone #1-4

In this four-issue mini-series, Steve Gerber investigates the idea of the Phantom Zone (along with its history) while simultaneously trapping Superman in the Zone while the villianous inhabitants of the Zone are let loose on Earth. Great art by Gene Colan and Tony DeZuniga.

18. “The Secret is Revealed!” Superman Volume 2 #2

This is one dark story. John Byrne (and inkers Terry Austin and Keith Williams) decided to deal head on with the idea of a man as brilliant as Luthor being able to figure out Superman’s secret identity. Luthor goes through some deplorable methods of finding out Superman’s secret but once he does, can he even believe it himself? Byrne explores Luthor’s motivations beautifully in this story as we see how Luthor applies his personal beliefs to Superman and the result is both humorous and depressing. Plus, Luthor’s disdain for women is hinted at with his treatment of the female scientist who helps him find Superman’s secret.

19. Speeding Bullets

J.M. DeMatteis and Eduardo Barreto ask the question, “What if Kal-El was adopted by the Waynes and raised as their son and then watched his parents die in front of him just like Bruce Waye?” The answer likely would not surprise you, but the execution of the answer is still very impressive comic book work.

20. “The Mightiest Team in the World!” Superman #76

Edmond Hamilton, Curt Swan, John Fischetti and Stan Kaye made the historic decision to not only have Superman and Batman team-up for the first time (outside the JSA and the Superman radio show) but to also learn each other’s secret identity!

18 Comments

DCCP #50! Yeah, that’s my #1 story. I bought that when it first came out. I think I had to replace it maybe a week later. I’ve read that book so many times, I can almost recite it word for word. When people ask me why I like comics, this is one book I tell them about.

Hey, Brian. The Phantom Zone arc is actually five parts. It concludes in DC Comics Presents #97 (the final issues of the series). You should probably update the article with that info.

Also, is “Superman wrestles and angel” really a “Superman story” or just a “scene with Superman in it”?

And any chance of seeing Superman #156 (“The Last Days of Superman”) or Superman #162 (“The Amazing Story of Superman Red and Superman Blue”)? Those are probably the biggest classics out of the Silver Age that haven’t been on the list yet.

Superman 141 should place well for the robot playing the drum on its head if for nothing else.

Time After Time was great fun (except for Superman singing that Was Not Was song…). The ending was pretty epic, too.

I love Generations. The way Byrne does it, I believe Superman and Batman beginning in the 30s could have worked in mainline continuity. I thought Generations II was fun also; sometimes I read the two together, moving through the chapter years as they go rather than reading part I 1-4 and then part II 1-4.

I wonder, will all the stories from 1988′s Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told appear in the nominations list?

Morrison made Electric Superman interesting. To be fair, the Electric Superman stuff wasn’t bad, just different, but Morrison still made us remember why Superman is so interesting.

Speeding Bullets is a love/hate thing for me. Seeing him as a mixed Superman/Batman and getting neither persona right was pretty interesting. However, the “Batman” side of the mythos weirdly drops out midway through the story–Alfred has a notable presence in the beginning, but just vanishes at the midpoint. It’s also a little weird that we didn’t get even a hint of Jim Gordon or Dick Grayson, but the rest of Superman’s cast manages to get shoehorned in. Oh well–it was still fun in that “What If” sort of way.

Great list, but I had a problem with Secret Identity. I know it’s well-loved and respected, and there were a lot of neat ideas there, but am I correct in recalling that they never explain how this kid who was named Clark Kent and who had read about Superman in the comics developed or just happened to have super powers? I seem to recall waiting and waiting for the big explanation/payoff, and being disappointed that they just seemed to say, well, yeah, that happened. Interesting idea that left a big hole in the story, at least for me. Maybe I’m just forgetting since it’s been quite a while since I read it, but that’s my recollection.

Secret Identity just gave the kid Superman’s powers out of nowhere so that Busiek could tell a “Superman / not Superman” story. There wasn’t really supposed to be an in-comic explanation.

Morrison made Electric Superman interesting.

No he didn’t. He wrote some cool stories with Electric Superman in them. Not the same thing. The character (or that version of it at least) still sucked even when the stories themselves were entertaining.

I’ve always felt the cover to #11 was stiff and uninteresting. The -premise- behind the art is interesting, but not the art itself.

I never read the 90s Superman Red/Blue stories. The only big complaint I heard was that the stories did not take advantage of Supe’s new powerset. Well, they can’t be much worse than the one from the Silver Age.

I never read the 90s Superman Red/Blue stories.

They were steaming turds. The whole era. The only decent Superman comics coming out at the time were JLA and alternate continuity stuff like Superman Adventures and various Elseworlds.

I liked the ‘electric’ Superman stories. I think the ‘real problem’ from that era was to much focus on the supporting cast (Scorn, Ron Troupe, Jimmy and Audry (?)), and making Lex a supporting character and not a villain (a problem that began almost as soon as Byrne left and was never fixed).

And any chance of seeing Superman #156 (“The Last Days of Superman”) or Superman #162 (“The Amazing Story of Superman Red and Superman Blue”)? Those are probably the biggest classics out of the Silver Age that haven’t been on the list yet.

There is little point asking about “missing” stories when there have been 20 stories revealed out of 100 stories.

Also, is “Superman wrestles and angel” really a “Superman story” or just a “scene with Superman in it”?

The former.

Travis Pelkie

April 9, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Two notes for people who haven’t read these yet:

Secret Identity came out in trade…this week? Last week? Next week? Not sure, but if it’s not yet out (again), it’ll be out within a week or so.

And Phantom Zone is getting collected and is in Previews now for June release. Including the DCCP issue.

The Crazed Spruce

April 9, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Wow. That’s a LOT of spam….

Secret Identity is a great comic. Busiek & Immonen get to the emotional core of the story perfectly.

Travis, thank you for the great news! I’ve been wanting to read Phantom Zone for years, but never able to find it for cheap. Finally!

Mike, have you checked Ebay lately? I got all four issues for less than ten bucks on there a few years ago and the DC Comics Presents for a dollar. I see two complete sets on there now for less than ten.

I preordered the new printing of Secret Identity from Things From Another World; cannot wait to read it. I LOVE Busiek, and Immonen is always a joy to see.

Im telling ya Superman #708 is Most UNDERRATED modern comic of All-time!
Superman #708 by C.Roberson & JMS.
——————————-
& Yes Tom Speelman (commenting above is right) Busiek has written some great Superman story’s–
“Secret Identity” (sort of A pre-Infinite Crisis origin of SuperBoy PRIME) & “Camelot Falls”,
vol.1 especially! Superman #654-658 is A Huge TOP 12-ish SLEEPER.
Superman: Camelot Falls (vol.1) is Kurt Busiek & Carlos Pacheo at their Best!

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