"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
10. “The Death of Superman” (Superman Volume 1 #149) (1961)
Possibly the greatest Imaginary Story, Jerry Siegel, Curt Swan and Sheldon Moldoff show Lex Luthor getting his final victory over Superman, although things do not end up going the way Luthor had planned in the end.
9. Secret Identity #1-4 (2003-04)
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.
8. “What’s So Funny about Truth, Justice & the American Way?” Action Comics #775 (2001)
Joe Kelly used this “anniversary” issue to take on the idea that perhaps Superman’s ideals were out of date in the 21st century. He did this by pitting Superman by a new superhero team called The Elite who were recklessly killing bad guys and causing widespread damage but were gaining a good deal of popular acclaim in doing so. They mocked Superman and repeatedly challenged him to fights before Superman finally agreed to take them on and in doing so, gave them a taste of their own bitter medicine. The art was by Doug Mahnke, Lee Bermejo and a host of inkers.
7. Superman for All Seasons #1-4 (1998)
In this breathtakingly beautifully drawn series by Tim Sale, writer Jeph Loeb uses the seasons to depict different points in Supermans’ life. Along those lines, each issue is narrated by a different person who has a different take of who Superman is. Jonathan Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor and Lana Lang all have wildly different views of Superman (especially at the various points in time that they tell their respective stories) but when you put them together you have a fascinating picture of Superman as a whole.
6. Superman: Red Son #1-3 (2003)
Simply put, what if Superman landed in the Soviet Union instead of the United States? That’s the question that Mark Millar, Dave Johnson, Kilian Plunkett, Andrew Robinson and Walden Wong try to answer in this Elseworlds mini-series that also sees a Soviet version of Batman and also a taste of what Lex Luthor would be like if the rest of the United States was actually on his side!
5. Man of Steel #1-6 (1986)
John Byrne and Dick Giordano relaunch the Superman mythos in this excellent mini-series that re-establishes the entire Superman mythos ahead of the Superman titles all relaunching with a new status quo. What was so shocking about Byrne’s reboot was how much he kept the same. Superman and his supporting cast were largely the same, with the biggest changed being Lex Luthor now as a respected businessman, no Superboy, Krypton was a cold and desolate place, Superman was no longer “born” until he landed on Earth and Jonathan and Martha Kent still being alive with Clark as an adult. Clark Kent, I suppose, also saw a change as he was no longer so mild-mannered. In each of the six issues, Byrne re-established some part of the Superman status quo. #1 saw Clark gaining his powers for the first time, #2 introduced us to Lois Lane, #3 has Superman and Batman meet for the first time (in a standout issue), #5 introduced us to Lex Luthor, #5 gave us Bizarro and #6 had Clark learn about his Kryptonian heritage.
4. Kingdom Come (Kingdom Come #1-4) (1996)
After a horrible tragedy sends him into seclusion for a decade, Superman is pulled out of retirement by the behavior of the “superheroes” of the DC future, but soon Mark Waid and Alex Ross are testing Superman’s very beliefs as he find himself acting more and more like the world’s “Big Brother.”
3. All-Star Superman #1-12 (2006-08)
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely produced this epic maxi-series that opens with Superman realizing that he has just one year left to live. The series follows that year as Superman does as much good as he can before he dies. This series features call backs to pretty much every era of Superman comics, including acclaim spotlights on Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Bizarro and Lex Luthor (who is behind the plot to kill Superman).
2. “For the Man Who has Everything?” (Superman Annual #11) (1985)
Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons celebrate Superman’s birthday in style by having the villainous Mongul showing the Man of Steel a reality where Krypton DIDN’T explode and Kal-El is a middling bureaucrat. Can Superman’s visiting friends Batman, Wonder Woman and Robin help save him? And how will he react when he wakes from this fantasy (hint: he will be none too pleased with Mongul)?
1. “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” Superman #423/Action Comics #583 (1986)
Alan Moore helps close out Superman and Action Comics as the John Byrne reboot is about to commence. Along with artists Curt Swan, George Perez, Kurt Schaffenberger and Murphy Anderson, Moore reveals the final days of Superman and his allies in this tragic, but clever and heartfelt story. There are so many cool moments in this two-parter that I can’t even list them all here. I’ll pick one – Jimmy Olsen and Lana Lang giving themselves powers for one last time so that they can go out and help defend their friend Superman from a siege of supervillains, claiming to the world one last time that they held a special place in Superman’s heart – “Nobody loved him better than us. Nobody!” So great.
That’s the list! Agree? Disagree? Let us know!
Happy 75th Anniversary, Superman!
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