"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
In honor of Superman’s 75th Anniversary, we put together a list of 100 nominees for the Greatest Superman Stories of All-Time. You all picked out your 75 favorites and put them in order! Here is the master list of your top 75 Greatest Superman Stories of All-Time!
75. “Supergirl From Krypton” Superman/Batman #8-12 (2004)
Jeph Loeb and Michael Turner introduced Kara Zor-El into the DC Universe for the first time Post-Crisis in this epic five-parter that sees young Kara arrive on Earth along with a whole boatload of Kryptonite. Batman doesn’t trust her and Wonder Woman trains her with the Amazons. Darkseid becomes interested in her and attempts to sway her to the, you know, dark side. Ultimately, she breaks free of his control and embraces the lifestyle of her older cousin and decides to become a new hero known as Supergirl.
74. “22 Stories in a Single Bound” Superman Adventures #41 (2000)
Mark Millar’s final issue of his run on Superman Adventures is a wonderfully clever collection of one-page stories drawn by a variety of artists (including Darwyn Cooke!).
73. “Phantom Zone: The Final Chapter” DC Comics Presents #97 (1986)
This story by Steve Gerber, Rick Veitch and Bob Smith served as both a sequel to Gerber’s Phantom Zone mini-series as well as the conclusion to the Pre-Crisis Superman. This story gave a fascinating origin for the Phantom Zone (Jor-El originally planned on using the Phantom Zone as a place where the people of Krypton could go to survive the explosion of Krypton) as well as a “everything goes crazy” second half of the story as Bizarro World is destroyed and the Phantom Zone villains take control of Mister Mxyzptlk to take the fight to Superman one last time.
72. “The Mightiest Team in the World!” Superman #76 (1952)
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!
71. “The Cosmos-Quaking Origins of The New Luthor And Brainiac!” Action Comics #544 (1983)
Both creative teams of the Superman titles at the time, Cary Bates, Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson and Marv Wolfman and Gil Kane celebrate the 45th anniversary of Superman by revamping Superman’s two deadliest foes, Lex Luthor and Brainiac. The former gets a new battle suit while the latter is completely changed into a robotic visage.
70. “Mighty One” Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth #29 (1975)
Jack Kirby (with plotting by Steve Sherman) tells this fascinating story of how Superman still inspires people even after the APOCALYPSE and he is long dead.
69. “The Miraculous Return of Jonathan Kent” Action Comics #507-508 (1980)
Cary Bates, Curt Swan and Frank Chiaramonte shocked the comics world by seemingly having Jonathan Kent return to Superman’s life. Remember, this was before the Man of Steel reboot made the Kents a regular part of Superman’s life, so this was quite out of the ordinary. It was a very touching story, examining just how much of an impact the Kents had on Superman but also how much he meant to THEM. The way the story finished was quite clever, as well, I thought, as we learn that Jonathan had made a wish years earlier to one day see his son as an adult. So some aliens made it come true. Sadly, the visit had a time limit and no one else remembered what happened once Jonathan returned to the afterlife.
68. Speeding Bullets (1993)
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.
67. “How Superman Would End The War” Look Magazine February 27, 1940
Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster clearly took a look of glee out of showing how Superman would end World War II in the time before the United States entered the war. Their solution was bizarre but certainly memorable!
66. “The Girl in Superman’s Past” Superman #129 (1959)
Make sure that your heartstrings are in good shape before reading this Bill Finger, Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye classic tale of Superman’s first adult love, the mermaid Lori Lemaris. It is a brutal tale of two lovers separated by, well, you know, one being a dude and one being a mermaid.
65. “Absolute Power” Superman/Batman #14-18 (2004-05)
In this storyline, written by Jeph Loeb with artwork by Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino, a group of mysterious time-traveling villains (hint: they’re featured in another story in this section) go back in time and essentially adopt Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne when they are children. They raise them to be the rulers of the world and that’s where we find ourselves when the series begins, Superman and Batman rule the world with an iron fist. A small group of rebels try to take on Superman and Batman, but can they possibly match up against the World’s Finest tyrants? And even if they get through to them and make them realize the error of their ways, how can they possibly turn things back to the way they belong?
64. “The Living Legends of Superman” Superman #400 (1984)
Elliot S! Maggin teamed up with a variety of top-notch artists (Joe Orlando, Al Williamson, Frank Miller, Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin, Wendy Pini, Mike Kaluta and Kelly Adler and Klaus Janson) to tell a variety of short stories where people reflect on what Superman means to them. It begins in the present and slowly goes further and further into the future until we get the point where Superman has basically become a religion. Fascinating stuff. I especially like the one bit where two college professors in the future debate whether Superman ever actually existed.
63. “The Team of Luthor and Brainiac!” Superman Volume 1 #167 (1963)
Edmond Hamilton (from a plot by a young Cary Bates), Curt Swan and George Klein deliver the first team-up between Superman’s most notorious rogues. The Luthor/Brainiac team would be a major recurring threat in Superman stories for years to come.
62. “The Last Days of Superman!” Superman #156 (1962)
Edmond Hamilton, Curt Swan and George Klein go to the “Superman is dying” well with this classic Silver Age tale where Superman believes (erroneously) that he is dying from a rare Kryptonian virus. Supergirl gathers his allies to cross off the items on Superman’s proverbial bucket list.
61. “Emperor Joker” Superman Volume 2 #160-161, Adventures of Superman #582-583, Superman: The Man of Steel #104-105, Action Comic #769-770 and Superman: Emperor Joker #1 (2000)
In this crossover, the Joker usurps the power of Mr. Mxyzptlk and uses it to do…well, some really bad things. Superman is able to fight off Joker’s warped view of the universe and then he and his allies must find a way to stop the now-ominipotent Joker. The story was by Jeph Loeb, Joe Kelly, J.M. DeMatteis and Mark Schultz with artwork by Ed McGuinness, Kano, Doug Mahnke and many more artists.
60. “The Battle with Bizarro!” Action Comics #254 (1959)
Otto Binder and Al Plastino transfer the Bizarro concept to the Superman titles (after first debuting in the pages of Superboy) as Lex Luthor uses the duplication machine to create Bizarro. Bizarro quickly falls in love with Lois Lane. Bizarro quickly became a very popular part of the Superman mythos, even gaining his own WORLD!
59. Superman Earth One (2010)
J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis reboot Superman for a new generation, as we see a young man with great powers struggling to find a place in this world to use those powers. It definitely evokes classic Marvel-style adventures as young Clark learns that with great power comes great responsibility.
58. It’s a Bird… (2004)
This one is a bit of a stretch as a “Superman” story, but I think it works. This brilliant work by Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen is based on Seagle’s own experiences writing the ongoing Superman comic for a brief time in 2003. In this story, “Steve” initially turns down the assignment, feeling that he cannot relate to Superman. As the story goes on, though, and Steve deals with a number of dramatic issues in his own life, mostly his father’s disappearance, his worries over his family’s history with Huntington’s Disease and his girlfriend’s desire to have children, he sees how Superman, or at least the various ideas that Superman represents DOES relate very much to his life. Kristiansen depicts each of these different takes on Superman in a variety of artistic approaches. This is a striking work of comic art.
57. “Camelot Falls” Superman #654-658, 662-664, 667 and Superman Annual #13 (2006-07)
Kurt Busiek’s run on Superman began with a touching story with Clark and Lois celebrating a cute anniversary. It is a strong examination of how hard it is to have a marriage when one of the couple is, you know, SUPERMAN. Similarly, Busiek does a wonderful job re-introducing Lana Lang into the cast as the new CEO of Lexcorp. The strange nature of having a relationship with Superman is born out with Superman’s interactions with Lana. There is so much unsaid in their interactions, as she can’t reveal to him that she still has feelings for him, but at the same time, Superman can read her like a book easily but he doesn’t know how to handle things. The main conflict of the arc is when Superman is told of a great tragedy that is coming – if Superman and the world’s heroes fight it off, it will only grow in power and wipe EVERYone out. If he lets it attack now when it is weaker, millions will die NOW but more will live in the future. So what do you do? That’s just one of the fascinating questions that arises during Busiek’s run (another is the age old question of Nature versus Nurture when Superman meets a super-powered being who had almost the polar opposite of Superman’s childhood). The artwork is by Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino and it is excellent.
56. “The Origin of Superman!” Superman #53 (1948)
Bill Finger put together all the various aspects of Superman’s origin that we had learned over the years to provide the first cohesive origin of Superman (although while omitting his time as Superboy for some reason). The art was by Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye.
55. “The Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite” Superman Volume 2 #49-50, Adventures of Superman #472 and Action Comics #659 (1990)
Mr. Mxyzptlk gives Lex Luthor red Kryptonite, which Lex uses to cause havoc with Superman’s life. The biggest development in this story, though, is that Clark proposes to Lois! Jerry Ordway, Dan Jurgens and Roger Stern wrote it, with art by Ordway, Jurgens, Art Thibert, Bob McLeod, Brett Breeding and Dennis Janke.
54. “Superman Returns To Krypton!” Superman Volume 1 #61 (1949)
Bill Finger and AL Plastino have Superman discover his origin for the very first time as he is also exposed to green kryptonite for the first time.
53. Superman: The Wedding Album #1 (1996)
All the then-regular writers on the Superman titles (Dan Jurgens, Louise Simonson, David Michelinie, Karl Kesel and Roger Stern) combine with an all-star lineup of Superman artists from the past and present (Gil Kane, John Byrne, Stuart Immonen and much, much more!) to finally tell the wedding of Clark Kent and Lois Lane!
52. “If Superman Didn’t Exist…” Action Comics #554 (1984)
Marv Wolfman and Gil Kane pay tribute to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster by having Vandal Savage manage it so that Superman is erased from history. Only two young boys (based on Siegel and Shuster, of course) know the truth and they do their best to create Superman to save the day.
51. “The Einstein Connection!” Superman #416 (1985)
Superman and Lex Luthor share a surprisingly touching moment together when Superman realizes why Luthor keeps committing odd crimes on the same date every year, March 16th. Elliot S! Maggin wrote it and Curt Swan and Al Williamson drew it.
Go to the next page for #50-26!
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