Virtually everyone in the world knows of Superman, but which are the best Superman graphic novels to really get to know him? With continuity a big factor (The Big Blue Boy Scout has been rebooted and revamped countless times), it’s not always easy to know where to start. There are literally thousands of Superman comics, so narrowing it down isn’t exactly easy. But, with that said, you can’t go wrong with any of those that follow!
A completely different take on the myth of the Man of Steel asks the question, “what would have happened if Superman’s rocket ship had landed in the Soviet Union?” It’s a question you never knew you wanted to know the answer to, but it really is an outstanding read.
As the rest of the world transform into a communist utopia, leaving President Lex Luthor (who else?!) to lead capitalist America, unrecognisable versions of our old friends Batman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman appear to mix things up. All of which makes for one heck of a journey. Even if you weren’t alive during the Cold War, this is a fascinating look at what would happen if Superman didn’t stand for ‘truth, justice and the American way’.
Check out Superman Red Son:
Existing outside of DC continuity, the aim of the DC’s All Star imprint was to create truly iconic stories that were equally accessible to new fans and longtime readers alike. Although the presence of the legendary Grant Morrison and fresh, bright artwork help, All Star Superman is one of the best Superman graphic novels for the following reason – an engaging story.
Having flown too close to the sun, recalling the Icarus myth of ancient Greece, Superman has absorbed too much energy for his body to handle. This puts his life at risk and, because the series is outside of continuity, the reader goes in knowing that there’s no guarantee Supes will make it out the other side.
Pick up All Star Superman:
One complaint people often have about Superman is that he’s overpowered. In many adaptations the only thing that can hurt him is Kryptonite, which can lead to some pretty contrived situations. The Death of Superman sees Supes facing off against Doomsday, an extremely powerful enemy who is able to harm Superman without Kryptonite. The clue to how that turns out is in the title…
The Return of Superman is one of the best Superman graphic novels ever because it deals with the aftermath of Superman’s death. Specifically, the books deals with a power struggle between four new Superman (Superboy, Steel, The Last Son of Krypton and Cyborg Superman). The art style may look a little dated, but it’s still a fantastic read.
Check out Death of Superman:
Or jump straight in with The Return of Superman:
Another origin story? Really?! I’m afraid so. But when it’s done this well, and has the outstanding J. Michael Straczynski at the helm, it’s difficult to stay mad for too long.
Superman: Earth One retells the early years of a mid-twenties Clark Kent trying to find his way in a modern world a little like our own – print journalism is on the way out, smartphones are on the up and Clark is realising he has the power to do pretty much anything. Except for the fact that he has to deal with a hostile alien fleet first…
Find Superman Earth One:
Collecting a relatively short limited run, Superman For All Seasons has a really nice narrative structure. Each chapter has a seasonal theme and is narrated by a key figure, good or bad, in the life of Clark Kent/Superman.
The retro art style is bright and cartoony, widely praised at the time for the contrast with the dark, noir direction lots of other comics were taking at the time of its release. It’s also said to have been the inspiration for The WB’s Smallville, the teen show based on Superman’s early years.
It’s high praise indeed to call something the best Superman graphic novel ever written, but this coming of age tale is deserving of the title!
Check out Superman For All Seasons:
More of the best Superman graphic novels still to come…
So there’s my top 5, but there are other great Batman graphic novels that deserve a place on this page! Synopses and reviews still to come for…