By: JD Hardin

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Superman fan. In 78 years of constant publication, Superman has experienced everything. From childhood to old age, from life to death and back again, from distant planets and universes to the bleed of the multiverse. He’s been a Soviet mascot, a Union soldier in the American Civil War, he’s faced off against the Avengers and worked along side them, he’s been Batman, he’s been Tarzan, he’s saved all of existance, and he’s brought it to it’s knees. In the time that fan’s have been reading about his adventures he’s become more than a comic book character, he’s become a friend, a moral compass and a role model. It’s a hard task to pick only five stories that exemplify Superman in all his aspects, but if I were introducing someone to Superman, these would be the five I would put in their lap.

#5 Superman Speeding Bullets

I love Elseworlds. Most people know the Superman that releases monthly on the racks. But, Elseworlds pose the infamous question, “What if?”

In this case, what if Superman had to deal with Bruce Wayne’s loss? What if Kal-El had been adopted by Thomas and Martha Wayne and became Bruce Wayne? What if the Bruce Wayne we know had never been born? How would Superman cope with his parents being murdered in front of his own eyes?

A fantastically dark twist on the big blue boy scout, Speeding Bullets shows a side of Superman that has never been seen.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting writer, J.M. DeMatteis, and was shocked to find the writer of such a dark and cruel Superman, to be a man with incredibly pleasant demeanor. During our conversation over this particular book, DeMatteis expressed a deep love and pride for the Speeding Bullets.

#4 Kingdom Come

While labelled as an Elseworlds title, Kingdom Come takes place in such a far flung future, it’s impossible to determine if these events would take place outside of DC normal continuity. Mark Waid and Alex Ross strike an emotional cord with all DC fans with depth of characters. Ross proves his artistic excellence as his beautiful watercolor painting adorns every page. Not a single panel isn’t worthy of framing. The “What if?” of this Elseworld can bring any DC fan to his knees. What if Superman lost faith in the world? What if the world lost their trust in Superman?

The arrival of a new superhero, Magog, spells trouble for the aging heroes of the Justice League. Magog doesn’t share Superman’s value of life and has the tendency to kill his villains. Where Superman condemns his actions, the world praises Magog for putting an end to the recidivism of the Joker and others like him. The general public begins to see Superman and the rest of the Justice League as antiquated and an impediment to true justice. Seeing this turn in public opinion, Superman goes into a self-imposed exile. During Superman’s exile, Magog has formed a new team of heroes, The Justice Battalion. This new team has little respect for life, civilian, villain or hero. They devote the majority of their efforts to battling each other, ending, usually, with a great loss of human life. When the team, under Magog’s leadership, attacks Parasite, the majority of the mid-west is destroyed and left irradiated. Superman returns after hearing the event from Wonder Woman, and forms a new Justice League to take on Magog.

#3 Superman: Red Son

I’m well aware that this is the third Elseworlds book on the list, but it’s also the last. As a Superman fan, Red Son changed everything I thought I knew about the Man of Steel. Legendary writer Mark Millar turns the entire Superman legacy on it’s head. Truth, oppression, and the Communist way! Yeah, it’s like that. Instead of landing in a Kansas field, the last son of Krypton lands smack in the heart of the, then, Soviet Ukraine. Raised by Stalin to be the hero of the Soviet Union, Superman succeeds Stalin and becomes the leader of the USSR. Disgusted with the wars of humans, Superman believes the only way to end all wars, is to expand the Soviet Union to every corner of the globe. Without Superman to get in the way, Lex Luthor has become President of the United States. The standoff between the two world leaders quickly erupts into a super powered hot war. Green Lantern, Batman, Wonder Woman, Brainiac, Lois Lane and Lana Lang all are represented in the tale albeit, in a manner fitting a Soviet Superman.


#2 Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow


Released in 1986, this tale that marks the end of the Silver Age of comics, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow stretched across Superman #423 and Action Comics #583. Written by Alan Moore of V for Vendetta and The Watchmen fame, the story has been heralded as one of the best comics ever written. Penciller, Curt Swan, is responsible for the image that many people see as the Man of Steel.

With the conclusion of Crisis of Infinite Earths, the then aged DC continuity was closing. Superman had been in constant production since 1939, and Action Comics since 1938. Nearly fifty years after the first Superman comic, both Action Comics and Superman would be going on a brief hiatus. A new title, Man of Steel, would reintroduce the character into the new continuity. Editor, Julius Schwartz, decided to write the last issues as if they were in fact, the very last issues of Superman. He originally approched Superman co-creator, Jerry Siegel to write. Jerry stated his desire to participate in the project, however, due to legal restrictions, was unable to. While at lunch with Alan Moore, Schwartz brought up his dilema to find the perfect writer. Moore stood up out if chair and responded “If you let anybody but me write that story, I’ll kill you.

#1 The Death of Superman

Not a single Superman reader will forget the first day they read this. I read it on the bus to school and cried about it throughout the day. But, this arc’s origin is a bit on the odd side.

On December 1, 1990, Lois and Clark officially became engaged in the comics. When Warner Brothers learned of this, they were in the middle of development on a new television series, The New Adventures of Lois and Clark. Warner Brothers, owning DC, mandated that they should not be married in the comics and not on television. DC and Warner Brothers agreed that the wedding issue and the wedding episode would occur the same week. With their next story arc pushed aside, and a year worth of planning put on the sideline, the writing team was left a little on the upset side. Toward the end of one such meeting Jerry Ordway suggested, jokingly, “Let’s just kill ‘im.” This soon became a running gag around the DC offices until Superman group editor, Mike Garlin, began to see a lot of logic in the idea. He stated in the documentary  Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman, “The world was taking Superman for granted, so we literally said ‘let’s show what the world would be like without Superman.”  In November 1992, the world lost Superman. Superman #75 would later be considered a “Coffin Nail” issue and a representation of gimmicks used in the early 90’s. The Death of Superman started a trend of mass printings with little to no difference between printings. That started a snowball effect of plummeting comic book values from which the industry is still trying to recover. However, the issue has become one of the best selling comics of all time. The comic is without a doubt, a work of art in every form. There is only one panel per page (splash page) that provokes a deep emotion response from the reader. The writing is deep and emotional as well, making the reader feel the emotions of every character they see.


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