Ask anyone who Superman is and they'll tell you. From your mailman to the dear old lady lived down the street from you as a child. They've learned it from movies, television shows, and yes, comics. But do they really know the Man of Steel?
Superman has been featured in at least one comic each month going all the way back to his debut in 1938. There's more stories in print featuring him than perhaps any other in history — inside comics and out. But with all that material, it becomes hard to pick the definitive texts that best represent the character.
But iFanboy is here to help.
As part of our weekly series "Where Do I Start", we're delving into the the best of the big blue boy scout. This is a list for a hardcore comics fan who's looking for a better appreciation of the character, and it's also a cheat sheet for someone new to comics wanting a list to start with.
Superman For All Seasons: Superman's origin has been told and retold more than anyone else in comics. But this tome by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale recounts the seminal moments of the super-heroes early years through a new lens — not looking at the landmarks of time but more on how they shaped the hero he was to become.
Superman: Birthright: This modernized retelling of Superman's origin puts the classic chain of events that took an alien orphan and turned him into an American hero into a 21st century context. Writer Mark Waid knows Superman like the back of his hand, but he's not afraid to question and recontextualize some moments in a modern light. Artist Leinil Yu, who went on later to illustrate Marvel's Secret Invasion, brings a roughly honed illustrative style to the piece that gives it a modern impactful energy without sacrificing the emotions at play in Waid's story.
Superman: Secret Origin: Written by DC's head writer and Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, this approach to Superman's origin focuses not on his birth but more on his awkward teen years. Johns takes from the scraps of teenage Superman stories from years past and weaves it into a cohesive narrative that highlights moments that most other origin stories overlooked. Of particular interest is Superman's recruitment into the Legion of Super-Heroes from the far-flung future.
DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore: Although he's only written a handful of stories, Moore's primary two stories have stood the test of time and are collected in this volume. "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" and "For The Man Who Has Everything" are both seminal tales — for the character, and for comics in general.
Kingdom Come: This ensemble piece posits a future where Superman, Batman and others have passed the torch — or had it taken from them — by a new group of heroes that are more vigilantes than protectors.With greying hair and a more resigned nature, Superman is pulled back into duty one last time.
Luthor: Originally published as a miniseries titled Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, this book takes a look at super-hero from one of the most unusual vantage points — his arch nemesis Lex Luthor. Told from the viewpoint of Luthor himself, it paints the Kryptonian in a harsh light but still reveals new insights into the character. They say heroes are made by the quality of their villains — this one proves that to an unexpected degree.
Absolute All Star Superman: The most recent comic in our list, but arguably the most timeless. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's twelve-issue series doesn't seek to retell the character's origin, but moreso tell his ultimate fate. All Star Superman charts a trajectory that pushes it outside of known territory into a new realm of stories while revisiting the classic tropes of the character's 70+ year history.