Want to get into Superman comics? We’ll show you where to start.
Our format on DFSG is simple:
One essential version of the character’s origin, one that will give new readers the information they need to move forward.
Three tales that not only entertain, but give the new reader a comprehensive view of character.
One alternate reality tale that exemplifies the character’s versatility.
For our debut column, we’re going to go with the superhero that started it all, Superman.
Superman: Secret Origin #1-6 (2009-2010)
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Gary Frank and John Sibal
Though both 1986’s The Man of Steel and 2004’s Superman: Birthright were excellent retellings of the Superman origin story, Secret Origin stands above the others for our purposes. Over the many decades of Superman storytelling, there have been different visions of Clark Kent’s younger years, Secret Origin provides a nice summation of these eras, and provides new readers with a wealth of information going forward into their reading. Pair this with Johns pitch perfect characterizations, and Gary Frank’s gorgeous renderings, and I have no doubt which origin a new reader should dive into.
“For the Man who has Everything…”-Superman Annual #11 (1985)
Written by Alan Moore
Art by Dave Gibbons and Tom Ziuko
From the team that would bring the world Watchmen comes one of the best executed Superman tales ever. Kal-El is too often criticized for being a character with a lot of power and little depth. In this story, we see not only the pain he harbors, but his relationship with some of his closest friends. You’ll wish this team did more with character, as both the tale and the art are wonderful.
“Brainiac” – Action Comics #866-870 (2008)
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Gary Frank and Jon Sibal
Actually pre-dating their version of Superman’s origin, Brainiac enriches the legacy of one of Superman’s most vile villains. With as much action as reflection on the horror that Braniac can cause, it is a prime example of what a Superman story can be.
“Superman Reborn” – Action Comics #973-976 and Superman #18-19 (2016)
Written by Dan Jurgens, Patrick Gleason and Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Patrick Gleason, Jaime Mendoza, Mick Gray, Doug Mahnke, Stephen Segovia, Art Thibert and Patrick Zircher
While I certainly would encourage new fans to eventually check out some of the New 52’s Superman (I’m especially fond of Morrison’s Action Comics run), continuity has left it behind and here, we get our best summation of what happened. With this era still continuing in today’s books, new readers should check out this story to familiarize themselves with the current timeline and enjoy a period where talented creators basically saved the character’s legacy.
An Alternate Universe
Kingdom Come #1-4 (1996)
Written by Mark Waid and Alex Ross
Art by Alex Ross
Though a clear criticism of the comics of the time, Kingdom Come maintains its relevance and shows how the Superman ethos persists in a world not willing to accept it. The story also serves as a wonderful point for new readers to encounter some of the older characters in the DCU and, likely with help from the internet, seek them out as they continue to build their knowledge. Kingdom Come is one of the greatest Superman stories told, alternate future or not.
Superman is not always the most popular character amongst new readers. He often seems to be difficult to relate to, and that’s a big part of the reason The Death and Return of Superman isn’t on here. Yes, every Super-Fan should read the blockbuster (and actually quite good) epic, but it isn’t where they should start. Full enjoyment of Superman requires an admiration and understanding of both the god-like symbol and the struggling immigrant. Then, and only then, can his near death have the impact is should.