Look, up on the screen! It’s a film. It’s a well-coifed hero. It’s Man of Steel! In his 75th anniversary (Great Scott!), Superman returns to the movies via producer Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight trilogy), director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen, and more), writer David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight trilogy), and DC Comics. What follows below is a snapshot of contemporary Superman comics that capture the essence of the hero while also exploring fresh territory—perfect for before or after the new film that leaps into theaters today.
- All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely: If you read one book off this list, please make it this one (UPDATE: the first digital issue is available for $.99). Morrison distills the Superman mythos while still playing with the goofier aspects, and Quitely beautifully renders the widescreen super-action and the humdrum Clark Kent lifestyle. The twelve chapter series is available in one paperback and in DC’s deluxe Absolute format (recommended).
- Superman: Birthright by Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu: Writer Waid updates the classic origin and characters for a Smallville-esque audience, and it works. Readers see more of Clark’s life as a reporter, his teenage encounters with Lex Luthor, and where the Superman suit fits into a modern world.
- Superman for All Seasons by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale: Told over four seasons, here are comic veterans Loeb and Sale as they capture the core of Superman in this coming-of-age story. Sale’s artwork is all broad shoulders and strong jaws while Loeb writes in the sweet spot of his career, focusing on familial relationships and responsibility.
- “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” and “For the Man Who Has Everything” by Alan Moore, Curt Swan, and Dave Gibbons: These two definitive stories capture the nostalgic essence of Superman—both the mortal and the hero, the alien and the man—as only master storyteller Alan Moore can write him. In the former, Superman bids farewell to his Silver Age roots, while the latter explores Superman’s greatest wish. These are both collected (along with other Moore stories) in a single paperback, or the first story can be purchased as its own book.
- Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen: Set in the “real world,” a man in Kansas must live with the name Clark Kent and suffer all the “Hey, Superman!” jokes that come along with such a moniker. Kent examines what Superman means to a populace, and then…well, to say more would be to spoil it. Immonen turns in the dynamic but grounded artwork that would later lead him to be one of the top artists in mainstream comics.
- Honorable mention: Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar and Dave Johnson: This is an alternate reality Superman story—what if Superman crash-landed in Russia instead of America? It’s an entertaining concept that lives up to its premise, with plenty of twists and surprises for longtime fans.
And if you’re looking for more on Superman and comics, please see the new and free Amazon Comics Newsletter, delivered to your inbox faster than a speeding bullet! Subscribers will receive a digital copy of the new Superman #1 (free until midnight Pacific Time on July 21, 2013), courtesy of DC Comics and George Perez.
--Alex (who has tickets for tonight!)