Superman is widely considered the greatest superhero of all time. He was the first mainstream superhero for DC Comics and is still their flag bearer to this day, alongside Batman, his polar opposite. He is the one man who truly stands for truth, justice, and the American way. The only time that Superman falters is when writers forget that the crucial allure of Superman is his purity.
This hero can also be boring in the wrong hands. Some readers ridiculed Superman for years, calling him the "big blue boy scout." However, that's what he is — a superhero who makes people believe in the forces of good. When his storylines focus on that, it is when Superman has a chance to shine. Here is a look at some of the best, most exciting and emotional stories in his DC Comics career.
10 DEATH OF SUPERMAN
The Death of Superman storyline is polarizing for a few reasons. For one thing, it was a blatant cash grab, and fans knew it. The death of the world's greatest hero was a monumental moment and brought DC Comics a lot of press. Inevitably, they brought him back a year later, and not all the fans returned when that happened.
However, it was a significant moment in comic book history. Superman dying to save Metropolis was a great moment. Funeral for a Friend was an amazing storyline as the world reacted to its loss. The Reign of the Superman was fun and brought back Superboy. It all ended with Superman returning, but the road to get there was great.
9 ALL-STAR SUPERMAN
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely created one of the greatest Superman storylines in the history of DC Comics, and it isn't even canon. This story takes place in the future and deals with the death of the Man of Steel. This death wasn't a gimmick like Death of Superman, though.
All-Star Superman had Superman find himself overwhelmed with massive amounts of solar radiation. While the yellow sun gives Superman his powers, this much energy has started to kill him. He has one year left to live, and the issues in this series explore moments from his life in loving detail.
8 RED SON
When it comes to Elseworlds stories, the best one involving Superman is the series, Red Son. Mark Millar and Dave Johnson created this comic book three-issue miniseries with an intriguing premise: what if Superman's spacecraft landed in the Soviet Union instead of Kansas?
A couple in the Soviet Union takes in baby Kal-El and raise him themselves. He grows up to work for the government as a good man, but finds himself the target of a vigilante known as Batman.
7 MAN OF STEEL (1986)
In 1986, Crisis on Infinite Earths combined Earths in the multiverse and then rebooted the entire DC Universe. When it came to Superman, John Byrne came in and created one of the most beloved Superman stories of all time with his Man of Steel series.
Collected in Man of Steel #1-6, Byrne relaunched the entire Superman universe with this story. Most of what Byrne did kept Superman the same, but he made one significant change that remains in effect today: he made Lex Luthor a respected businessman. He also eliminated Superboy and brought Jonathan and Martha Kent back from the dead.
6 WHAT'S SO FUNNY ABOUT TRUTH, JUSTICE & THE AMERICAN WAY?
People like to make fun of Superman for being virtuous and always looking on the bright side and doing the right thing. In a world where people love antiheroes or characters who walk in the dark like Batman, Superman almost seems antiquated. That is where "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice & The American Way" comes in.
In Action Comics #775, a new superhero team is on the scene known as The Elite. They are true antiheroes who revel in killing the bad guys, while also causing a ton of collateral damage as they tear through their foes. People love them. They kept challenging Superman, and when he finally accepted, he taught them a lesson they will never forget. This Superman storyline was adapted into an animated movie titled Superman vs. The Elite.
5 FOR THE MAN WHO HAS EVERYTHING
"For the Man Who Has Everything" was a one-shot storyline from Superman Annual #11 in 1985. The story has Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in battle with a villain known as Mongul. This villain uses Black Mercury, a parasite that attaches to someone and shows them their greatest dreams as they rest in a coma-like state.
It is kind of like something from The Matrix, and in this story, it attaches to Superman. Kal-El is now back on Krypton, the planet never having been destroyed. He is happily living with his parents and loved ones back home while Batman and Wonder Woman frantically try to bring him back. The story was adapted for an episode of Justice League Unlimited.
Brainiac is one of Superman's most powerful and iconic villains. The former scientist set out to collect worlds, shrink them, and keep them in bottles to preserve them. He ended up cloning himself, and versions lived on, continuing his collection — whether the residents of those cities liked it or not.
One of the best Superman storylines of all time involving Brainiac took place in Action Comics #866-870 and included a moment that devastated the Man of Steel — the death of Jonathan Kent. It also brought the city of Kandor back to DC Comics and set up the New Krypton storyline. This Superman storyline was adapted in the animated movie Superman: Unbound.
3 SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT
This Superman storyline took place in the pages of Superman: Birthright #1-12, a miniseries about the Man of Steel from 2003. Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu told the story of what was initially supposed to be a non-canon Superman storyline. However, thanks to the popularity of the story, it ended up replacing John Byrne's Man of Steel storyline as the canon origin story in DC Comics.
The storyline was interesting because it took different angles in the Superman mythos. It also created a new story that retold the tale of Kal-El coming to Earth and eventually becomig the planet's greatest protector.
2 SUPERMAN #701
Not all Superman storylines have him fighting villains and saving the world. Sometimes, the best Superman stories has him just saving one person. In Superman #701, the Man of Steel shows up to find a girl on a ledge in Philadelphia, threatening to jump.
Superman doesn't grabs her and take her to safety against her will. He talks to her, and he lets her talk back. Superman then floats in the sky in front of her, and the two share their stories. He gives her time, and then after hours have passed, he reaches out his hand and she takes it. This moment was powerful and showed why Superman is the world's greatest hero. Heroism of an entirely different sort.
1 WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE MAN OF TOMORROW?
"Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow" is a Superman storyline that took place in Superman #423 and Action Comics #583. This story was the final one before John Byrne rebooted the entire Superman universe with Man of Steel in 1986. It gave DC Comics a chance to say goodbye to Superman before rebooting everything.
The story takes place 10 years after Superman last appeared, and Lois Lane recounts the final days of Superman's time on Earth. It included several deaths of people close to him, the revelation that he was Clark Kent, and his final battle before leaving once and for all. It is easily one of the most exceptional Superman storylines of all time.