As the original comic book superhero, Superman has managed to accomplish all sorts of things during his incredibly long time as a character. With over 80 years of storytelling under his belt, Superman has experienced quite a lot, changing when appropriate, but always maintaining his core values.
While many great Superman stories have been told over the years, it is truly incredible to see how far the Man of Steel has come since 1938. To look back at some key moments during Superman’s career, here is our list of the 10 best Superman stories of every decade.
9 '30s: Action Comics #1
No Superman story is arguably more important than Action Comics #1. As the original debut of the Superman character, Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster launched an entire new medium, changing comic books for the rest of history. As the original superhero, Superman would come to inspire millions of people, both on and off the page. Though he wouldn’t make his debut until the end of the decade, Superman would come to survive many trials and tribulations throughout the decades that followed. While Action Comics #1 may not be the best Superman story ever told, it is easily one of the most important for the character as well as comic books in general.
8 '40s: America’s Secret Weapon
During World War II, a lot of politics were reflected in all sorts of media, including comic books. Americans could buy a comic, read it, and then were encouraged to donate the paper as part of the war effort. During this time, Superman #23 was also released. Titled America’s Secret Weapon, the story focuses on Superman as he joins soldiers overseas to fight for truth, justice, and the American way.
Though the issue is very heavily influenced by the politics of the time, it is still a great Superman story overall. America’s Secret Weapon is a great example of Superman as a symbol, and a reminder of why he chooses to do the things he does. As a result, it is easy to see why it is one of the better Superman stories for the time.
7 '50s: Action Comics #252
In 1959, Supergirl was first introduced to the world. Debuting in Action Comics #252, Kara Zor-El would forever change the course of Superman’s history. Adding a member of Superman’s extended family made some pretty drastic changes to the character. Likewise, Supergirl herself has come quite a ways since her introduction, becoming one of DC’s most beloved female characters. Like Action Comics #1, Supergirl’s introduction isn’t exactly the best Superman story ever told. However, it is still a very important one and has continued to affect the Man of Steel’s mythos ever since.
6 '60s: Superman #141
Shortly after Supergirl made her debut, Superman found himself back on his home planet, Krypton, shortly before its untimely demise. Here, Superman reunites with his parents, and even develops a romance with another Kryptonian girl, Lyla. Though by the end of the issue, Superman would find himself back on Earth and in the present, the issue still offers a very unique look at Superman himself. The fact that Superman is able to connect with his family for a brief period is definitely nice. It also shows that Superman could have been happy elsewhere. Though Earth is always his home, knowing that he could have been happy on Krypton is still nice to know.
5 '70s: Must There Be A Superman?
Written by Elliot S. Maggin, Must There Be a Superman? Is a very well-told story that explores Superman’s place in the real world. With a lot of real-life politics once again thrown into the mix, this story does an expert job of exploring how Superman has evolved as a character since his debut. For example, it offers some unique insight on “the American Way” and how it has changed since 1938.
In the end though, readers come to realize that right and wrong are still important, and that Superman will always fight for what is right, despite the ever-growing gray areas in society. Despite being written in the ’70s, this story still holds a lot of relevance, even today, making it easy to see how it is the best Superman story from the decade.
4 '80s: The Man of Steel
John Byrne’s The Man of Steel miniseries is easily one of the best, as well as the most important, modern Superman stories. Not only did it succeed in successfully relaunching the character following Crisis on Infinite Earths, but it did it in a manner that also told a great Superman story. The Man of Steel cleaned up a lot of aspects of Superman’s origin and made him much more approachable for newer readers. It also modernized a lot of his supporting cast and made Lex Luthor into a much more threatening villain. The Man of Steel set Superman on the same path that he is still on today. Despite being an important moment in the character’s history, it is also one of the best Superman stories ever told.
3 '90s: Death of Superman
The Death of Superman is easily one of the most pivotal moments in Superman’s history. Though his death didn’t last terribly long, it was still the largest comic book event ever at the time. Even today, The Death of Superman remains one of the more essential reads for the character. Not only was it an important point in his history, but all of comics as well.
After Superman made his return from the dead, several other key deceased heroes began coming back. Aside from its impact on the industry though, The Death of Superman is still an excellent example of how Superman never gives up, no matter how difficult things get.
2 2000s: All Star Superman
To this day, many people consider Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman to be the greatest Superman story yet told. Throughout its 12-issue limited run, the series is easily one of the best explorations of Superman’s character. The series features a wide cast, and challenges the Man of Steel in a completely unique way. Even though the series isn’t canon, it still perfectly captures all of the great aspects of Superman that made so many people fall in love with the character. Overall, All-Star Superman isn’t just the best Superman story of the decade, but easily one of the best superhero comics of all time.
1 2010s: Superman: Lois and Clark
Before the launch of DC’s Rebirth event, it was revealed that the Pre-Flashpoint Superman was actually living within the New 52 world. After the events of Convergence, this version of Superman was living a quiet life with his version of Lois Lane, as well as their son, Jon Kent. Since many readers weren’t huge fans of Superman’s portrayal during the New 52, seeing the character that John Byrne established was a very welcome creative decision. Furthermore, introducing a son into Superman’s world breathed a lot of new life into the character, also changing the direction of many Superman titles going forward. While plenty of great Superman stories have been published more recently, Superman: Lois and Clark is easily the best from the current decade.