As the oldest superhero in comic books, Superman has had a great number of tales told since his introduction in 1938. However, the character has proven again and again to not only withstand the test of time, but to continue to rise to the challenge in defense of truth, justice, and the American way. Yet, for all the good Superman has achieved over the years, not every story has been the best.
Furthermore, in a large mix of both good and bad stories, some great reads get lost in the mix. Though they may not be the best Superman stories ever told, they are also far from the worst. Because of this, there are many Superman stories that can be included. To list a few of them though, here is our list of 10 criminally underrated Superman stories.
Some people consider Superman: Grounded to be one of the worst modern Superman stories to date. After the events of New Krypton, Superman finds himself trying to reconnect with humanity by walking across the United States on foot, using his powers to help the common man however he can. Though the concept is a bit weird, Superman himself was raised as a human and is constantly experiencing human emotions.
Because of this, it makes sense that he would doubt his place in the world from time to time, especially following everything that happened with New Krypton. What some consider to be a wild misrepresentation of the character can also be viewed as an intriguing analysis of Superman as a modern day hero. While Grounded is far from the best Superman story ever told, it is not nearly as bad as some people think.
9 For Tomorrow
Brian Azzarello’s Superman: For Tomorrow tends to be love or hate with readers. Essentially, Superman is facing an inner crisis after half of Metropolis (including Lois Lane) mysteriously vanishes. After a year goes by, Superman begins consulting with a priest, seeking spiritual guidance with his responsibilities as a protector.
Eventually, the mystery begins to unravel with a big villain revealed at the end much like with many comic book mysteries. However, many of the complaints about the story come from its complex narrative as well as a few big changes made to Superman’s status quo. While the story definitely isn’t the most groundbreaking thing ever, For Tomorrow didn’t alter the Man of Steel in such a way that it warrants all the hate that it has received.
For all the great Superman stories out there, Godfall is easy to lose in the mix. Written by the late Michael Turner, Superman: Godfall follows the Man of Steel as he lives his life on Krypton, which has not been destroyed and is thriving with life. Though nothing seems out of the ordinary for Kal, readers know that something is wrong.
The entire series is effectively a modern retelling of Alan Moore’s For the Man Who Has Everything. Though the payoff may not have been as good as the original story, Godfall still offers an interesting look at the Man of Tomorrow. While there are definitely better Superman stories out there, Superman: Godfall is still well worth a read at the very least.
7 President Lex
For a while, Lex Luthor himself was actually President of the United States of America within the DC Universe. As one can imagine, this proved to cause a lot of problems for Superman. However, the story instead focuses on Superman’s response to the conflict, rather than with how he deals with it directly.
For example, instead of confronting Luthor directly, the story instead focuses on how Superman lives within a world where his greatest enemy is the most powerful man on the planet. Likewise, seeing the powershift provides a whole new outlook for Luthor, making him not only more threatening, but also more compelling.
Over the years, Superman has had many different takes on his origin. While there are some great ones out there, not many people know of Superman: Birthright. Written by Mark Waid, Birthright takes a close look at an adult Clark Kent, shortly before he becomes the world’s greatest hero.
Though it is really hard to top John Byrne’s The Man of Steel miniseries, Birthright still tells a fantastic story. Like with The Man of Steel, Birthright captures a lot of great moments in Clark’s life while also juggling a large supporting cast for him. However, unlike other origin stories, Birthright feels a bit more personable in its relation to the character, exploring Clark in ways that other authors haven’t. As a result, Birthright is great for anyone looking for an alternate, yet fitting, take on Superman’s origin.
5 New Superman
When DC first relaunched their titles as part of the Rebirth era, one title that many overlooked was the New Superman series by Gene Luen Yang. In actuality, this series focuses on Kong Kenan, the Chinese Superman, instead of Clark Kent himself.
Though many passed on New Superman, it was actually a very good coming of age story as a young man finds himself with the powers of Superman. Despite Keenan’s bad attitude, he really came into his own as a hero, learning from Superman’s example while still doing things his way. While the title didn’t impact much else within the DC Universe, it is still an incredible story that many haven’t even heard of.
4 Lois and Clark
Speaking of Rebirth, Superman: Lois and Clark was actually a miniseries that helped pave the way for Superman’s larger role. Following the events of DC’s Convergence story, Lois and Clark looks at the pre-Flashpoint version of Clark as he and his family live out their lives in the New 52 DC Universe.
Now with a son, this version of Superman gave a lot of readers what they had been craving for years. Likewise, the series would eventually help establish this older, more experienced Superman as the main one once again. For all the praise Superman has received since the Rebirth relaunch, a lot of it is owed to what was established in Superman: Lois and Clark.
3 Emperor Joker
Superman: Emperor Joker takes a look at the DC Universe if Joker were imbued with the powers of Mr. Mxyzptlk, an unimaginably powerful being from the 5th dimension. Of course, the world is a frightening nightmare and it is up to Superman to take down one of the Dark Knight’s greatest foes.
Though the Joker does some pretty horrible things, seeing Superman face off against him makes for a great dynamic that isn’t often explored. Author Jeph Loeb does a great job of capturing the individual voices of the characters while providing a well structured narrative as well. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of this story, making it one of the forgotten gems tucked away in Superman’s history.
2 Gods and Monsters
Despite its unusual spin on the DC Trinity, Justice League: Gods and Monsters (2015) proved to be quite successful. In fact, the animated feature did so well that the world was explored further in comic book form. In a limited run of prequel stories, the Gods and Monsters: Superman one shot actually proved to be very good.
Offering a whole new take on Superman, the Gods and Monsters one shot offers a brief glimpse into how that version of Superman came to be. In putting a unique spin on a classic origin, the one shot provides readers with an incredibly intriguing look at the Man of Steel. Not only would any fan of the movie like the story, but Superman fans in general would likely enjoy the spin on the character.
1 Earth One
As one of the most recent origin stories for the character, Superman: Earth One is actually a much darker take on the Man of Steel. The story itself focuses on Clark as he struggles to find his place in the world, going from job to job in search of what makes him happy. While the story was criticized for its darker approach to Superman, it is also a great example of the character’s humanity.
In the first book alone, readers get a great sense of why Superman chooses to do what he does. Furthermore, the three books of the series also tell one great, cohesive story that continually breaks down the character. Despite being a bit darker than usual, Superman: Earth One is still a great story.