For years, Superman has been the shining light for DC Comics, the greatest hero of all time.
While Batman might sell more comics, it is Superman who shines through as the true superhero, a man who always does the right thing and prefers to help people rather than just fight villains.
That makes it hard to write and tell Superman stories well.
When comic book readers and movie fans want their heroes to have shades of dark, it makes someone like Superman boring to many fans.
When someone tries to bring darkness to Superman, it is a hard sell, as the Superman movie, Man of Steel, showed.
However, looking at the history of DC Comics, and there are plenty of Superman stories that sit as the best comic books in history.
Here is a look at the best Superman stories of all time.
Superman For All Seasons
Superman For All Seasons hit in 1998 from the creative team of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale.
This story was set up differently, with each of the four issues telling a story based on the seasons.
The stories ran along the same period from John Byrne’s Man of Steel, which followed Crisis on Infinite Earths.
A different person in Superman’s life narrated each story, with Jonathan Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, and Lana Lang sharing their stories.
Superman has many enemies that pushed him to the limit, from Lex Luthor and General Zod to Darkseid. However, arguably the best Superman story that featured him in battle with a villain was Brainiac.
Brainiac took place in Action Comics #866-870 and saw several key moments in Superman’s history.
His father, Jonathan Kent, died in this story. Superman found the bottled city of Kandor, and this set up the huge New Krypton storyline.
This Superman story ended up adapted as the story in Superman: Unbound.
Superman: Secret Identity
Superman: Secret Identity was another four-issue Superman story, with the creative team of Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen.
The difference here is that this is a Superman in a different Earth timeline. In this, there are no real superheroes in the world and they only exist in comic books.
The Clark Kent in this world is a superhero fan, although his name brings teasing.
Everything changes when Clark Kent gains Superman’s powers and has to hide this from the world, while secretly working as a real superhero.
Death of Superman
The most popular Superman story in history is easily The Death of Superman.
This story was the best-selling comic book in history, as it was the first time that Superman died. It gained more mainstream press than almost any comic book story.
Superman fought to defend Metropolis from Doomsday. Both died at the end of the battle. This story was decent, but the highlight came in the short tale told in Funeral for a Friend, which showed how much Superman meant to the world.
What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & The American Way
The Superman story, What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & The American Way has already become an animated movie called Superman vs. The Elite.
This story came in Action Comics #775 and was ahead of its time. In an era where Image Comics took its heroes to the extreme, Superman stood in a world that no longer wanted a good man as a superhero.
This brought out a new team known as The Elite that had no problem killing villains. When Superman stood up to them, the public was mostly against Superman, so he had to figure out how to prove that his way was for the best.
For the Man Who Has Everything
For the Man Who Has Everything was a story that allowed Superman to live in a world that he never believed possible.
Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman showed up to give Superman a birthday present and found him in a trance, connected to Black Mercury, a plant that puts Superman in a coma-like state, but mentally he is living his best life.
In this life, Krypton never died and Superman stayed at home with his family and had a wife and children.
The twist here is that Superman had to give up his perfect life to return to the actual world. The animated series Justice League Unlimited adapted this story.
Superman: Birthright was a 12-issue limited series by Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu.
This was going to be a non-canon story of a Superman on a different Earth, but fans loved it and DC made it a new origin story for Superman, replacing the John Byrne Man of Steel origin.
The story looked at different angles of Superman’s origin, from his arrival on Earth where he eventually became the planet’s strongest protector.
Mark Millar (Jupiter’s Legacy) and Dave Johnson created the Superman alternate world series, Red Son.
This comic book series changed Superman’s origin and had his rocket ship as a baby crash into the Soviet Union rather than Kansas.
This means that Jonathan and Martha Kent didn’t raise Superman, but he grew up in the Soviet Union instead, becoming the protector of the common worker.
This caused two things to happen. One, Superman’s existence ensured the Soviet Union never fell, and he became an enemy of the vigilante Batman.
Second, Superman proved that even as a Communist, he remained a good man and a great hero.
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely created All-Star Superman, and while it isn’t canon, it is one of the best stories in Superman history.
This story showed the death of Superman, and it wasn’t a fight to the death, but a disease caused by Lex Luthor.
Lex sabotaged Superman and overloaded him with the yellow sun’s power, which led to the death of the Man of Steel. This allowed Superman time to make things right with those around him.
With one year left to live, Superman spent much of that time with Lois Lane and showed he was going to do the right thing all the way to the end of his life, presenting his death in a loving and respectful story.
Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow
The greatest Superman story in history took place over two issues, told in Superman #423 and Action Comics #583.
This was the final Superman story before Crisis on Infinite Earths reset the DC Comics universe. It was the last Superman story before John Byrne rebooted the character in Man of Steel.
To set the last story for Superman in that timeline, this takes place 10 years after Superman’s last appearance to anyone on Earth. Lois Lane recalls the last days of Superman’s stint on Earth.
Several people close to Superman die in these two issues and Superman finally leaves Earth once and for all. This is heartfelt, deeply poignant, and is one of the best comic book stories of all time, Superman or not.