Discover the top 10 Superman comic books of all time with this definitive list. From classic storylines to modern masterpieces, this guide has it all.
RELATED: Looking Back, Superman Action Comics #1 Was Pretty Dark
In 1938, comic book readers met Superman for the first time through the first issue of Action Comics. He was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and has since appeared in several different comics, TV shows, movies and video games.
When the last son of Krypton debuted, he was well-loved and inspired many. Over the years, he’s regularly dismissed for his being “too good”, “too strong”, or “too heroic”, but those traits are what reinforce his spot as one of the best superheroes. His strength lies not in his powers but in his influence and impact on others. Many of his greatest comics explore the effects of his origin, his relationships with his allies and enemies.
Let’s look at some of the best Superman comic books of all time.
1. Superman for All Seasons (1998)
Written by: Jeph Loeb
Drawn by: Tim Sale
This limited series was published shortly after Batman: The Long Halloween. Superman’s version was themed after seasons, whereas Batman’s was themed after holidays. Each issue is narrated by a different character: Jonathan Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor and Lana Lang. The series parallels The Man of Steel, the Superman origin story John Byrne wrote.
Jonathan Kent tells the story of Clark’s roots and focuses on his life as a father to a super-powered son. Clark learns the truth of his alien origins in his last year of high school and reveals his powers to Lana Lang, his best friend, after graduation. She encourages him to leave Smallville, and he departs for Metropolis, where he meets Lois Lane and takes on the mantle of Superman.
Lois Lane focuses more on the impact Superman has begun to have on Metropolis and her role as a journalist. Meanwhile, Clark feels out of place in his new home and doesn’t recognise his old home.
Lex Luthor’s narration focuses on his plan against Superman, which rests on Jenny Vaughn’s obsession with the Kryptonian. She is transformed into Toxin and helps Superman with an airborne virus that has spread through Metropolis by lining the clouds overhead with the antidote. Unfortunately, the virus is her undoing in the end, and Luthor convinces Superman that he isn’t enough, sending the Kryptonian back to Smallville.
Lana Lang helps Clark find his footing in both of his identities while revealing to the audience that she is in love with him. Then, inspired by his best friend, Clark returns to Metropolis, writing a story that makes the front page of the Daily Planet and infuriating Luthor with Superman’s return.
The series humanises Superman, showing that he feels doubt, homesickness and confusion even with all his powers. This coming-of-age tale explores the trials of making a life for yourself outside of your roots.
Superman for All Seasons is definitely one of the best Superman comic books of all time.
RELATED: Superman: Man of Tomorrow, Henry Cavill’s Unmade Sequel
2. Kingdom Come (1996)
Written by: Mark Waid and Alex Ross
Drawn by: Alex Ross
This comic book miniseries is set in an alternate future that sees the Justice League retire after the rise of Magog and several other younger, morally ambiguous metahumans. After the passing of Captain Atom, which caused the fall of much of the American Midwest, including Kansas, and the destruction of the US’s food production, Wonder Woman encourages Superman to return to Metropolis and reform the Justice League.
The miniseries features bitter arguments between old friends, and Ross’ art style emphasises the ageing heroes’ every wrinkle. However, Kingdom Come illustrates that forgiveness and restraint can be the most remarkable display of strength.
This is evident in the comic’s conclusion, which sees an enraged Superman calm himself down after being reminded that the unpredictable behaviour of previous metahumans is what led people to fear them.
3. For the Man Who Has Everything (1985)
Written by: Alan Moore
Drawn by: Dave Gibbons
This one-shot sees Batman, Robin and Wonder Woman visit the Fortress of Solitude to celebrate Superman’s birthday. Unfortunately, Superman is in a catatonic state thanks to Mongul and the Black Mercy, a plant which feeds on its host’s bio-aura while letting them dream of their deepest desire. While Wonder Woman takes on Mongul, Batman and Robin attempt to pry the Black Mercy off of Superman.
Superman dreams of a normal life on Krypton, happily married with children, take a turn for the disturbing. His father, Jor-El, is discredited after his prediction of Krypton’s doom is unfulfilled and becomes embittered, and his mother, Lara, passes away.
Kryptonian society undergoes political upheaval, and Jor-El becomes the chairman of “the Sword of Rao”, an movement calling for the return of Krypton’s “nobel and unspoiled” past. Further, The Phantom Zone, which Jor-El developed, has become unpopular with the public, resulting in anti-Zone outcry.
Superman wakes after a tearful goodbye to his Kryptonian son, and the plant latches onto Batman instead as an enraged Superman battles against Mongul. While Batman experiences a reality where he never lost his parents, Robin pries the Black Mercy off of him and drops it on Mongul, who is contently submerged in his own fantasy.
Superman unwraps his gifts from the heroes, one of which was squashed during the quarrel and cleans up the Fortress. It’s a classic story with a touching psychological drama that will leave your heart aching for the Man of Steel.
4. Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? (1986)
Written by: Alan Moore
Drawn by: Curt Swan
This comic book is considered one of the best Superman stories. It is set 10 years after the last sighting of Superman and is narrated by Lois Lane, who retells the last days of Superman to a Daily Planet reporter. The comic served as a finale for the beloved hero and was made possible when Crisis of Infinite Earths reforged the DC universe’s continuity.
The comic sees Lana Lang and Jimmy Olsen gain powers to help Superman. It features many jarring events that involve all of Superman’s usual side kicks.
After Mister Mxyzptlk, who is revealed to be the cause behind everything that has happened, passes away from getting stuck between the Fifth Dimension and the Phantom Zone, Superman enters a chamber containing gold kryptonite as penance for breaking his code against harming innocents and is stripped of his powers.
Moore gave Superman a well-deserved sendoff through Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, perfectly concluding the Man of Steel’s story.
RELATED: The 12 Best Superman Villains
5. What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice and the America Way? (2001)
Written by: Joe Kelly
Drawn by: Doug Mahnke and Lee Bermejo
This comic focuses on the struggle between Superman and the Elite, a morally ambiguous team of super-powered vigilantes who deal with criminals questionably and are led by the telekinetic Manchester Black. While Superman has a strict code against harming humans and villains alike, the newer team sees this as a sign of weakness.
During a confrontation on the Jovian moon Io, the Elite seem to have the upper hand against the Kryptonian and deliver a beating. Then he begins to move so fast he is unseen, seemingly taking down the vigilantes one by one. As Superman uses his heat vision to rid the Elite’s leader of his powers, Manchester Black breaks down.
Superman reveals that the Elite is still alive and Manchester’s powers will return soon. He explains that he created an illusion to demonstrate the pointlessness of vengeance. But, unfortunately, the point doesn’t stick with Manchester, who insists Superman is living in a dream. Superman then lets Manchester know he will never stop until “his dream of a world of dignity, honor and justice becomes a reality.”
The comic makes an interesting comment on the superhero genre, which was already changing to be grittier and more realistic when this comic was released.
RELATED: Is Superman Immortal? Here is the Breakdown
6. Superman: Birthright (2003 – 2004)
Written by: Mark Waid
Drawn by: Leinil Francis Yu and Gerry Alanguilan
The comic begins on Krypton when the planet is falling as Jor-El laments the accomplishments of his world as “miracles no one will remember” while preparing his infant son for his voyage.
Time then jumps ahead to show freelance reporter Clark Kent in West Africa, where he is interviewing those involved in the civil conflict between the fictional Ghuri and Turaaba clans. Clark foils an attempt on the Ghuri political leader’s life, Kobe Asuru, and befriends him, though Asuru’s sister is suspicious of the reporter. Unfortunately, Kobe doesn’t survive the second attempt, and it is revealed that the Turaaba politician was behind the attempts.
Returning home, Clark decides to learn more about his alien heritage and discovers the significance of his insignia. Clark takes on a nerdy persona and travels to Metropolis, where he applies for a job at the Daily Planet. During his interview, the Daily Planet is under siege by Lex Corp, and Superman quickly deals with the issue, flying over to deal with Lex Luthor, who pretends to endorse Superman. Perry White decides to give Clark Kent a chance and sends him and Lois to Lexcorp, where Luthor pretends not to know Clark and reports that Superman is alien.
The comics show the beginning of Lex and Superman’s rivalry, how Clark and Lex were childhood friends and the origins of Lex’s obsession with riding the world of Superman. It also shows the beginnings of Lois’ interest in Superman rather than Clark.
Elements of this origin story can be seen in 2013’s Man of Steel, specifically Clark’s discovery that his insignia is a symbol of hope. Superman: Birthright is a non-canon modernisation of Superman’s origin story, which was later used to re-establish his official origin in Superman: Secret Origin.
7. Superman: Red Son (2003)
Written by: Mark Millar
Drawn by: Dave Johnson, Andrew Robinson, Walden Wong and Kilian Plunkett
This miniseries answered the question: “What if Superman has been raised in the Soviet Union?” and featured alternate versions of DC heroes and real-life political figures. Red Son re-imagines Superman’s origin story by having baby Kal-El’s rocket land in Ukraine rather than Smallville, Kansas, which changes the course of the Cold War.
Lex Luthor and Superman clash again. Both men believe that they are the hero of the story and that they will be the ones to lead humanity to a better future. Eventually, the bitter rivals work together to save the world, and Luthor leads Earth into an age of peace.
The comic concludes with a predestination paradox showing that Superman is a descendant of Lex Luthor and Lois.
8. Superman: Secret Identity (2004)
Written by: Kurt Busiek
Drawn by: Stuart Immonen
This non-canonical story follows the life of a Clark Kent born into a world without superheroes and named after the fictional character Superman. During one of his overnight hiking trips, Clark awakens to learn he has powers. He uses his newfound powers to rescue those in need but does everything he can to keep his identity a secret.
Clark moves to Manhattan and meets Lois. He eventually becomes a major author and reveals his Superhero identity to her. The two are successful in their respective careers and start a life together. However, when Lois gives birth to twin girls, Clark makes a deal with the government to ensure his family’s safety.
Years later, when his powers begin fading, Clark discovers that his daughters also have powers. They take over the Superman mantel from their father, though the retired Kent continues to fly with his daughters and grandson.
The miniseries is a fun story that feels a bit Spider-Man-like initially but begins to stand out as a Superman story as Clark develops and deals with his powers, the government and family life with the woman he loves.
9. All-Star Superman (2005 – 2008)
Written by: Grant Morrison
Drawn by: Frank Quitely
Inked by: Jamie Grant
After rescuing a sabotaged P.R.O.J.E.C.T team from their mission to the sun and getting Lex Luthor arrested via an article written by Clark Kent, Superman learns that while the exposure to massive amounts of solar radiation gifted him with a new level of power, it is also weakening him. Dr Leo Quintum, the leader of the P.R.O.J.E.C.T team he rescued, estimates he has one year left to live.
Deciding to make the most of his remaining time on Earth, Superman reveals his identity to Lois Lane, who he grants the ability to become Superwoman for 24 hours. After that, he accomplishes the “Twelve Labors of Superman”, defeats an escaped Lex Luthor one last time, and then becomes a solar radio-consciousness, which lives inside the sun and maintains the machinery within to keep it alive.
This series of comics allows Superman to show off his full range of powers. Quitely’s gentle touch, combined with Morrison’s storytelling abilities, turn Superman into a god-like being capable of changing those that know him.
10. Superman: Secret Origin (2009 – 2010)
Written by: Geoff Johns
Drawn by: Gary Frank
This six-issue series featured the official origin of Superman post-Infinite Crisis. However, unlike previous origins, the comic is told entirely from Clark’s perspective and has no scenes set on Krypton. Instead, the story begins with a young Clark accidentally injuring Pete Ross’s arm while playing football. Then, after he nearly burns his school down with heat vision, his adoptive parents tell him about his alien origins.
Elsewhere, a young Lex Luthor finds a chunk of Kryptonite that weakens Clark for the first time. Then, after Lionel Luthor’s passing, he heads off to Metropolis, ready to make something of himself with his father’s fortune.
As a young man, Clark makes his way to Metropolis, where he joins the financially struggling Daily Planet team and introduces the city to Superman when he saves Lois after she falls from a building. While Lex declares that Superman is an alien and tries to make an enemy of him, the Daily Planet paints him as a hero and becomes more popular despite his best sabotage attempts.
The comic book series re-established the origins of several characters, including Metallo, one of Superman’s most dangerous villains and Parasite. It also re-introduced Krypto, the Super Dog. The comic was commended for its retelling of the Superman origin story, and many praised Johns for creating something new with a story that had been retold numerous times.
IGN stated, “we’ve all been here before, but that familiarity isn’t as problematic as you’d expect. Like a great jazz musician playing over a standard, Johns is able to bring enough new personality and style to the mix to make it feel fresh and almost entirely his own.”
RELATED: Will Superman & Lois S3 Match ‘Injustice: Gods Among Us’ Story?
- Superman has been an inspiration since he debuted in his first comic in 1983.
- Many of his greatest comics explore the strength that lies outside of his powers.
- Even when fans consider him “too heroic”, Superman remains one of the best superheroes, whether in comic book form or in film.
Which Superman comic books do you think are the best?