Are you ready for 'Man of Steel'?
MANILA, Philippines - Want to pick up some Superman comics? Here are good places to start.
Everyone knows who Superman is. Even though most people have never read a Superman comic book, through popular culture, TV, movies, and all of the other media and modes of transmission (even talking to kids at school), it’s hard to find someone who is plugged into contemporary global culture who doesn’t know of The Man of Steel.
Superman has never been a favorite of mine. Either he’s too powerful, or he’s de-powered. While the original Siegel and Shuster Superman had super strength, was bulletproof, faster than a speeding bullet, and could leap tall buildings in a single bound, eventually he got the whole power set that he has now, including the wonderfully ludicrous (this one I actually like) ability to turn back time by flying fast enough around the Earth’s axis so that it would spin backwards.
Then again, throw some Kryptonite at him and watch him squirm (and let’s not even get into the many colored variants of Kryptonite).
It didn’t help any that I was reading comics during the Death and Return of Superman storyline, which was both Earth-shattering and a total sham. I found myself collecting a bunch of titles that intersected and then feeling terribly gypped at the end of it all with one of the most weaksauce resolutions around (and that’s saying something when dealing with comic book logic).
It also allows for things like this, which brilliant though it is, really tears into the boy scout:
I’m not big on reading Superman on his own, but I do enjoy when he’s on deck with the Justice League or when he is in crossovers. As a Batman fan, I like seeing how two of comic's biggest characters try and play nice, or don’t.
Here’s a fun list of Batman-Superman interactions when the Dark Knight shows him what’s what: 5 Examples of How Superman is Batman’s B*tch. My own favorite on the list is when Batman has Lois Lane thrown off a building so that Superman’s heroic instincts will kick in, which allows Batman to take him down.
That said, there are some great Superman stories out there that recast the Last Son of Krypton (well, not really, but that’s what we’re led to believe most of the time).
Here are my own picks:
1. 'Birthright' by Mark Waid and Leinil Yu
While we are all familiar with Superman’s origins, superstar writer Mark Waid reimagines and updates these origins, making it a modern tale. We meet Clark as a young journalist in Africa following a reformer and trying to protect him as he is attacked by the dominant political powers. It’s an interesting insight on the character and his belief system, and how this belief system is shaped not only by growing up in Smallville but also by traveling the world as he searches for himself.
We get to see the beginnings of the suit, the construction of what would become the Clark Kent persona in Metropolis, all the familiar faces, and the beginning of the rivalry between Superman and Lex Luthor. We get to visit the origins in Smallville and we get some pretty rad action sequences that exhibit the full extent of Superman’s powers.
It also looks like Man of Steel is taking cues from this specific origin story, particularly with the symbol not necessarily being an S but meaning something else on Krypton. So this would be an interesting book to whet one’s appetite for the film.
2. 'For the Man Who Has Everything' by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
It’s Superman’s birthday, and Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman head to the Fortress of Solitude to bring him gifts. But what do you give — well, that title says it right? Little do they know that a intergalactic baddie has brought Supes the worst flower ever.
The thing attaches itself to the host and incapacitates them by putting them into a dream state where they live out their most desired fantasies. Through this story, Moore and Gibbons transport us to the Krypton that could have been, had it not been destroyed. And we see the kind of life that Kal-El might have lived, as a normal Kryptonian rather than as Superman on Earth.
With the trademark insight that Moore brings to his characters, we are shown Superman in a totally different way, and we come to understand the tragedy that drives him. It’s a really compelling and fun read.
3. 'All-Star Superman' by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
When Grant Morrison has got all pistons firing like this, he is truly a creative force. In the 12-issue All-Star run, he teams up with collaborator Quitely (arguably one of the best creative teams in all of comics) to deliver a story that is structured as the Twelve Labors of Superman.
At the start of it, Lex Luthor pulls a dastardly trick that enhances Superman’s powers but will ultimately kill him. So in the succeeding issues, we watch the Man of Steel put his affairs in order. More interesting is the way that the book explores the relationships that Superman has.
It takes a lot of elements that comic book fans will be familiar with, but it is accessible as a first book, too. And it features some of the most moving and poignant Superman moments.
Here’s my favorite panel from it, one of my favorite comic book moments:
I love that because it illustrates what makes Superman great. It isn’t his power set, but his ability that we can be more than who we are. - Rappler.com
Carljoe Javier teaches English and Creative Writing at the University of the Philippines Diliman, but what he would really like to do is spend the whole time in the classroom talking about comic books. He studies pop culture like comic books, film, and other forms of new media. He wishes he could fit into a superhero costume.