The best Superman comics for new readers and where to find them

Christopher Baggett
Superman For All Seasons, All Star Superman and Superman: Birthright key art.

If you want to catch up on Superman before the DCU kicks off, here are the best Superman comics and where to read them. 

It’s only a matter of time before James Gunn’s Superman: Legacy becomes a reality. The upcoming film, the latest salvo in the revamped DCU’s opening shots, promises a fresh, modern take on Superman that aspires to set itself apart from previous iterations. 

Comics have been trying to do that for years, too. As far back as the ‘80s, Superman was often subject to total revamps, where small details became established norms. This is how Lex Luthor went from maniacal scientist to shrewd businessman and how Krypton keeps fluctuating between a scientific utopia and a war-torn planet. 

If you’re a new reader trying to figure out where to start or a lapsed fan trying to get back into it, these are the best Superman comics for new readers. For this list, we’ve focused on quintessential tales that don’t require a heavy knowledge of continuity or strong familiarity beyond the basic concepts of Superman. 


10. Superman: The Man of Steel

Superman: The Man of Steel #1 cover
Post-Crisis, Superman gets a more streamlined power set in the classic Superman: The Man of Steel.

After Crisis on Infinite Earths, the DC Universe rebooted itself. DC had spent the past several decades building an extensive multiverse but deemed it too confusing and sought to streamline stories to make them more accessible to readers.

There were a lot of changes, but Superman may have been the biggest. DC’s flagship character got a total overhaul. Gone were the years of joke powers, where Superman was an invincible, god-like being who could do anything so long as the story needed it.

Written and illustrated by John Byrne, Superman: The Man of Steel scaled Superman back in a big way. He wasn’t as strong, he couldn’t breathe in space, and he was more humanized than ever. This is also the story that brought Lex Luthor into the modern day, dropping the mad scientist act for a sleazy business tycoon that’s lasted all the way to today’s stories.

9. Superman: Birthright

Superman: Birthright #1
Superman: Birthright humanizes the Man of Steel with a grounded and updated origin.

Superman’s origin has been set in stone for a while now, but there is still the occasional attempt to update it. While efforts like Superman: The Man of Steel or Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s Superman: Secret Origin have always been lauded, Superman: Birthright may be the most notable modern take by today’s standards. 

Superman: Birthright has some serious pedigree behind it, being written by Kingdom Come author Mark Waid. Waid depicts Superman in a more human light than most, giving him grounded struggles with the anxiety and depression of feeling alone in a world that can never really know him. The book also has some truly stunning set pieces in both the quiet moments of contemplation and frantic action, thanks to Leinil Francis Yu’s art. 

Birthright focuses on the early years of Superman, establishing his relationships and rivalries in a more modern setting. The story served as the official modern origin of Superman for a spell, and much of its story was adapted for Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. Though it’s no longer considered the canonical modern origin, Superman: Birthright is still an incredible character study into the humanity and legacy that drives Superman. 

8. Son of Superman

Superman (2016) #1
DC Rebirth finally gave fans a Superman who ventured into fatherhood.

Writers tried for years to make Superman a family man. Though he married Lois Lane in the ‘90s, the editorial reportedly pushed back on the notion of Superman having a kid because they were worried he’d be too unrelatable to readers. 

The lead-up to DC Rebirth gave them an opportunity to test the waters, though. After the timeline reset of New 52 gave fans a younger Superman, the original Clark and Lois would eventually return from another timeline with their young son, Jonathan, who slowly finds out about his father’s legacy and his own developing powers. 

Superman as a father is such a brilliant idea, and it’s no better encapsulated than Son of Superman, the collection of the first DC Rebirth Superman stories.  The creative team across these seven issues truly understood the assignment, giving fans a Superman who is both meaningful but also heartfelt. Superman as a dad just makes sense, and it’s a delight to finally see that potential realized. 

7. Superman For All Seasons

Superman For All Seasons #1 cover art
Superman For All Seasons focuses on the mythology of Superman and humanity of Clark Kent through the eyes of those closest to him.

In our piece on the best Batman stories, I discussed Batman: The Long Halloween, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s character-driven mystery story following The Dark Knight in his second year of crime-fighting. Sale and Loeb’s follow-up to this was a stunning tale about the Man of Steel and his struggle with identity. 

Uniquely, Superman For All Seasons isn’t really about Superman, though. It’s about the transformation of Clark Kent and just how much of him remains in the eyes of those closest to him. The story isn’t told from his point-of-view but rather from that of Pa Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, and Lana Lang, with each issue focused on what Superman and Clark respectively mean to their lives. 

It’s far too often that a story mythologizes Superman as a larger-than-life figure. For All Seasons instead approaches the burden of blending both identities while not losing what makes him special. The story has a powerful emotional heartbeat, and Sale’s already impressive art gets some truly stunning coloring by Danish artist Bjarne Hansen, making For All Seasons a timeless, nostalgic tale of Superman’s origin. 

6. Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?

Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow Superman #423 cover art

Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomrorow? is in an interesting place in DC history. It’s not a separate story but rather a two-part adventure published in Superman #423 and Action Comics #583.

Released in the interim between Crisis on Infinite Earths and the rebooted The Man of Steel, the story is essentially the last hurrah of the pre-Crisis Superman. Written by Alan Moore and illustrated by legendary Superman artist Curt Swan, the story follows the Man of Steel’s supposed last days, as his closest allies are threatened when his identity is publicly exposed.

Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? has some incredibly rough moments. The death of Krypto is easily one of the most haunting in comics and one that will stick with you. But the ending, which has a twist to be remembered, still gives the story something of a hopeful tone. This was considered the definitive Superman story for a long while, and for good reason.

5. The Death of Superman

Death of Superman
The Death of Superman remains the biggest Superman story ever told.

I don’t have to tell you the sheer importance of The Death of Superman. It’s the book that kickstarted (and, arguably, ruined) the modern notion of the event comic.

The story itself started as something of a beautiful accident. They just needed a way to delay Lois and Clark’s wedding so it could have synergy with the then-airing Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

The stopgap solution? Just kill Superman. It’s a sensational story, but the care and attention that went into killing the biggest comic book icon ever is something remarkable, and fans the world over continue to love and cherish the knock-down, drag-out fight between Superman and Doomsday, even to this day.

4. Batman/Superman: World’s Finest

On paper, Batman/Superman: World’s Finest shouldn’t be as good as it is. There have been multiple books teaming up the two, including the iconic Superman/Batman run from 2005. 

World’s Finest sets itself apart by becoming a period piece. While its original arc was largely a set-up for the Lazarus Planet event, the book has made its mark as an update of Silver Age-era Batman and Superman stories, following the heroes during an admittedly more innocent time in their lives. 

Superman: Birthright and Kingdom Come writer Mark Waid returns to the characters for this one, while Dan Mora does some of the best art in a comic book today, period. The result is a book that is more fun than anyone could have guessed. And while it does focus on the titular World’s Finest, the book features appearances from all sorts of DC characters, like Robin, Supergirl, Metamorpho, and even the Doom Patrol. Batman/Superman: World’s Finest is a perfect introduction not just to Batman and Superman but to the wider DC Universe. 

3. Kingdom Come

Kingdom Come cover art
The heroes of DC’s past reckon with its violent future as Armageddon looms in Kingdom Come.

Kingdom Come has long been a DC Comics mainstay, featured in stories ranging from modern comics in World’s Finest to the CW in the Arrrowverse’s Crisis on Infinite Earths adaptation. It’s in some manner inspiring James Gunn’s Superman, too, if only in its logo.

But Kingdom Come is arguably a turning point for comics. Superheroes of the ’90s were a gritty affair, defined by violence and blood and being as edgy as possible. Kingdom Come forces that mentality to reckon itself against none other than Superman, as it asks if the Man of Steel’s methods are really that outdated.

In a tale modeled after the book of Revelations, Mark Waid and Alex Ross craft a masterful story with gorgeous painted art and some of the best character work in comics. All these years later, Kingdom Come is as important as ever, an enduring tale about the nature of superheroes and the cost of the hope they must inspire.

2. For The Man Who Has Everything

Superman Annual #11
Sueprman is faced with a horrifying, too-perfect world in the all-time classic For The Man Who Has Everything.

Kal-El wakes up one morning on Krypton. He’s happily married to Lyla Lerrol, and they have a rambunctious family of children. It’s not a perfect world, though. His father, Jor-El, is the shame of Krypton, his claims of the planet’s destruction proving to be little more than a scientist’s misguided fearmongering. But to Kal-El’s fear, a disillusioned Jor-El is becoming more dangerous than ever.

It’s all a lie, obviously. Superman is in the thrall of the mysterious Black Mercy, a flower that gives its hosts a hallucinogenic perfect world as it feeds off their bodies. In the real world, Mongul is posed to finally kill Superman, while Batman, Wonder Woman, and Robin fight to free their friend before it’s too late.

Originally published in Superman Annual #11, For The Man Who Has Everything is a gut punch of a story by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, the team that made Watchmen. Its a rare example of a Superman pushed to his brink, and is considered essential reading for Superman fans. The story has been adapted multiple times, most notably for an episode of Justice League Unlimited, which has the distinction of being one of the few adaptations Alan Moore gave his blessing to.

1. All-Star Superman

All-Star Superman #1
All-Star Superman presents a Superman who is facing death with compassion and resolve.

DC’s All-Star line probably would have become a distant memory today if it weren’t for All-Star Superman. Against all odds, the line produced hands-down the best Superman story to date. 

What would you do if you knew you were going to die? Superman, having been tricked by Lex Luthor into absorbing too much solar power, becomes stronger than ever but is faced with the reality that his cells can’t handle the power. He’s dying and sets about using his remaining year of life to finish every seemingly impossible task he’s faced and leave behind a better universe for everyone. 

All-Star Superman is Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s magnum opus, a timeless Superman tale about the Man of Steel facing death with stoicism and bravery. This is, perhaps, the peak story of a compassionate Superman doing incredible feats and being just a big damn hero. All-Star Superman is revered as one of the best Superman stories of all time, and for good reason. 

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