By: Mark Cormier
Mark continues to countdown his list of the top 25 Superman graphic novels. Here are books #19-15:
19) SUPERMAN/DOOMSDAY: HUNTER/PREY
Writer/Artist: Dan Jurgens
“The legends … are true. You … are beyond death.”
Haunted by nightmares of the monster that killed him, Superman undertakes a perilous journey across the galaxy in order to determine the origins of Doomsday and put an end to his threat once and for all. His search takes him from Earth to Apokolips and beyond, trailing a path of destruction that confirms his worst fears: Doomsday has returned. And this time, there may be no stopping him.
The Death of Superman brought us the ultimate showdown of the century, pitting the Man of Steel against an unstoppable rampaging monster called Doomsday, who accomplished what no other super-villain could: kill Superman!! When Superman returned from the dead, however, there was no doubt among fans that Doomsday could similarly cheat death. A rematch was inevitable, and Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey delivered in spades.
Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey is the perfect follow-up to the Death and Return of Superman storyline. It’s an action-packed; it features an all-star cast including Darkseid and the Cyborg Superman; and it showcases the origins of Doomsday himself. Furthermore, it depicts a believably vulnerable Superman, whose private fear of Doomsday is most certainly justified. That he is able to face that fear and overcome it is just one of the many qualities that makes him Superman.
18) SUPERMAN AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES
In the 31st Century, the unified planets of the known galaxy are protected by the Legion of Super-Heroes, a coalition of super-powered humans and aliens who are inspired by the legend of Superman from their distant past. Using advanced time-travelling technology, they often visited Superman when he was a young boy. The Legion was more than happy to welcome the boy of steel into their ranks, and they frequently allowed him to participate in many of their adventures.
As an adult, Superman receives a distress call from the Legion. However, the future he returns to is no longer what he remembered from his childhood visits. The history of Superman’s legend has been distorted by the villainous Earth-Man and his Justice League of Earth, and his childhood friends in the Legion of Super-Heroes have been branded fugitives. Together, they must find a way to expose Earth-Man’s lies, clear the Legion’s name, and restore honor to Superman’s legacy.
In Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes, Geoff Johns doesn’t just reintroduce the Legion into Superman’s continuity; he makes them an integral part of his character development. Aside from the foreknowledge of the legacy he will one day leave behind, Clark got a chance to grow up with friends he could relate to, to be in a place where he could belong. Since this is an adventure where Superman reacquaints himself with friends he hasn’t seen in a very long time, you could regard it as Superman’s very own version of a high school reunion
17) SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL
Writer/Artist: John Byrne
“From now on, whenever there are people who need my very special kind of help, it won’t be a job for plain, ordinary Clark Kent … it’ll be a job for Superman.”
Superman: The Man of Steel was Superman’s official origin story from 1986 until 2003. It was one of the first reboots to come out of the aftermath of “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, reinventing Superman’s mythology from the ground up and establishing a new age for the last son of Krypton. Even after Superman’s origin would again be rebooted several times over, many of the concepts introduced in “Superman: The Man of Steel” still continue to stand the test of time.
The Man of Steel is a radical change over the silver age tradition, applying several alterations to Superman’s mythos. It established Superman as the sole survivor of Krypton, doing away with concepts such as Supergirl, the Phantom Zone, and the Bottled City of Kandor. It favored Clark Kent as the main persona over the Superman disguise, making the otherwise mild-mannered reporter more confident and relatable. It brought back Superman’s adoptive parents Jonathan and Martha Kent as vital members of his supporting cast.
Most significantly, however, it reinvented Lex Luthor from a mad scientist to an evil corporate executive of a multi-billion dollar industrial empire. Although he is the top dog in Metropolis, he made his way up there by unscrupulously knocking down everyone in his way. When Superman robs him of his spotlight, he uses his vast financial resources to destroy or discredit this new Man of Tomorrow.
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Stuart Immonen
“up there, I didn’t have any worries, any questions. Nothing affected me. At least — that’s what I thought.”
What if you were named Clark Kent? You live in a world where Superman and super-heroes in general are nothing more than fictional characters. So the fact that you share the same name as a well-known cultural icon often makes you the butt of jokes from your friends and family.
Now, what if one day you discovered that you actually had real-life super-powers, just like Superman? You can fly, run faster than a speeding bullet, and shrug off mortal danger. Would you do it? Would you have it in you to become a real-life Superman?
These are the kind of questions that Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen ask in “Superman: Secret Identity”, showing us what being Superman would be like in the real world. As the reader, we are put in the shoes of a young boy named Clark Kent, who happens to share the same name as Superman, much to his constant embarrassment.
However, as he grows up, he discovers that he has fantastic powers far beyond those of mortal men. The implications and responsibilities that come with them follow Clark throughout his life, as he grows up, graduates high school, falls in love, and even starts his own family.
15) SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Leinil Yu
“Mother … Father … I made it!”
Superman: Birthright was Superman’s official origin story from 2003 until 2006’s Infinite Crisis. Okay, so as far as track records for definitive origin stories go, that’s not all that impressive. Be that as it may, Birthright stands apart from all of the other origin stories in its ambition and its approach.
It explores the separation between the Superman and Clark Kent identities in further detail. In this incarnation, Waid emphasises more on Superman as the main persona, while Clark Kent is a carefully-crafted disguise made to draw attention away from the fact that he is really Superman. As a result, however, it also shows Clark struggling to make connections with people around him while using a disguise that designed to make him ignored.
More importantly, however, it explores Superman’s motivations. It shows what causes the Man of Tomorrow to don the red-and-blue tights, to fight for truth, justice and the American way. The thesis presented in Birthright is that Superman’s powers are part of his identity, and that the use of those powers are the ultimate expression of who he is. Therefore, the Superman persona is a means for him to use his powers in service to people, to connect with others.