By: Mark Cormier
While we wait for the Man of Steel’s arrival in theaters on June 14, 2013, let’s continue our look at the Top 25 Superman Graphic Novels from Mark Cormier’s point of view. Here are books #14-10:
14) SUPERMAN: FOR TOMORROW
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Jim Lee
“My sin? Was to save the world.”
Superman is haunted by his failure to prevent the Vanishing, an event that caused the mysterious disappearance of over one million people throughout the world, including his wife Lois Lane. During his investigations, he confides in a terminally ill priest named Leone, ruminating on his place in the world and his role as humanity’s protector.
Superman eventually discovers that the people who were lost in the Vanishing were actually transported to Metropia, a paradise world located in the Phantom Zone. Superman had created Metropia as a refuge for humanity in case Earth would ever suffer the same tragic fate as Krypton. This paradise is ultimately threatened by outside forces in the Phantom Zone, who resent the presence of Heaven in Hell.
When it comes to characterising Superman, there are several various aspects to explore. Normally, however, it boils down to two options: you either focus on the “Super”, or you focus on the “Man”. In the case of For Tomorrow, Brian Azzarello focuses on the “Super”. He does this by having Superman narrate his troubles and doubts to Father Leone. The expositions are that he is regarded as a god-like figure, that he cannot be everywhere at once, that he can be regarded as an outsider even among his own peers.
13) SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Ed McGuiness
“It is a remarkable dichotomy. In many ways, Clark is the most human of us all. Then he shoots fire from the skies and it is difficult not to think of him as a god. And how fortunate we all are that it does not occur to him.”
A giant Kryptonite meteor is bound for Earth. Lex Luthor, as President of the United States of America, claims Superman responsible and declares him an enemy of the state issuing a one-million dollar bounty for his capture dead or alive. Pursued by super-heroes and super-villains alike, Superman must team up with Batman in order to clear his name, expose Lex Luthor’s political corruption, and save the Earth from Armageddon.
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is an action-packed thrill-ride that has you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. It stars Superman and Batman, arguably the two greatest super-heroes in the DC Universe, teaming up against Superman’s arch-nemesis Lex Luthor, who by this point is at the very top of his game. It’s also bursting at the seams with guest appearances, whether it’s super-villains clamoring for the bounty on Superman’s head, super-heroes coerced into bringing Superman to justice, or even the Super and Batman families joining together on a covert mission to infiltrate the White House.
What really shines through is Jeph Loeb’s style of writing, who has a penchant for narrating through the protagonist’s perspective. In Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, we are offered the simultaneous inner-monologue of both Superman and Batman, showing how both characters view each situation differently and yet still come to the same conclusion.
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies was adapted into a direct-to-video animated film by Warner Premiere and Warner Bros. Animation in 2009.
12) SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGIN
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
“I’m going to keep doing it, Pa! I’m going to help people!”
You may have noticed that several different versions of Superman’s origin story appear on this list. First Superman: The Man of Steel, then Superman: Birthright, and now Superman: Secret Origin. One way of looking at this occurrence is that Superman is a hard character to write, that writers struggle to give him a proper beginning. Another way of looking at it, however, is that a great story can be interpreted several different ways, reinvented whenever new insights into the character are discovered. If anything, Superman’s origin is a story we love so much, we enjoy reading about it over and over again.
Secret Origin may not be quite as innovative as The Man of Steel or as ambitious as Birthright, but it is by far the most enjoyable. It is a near-perfect amalgamation of Superman’s Silver Age and Modern Age incarnations, even going so far as to reintroducing legendary tropes such as being Superboy as a teenager, adventuring with the Legion of Super-Heroes, and even Krypto the Super-Dog.
It also implements various elements from Superman’s vast 75-year history, including Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Superman: The Animated Series, and Smallville. Artist Gary Frank especially incorporates Richard Donner’s Superman films; any astute observer will easily notice Superman’s uncanny resemblance to Christopher Reeve, one of the most memorable actors ever to portray the Man of Steel.
11) SUPERMAN: LAST SON
Writers: Geoff Johns & Richard Donner
Artist: Adam Kubert
“A young boy fell from the sky, You took him home. You forged documents, You raised him as your own. Tell me how you did it.”
A rocket ship lands in Metropolis, containing what appears to be a Kryptonian boy, who like Superman has developed powers far beyond those of mortal men. Clark Kent and Lois Lane decide to adopt the child as their son, naming him Christopher Kent (an affectionate tip-of-the-hat to the late Christopher Reeve.)
It eventually becomes apparent that Chris is actually the son of General Zod, who has escaped from the Phantom Zone with the intent to conquer Earth. Superman is forced to join forces with Lex Luthor and his Superman Revenge Squad (which includes Bizarro, the Parasite and Metallo) to take on General Zod and his Phantom Zone minions in an all-out battle for Metropolis.
Written by Geoff Johns in collaboration with Richard Donner, the legendary director behind the first two Superman movies, Superman: Last Son stands out as the quintessential General Zod storyline. Essentially a love song to Superman II, Last Son reintroduced Zod into the DC Universe, as well as several other elements of Superman’s mythology including the Phantom Zone, Zod’s more traditional cohorts Ursa and Non, and the Daxamite Mon-El. It also fits Superman in the role of a father that is far more believable and compelling than the misguided attempt shown in the 2006 film Superman Returns.
10) SUPERMAN/BATMAN: SUPERGIRL
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Michael Turner
“This vessel carries my daughter, Kara Zor-El from the now dead planet Krypton. Treat her as you would your own child for you will see the treasure she will be for your world.”
–Inscription on Kara Zor-El’s Ship
A sequel to number 12’s entry Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, the kryptonite asteroid is revealed to have carried a pod containing Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El. Superman is overjoyed at finding a kindred spirit, a survivor of Krypton’s destruction other than himself, and a family member no less. Batman finds her arrival suspicious and believes her to be dangerous.
Others are also interested in the arrival of another surviving Kryptonian. From Themyscira, Wonder Woman believes that Kara should be trained in the Amazon ways in order to hone her powers. From Apokolips, Darkseid wishes to groom her as the leader of his bodyguard elite, the dreaded Female Furies.
Superman/Batman: Supergirl reintroduces Kara Zor-El, the one true Supergirl from Krypton, back into the DC Universe. Kara is put through a good old-fashioned Hero’s Journey. She’s a prodigal super-hero. She’s effectively apprenticed to Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman (honestly, you couldn’t ask for better teachers.) She faces temptation and adversity in the form of Darkseid, a proverbial devil who tries to lure her towards a darker path. Her journey takes her across the DC Universe, from Gotham City to the Batcave, from the Fortress of Solitude to Metropolis, from Paradise Island to Apokolips (i.e. Hell) and back again.
Superman/Batman: Supergirl was adapted into a direct-to-video animated film by Warner Premiere and Warner Bros. Animation in 2010, entitled Superman/Batman: Apocalypse. It is also a sequel to 2009’s animated film Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.