The 18 Best Superman Graphic Novels: The Definitive List

Superman is one of the best superheroes, and that’s why he has appeared in so many comics since his debut in 1938. But not all Superman comics are created equal. There are some storylines you should read immediately if you want to be a true aficionado of this hero’s adventures!

In this blog post, we will go over the best Superman comics throughout the years – from best storyline to best graphic novels – talk about why each is important, and provide links to buy them online if you are interested.

We’ve already covered all of the Batman comics, so now let’s dive into Superman.

1. Kingdom Come

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This 1996 graphic novel is widely considered one of the best Superman stories ever written. It was written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Alex Ross, who won a prestigious Eisner Award for his work on the book. The story is set in a future where Superman has retired from heroics, and the world is plunged into chaos. A new generation of heroes rises up led by Magog, and an all-out war between the old guard (led by Superman) and the new threatens to destroy Earth.

Kingdom Come is not only a good Superman comic, but it is one of the better storylines that DC Comics has ever produced. It takes place in an alternate future, and is therefore able to speculate a bit about how these characters would react in certain situations.

Plus, the artwork by Alex Ross is hyper realistic, and is some of the best artwork you will see in any comic book. In fact, it’s so good, that you might not even think of it as a traditional comic book.

Bottom line, you should definitely pick this one up.

2. Superman For All Seasons

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Superman for All Seasons is a graphic novel by writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale, originally published in 1998. It tells the story of Clark Kent’s early years in Metropolis, and his relationships with Lois Lane, Lana Lang, and Lex Luthor. The title refers to the four seasons of the year, which each representing a different stage in Clark’s life.

This comic is beautiful, not because of any stylized action or major heroics, but because it humanizes Superman in a way that we don’t see in most of the comics. Each short story is a love story of various different types, ranging from romantic love to fatherly love.

If you’re looking for a good change of pace, this may be a good comic for you.

3. Superman: Exile

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Superman: Exile is a classic comic that deals with a darker time in Clark Kent’s life. After a personal failure, Superman decides to exile himself from Earth and leave it forever. While he does, however, he learns of a new threat and spends some time on the gladiator planet known as Warworld, battling the alien ringleader known as Mongul.

This comic introduced some of the classic villains for Superman, and really deepened the lore of Krypton in the Superman mythos in general. It’s a great Superman story set shortly after the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event.

4. Superman: Secret Identity

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This is a story that came out in 2004, and was developed by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen.

This graphic novel is a series of stories that show Superman grappling with the idea of having a secret identity, and the repercussions of this on those that he loves. It deals with a lot of big questions that someone like Superman would, in reality, have to face.

Like Superman For All Seasons, it’s a great Superman comic book for digging deeper into his psyche, and learning what truly makes Superman a super man.

5. The Death and Return of Superman

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At the time this comic was made, it was one of the biggest events in all of comic book history. It even made the national news.

The Death and Return of Superman became one of the pivotal events in Superman’s history. As the name suggests, it features Superman’s death and resurrection. It also introduced us to the villain Doomsday, who would go on to be one of Superman’s greatest foes.

This comic would inspire countless adaptations in the future, including a videogame, an animated movie, and even elements of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, when Superman, played by Henry Cavill, would face a similar end at the hand of Doomsday.

6. All-Star Superman

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But back to the alternate histories. All-Star Superman is a comic by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly that imagines what Superman would do if it was his last year on earth.

The story goes all over the place, but is one of the most touching depictions of the Man of Steel. It digs deep into what makes him truly a good person, and why he does what he does.

All in all, one of my top recommendations on this list.

7. Red Son

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While there are many items on this list that fall into alternate reality territory, none are quite so important as Red Son.

Red Son is an alternate reality where, instead of landing in the United States of America, Superman’s pod lands in Russia.

The comet does a good job of portraying Superman as a Russian citizen, while still being true to the character and not changing him too much from what we know. It also includes alternate versions of other beloved characters, such as Batman.

If you’re looking for something a little different, I recommend checking out this story from Mark Miller, Dave Johnson, Andrew Robinson, Walden Wong, and Kilian Plunkett.

8. Man of Steel (1986)

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In 1985, the character of Superman was rebooted, and his origin story rewritten. What followed from there was one of the better comic book runs of the character. All that started in 1986 with the ongoing series, Man of Steel.

This was the canonical version of Superman’s origin story going forward, and while there have been many others origin stories, some of which are better, it still remains the one that we are most familiar with.

9. What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way

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Superman is known for the phrase, “truth, justice, and the American way.” What this graphic novel did was deconstruct that idea, and asked the question: why do we need a person like Superman in the first place?

This comic sees him go head-to-head with a superhero team called the Elite. This team will go to any lengths to see the job done, even if it’s extremely violent. They see themselves as superior to Superman because his morals have limits.

It was written by Joe Kelly and published in Action Comics no. 775, and has since become a classic, going so far as to be adapted into an animated film.

10. Brainiac

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One of the most iconic villains in Superman’s pantheon, is the cybernetic creature known as Brainiac. That villain’s origin story is explained in this comic, which tells of the villain’s historic war with Krypton, a war that ultimately led to its demise, and now the villain has its eyes set on Earth as its new target.

Brainiac is one of the most powerful villains that Superman ever has to face, and one of the hardest to kill due to his cybernetic components.

Overall, this is a great introduction to a classic villain.

11. Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?

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This is a classic story that takes place in the final days of Superman. It’s best known for being Alan Moore’s swan song with DC Comics, and it really drives home what makes these characters so special to us all.

It tells the tale of how things ended up when Clark Kent finally retired from being Superman, but not before going out on one last adventure where he faces down his greatest foes once more. The story also features an elderly Lois Lane playing an integral role throughout which adds another layer to this already incredible piece of work.

If you’re looking for something bittersweet, this will definitely be your best bet at checking it out!

12. For the Man Who Has Everything

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Note: This story is included in the collection with Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?

This story was written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, and it originally appeared in Superman Annual no. 11 back in 1985.

The basic premise is that Superman has been taken captive by a villain called Mongul, who has attached an alien plant to him that gives him the perfect life. He’s living on his dream planet, with everything he could ever want, but there’s one catch: he can’t leave.

Wonder Woman and Batman journey to this planet to free Superman, but they soon find out that things are not as they seem.

It’s a great story with some really amazing artwork to boot!

13. Superman: Birthright

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This 12-issue series was written by Mark Waid and drawn by Leinil Francis Yu, and it tells the story of Superman’s origin in a way that is more faithful to the character’s roots.

It features a young Clark Kent who is still trying to find his place in the world, and he must come to terms with his powers and what it means to be The Man of Steel.

The artwork is beautiful, and really helps capture the feeling of being in Smallville or Metropolis. If you’re looking for an introduction to Superman that isn’t tied down by too many continuity issues, then this would be a great series for you!

14. Superman #701

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This is a recent story, written by J. Michael Straczynski and illustrated by Shane Davis. It was originally published in 2010.

The story has Superman coming back to earth after spending some time in space, only to find that things have changed drastically in his absence. The world is now under the rule of Lex Luthor, who has successfully taken over as President of the United States.

Superman must find a way to take down Luthor and restore order to the world, but it won’t be easy with all the forces working against him.

It’s an exciting story with plenty of action and drama!

15. Action Comics: New 52

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This is a 12-issue series that was published as part of DC’s New 52 initiative. It was written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Rags Morales.

The story follows Clark Kent as he comes to grips with his new role as Superman, and tries to find his place in the world. Along the way, he must battle all sorts of enemies both old and new.

The best part about this series is that it does a great job of showing off Superman’s powers, and really gives the character an edge for once!

16. Superman Smashes the Klan

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This is a classic story that is a retelling of an old radio serial from the classic Superman radio series. The tale told in the original radio serial ended up being super influential in exposing the violence of the Ku Klux Klan, and directly causing a drop in membership for that organization.

This story takes that original serial and modernizes it in a way that is extremely important for our modern-day. It’s a great story that is sure to get your heart racing, and it’s a perfect example of the kind of heroism that Superman represents.

17. Superman: Up in the Sky

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This is a 12-issue series that was written by Tom King and illustrated by Andy Kubert. It was published in 2019.

The story follows Superman as he tries to solve the mystery of a strange object that has appeared in the sky, and which seems to be draining the sun’s energy.

As he investigates, Superman discovers that the object is actually a spaceship, and it’s home to an alien race that is planning on taking over Earth.

It’s a great story with some really amazing artwork, and it provides a perfect opportunity for Superman to show off his powers!

18. Lex Luthor: Man of Steel

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Lastly, we have a story that was written by Brian Azzarello and illustrated by Lee Bermejo. It’s a graphic novel originally published in 2010, and it tells the tale of what Lex Luthor does with his life after Superman first appears on the scene.

It really explores the psychology of Lex Luthor, and provides some interesting insights into his motivations. It’s a great read for anyone who wants to know more about one of Superman’s most iconic villains.

Which Comic is Your Favorite?

This has been our list of favorite comics featuring Superman, the Man of Steel. But which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

And be sure to let us know if there are any that you would add to the list. We’re always open to new ideas.


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