Top Ten Superman Trade Paperbacks


DC's top essential trade paperbacks list got us thinking, and so begins a semi-regular, once-in-a-while series where Collected Editions recommends the top trade paperbacks for a given character. Our goal will be to shirk the obvious suggestions when possible (not Batman: Year One, for instance), while at the same time reflecting Collected Edition's love of mainstream, in-continuity, collects-the-monthly-issues trades. Without further ado, here's Collected Editions Top Ten Superman Trade Paperbacks list:

* Superman: Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite
A classic modern Superman storyline, and one of my favorites. I don't spoil anything by revealing that this is the trade where Clark Kent proposes to Lois Lane; additionally, the post-Crisis uber-businessman Lex Luthor is at his evil best here, as is the main villain behind all the trouble.

* Superman: Endgame
The early 2000s Superman team, including Jeph Loeb and Joe Kelly, started to falter toward the end of their run, but this first major storyline was when they were at their absolute best. On New Year's Eve 2000, a Brainiac Y2K virus takes over Metropolis. Plenty of great action, and a startling sacrifice by Luthor ends the trade well.

* Superman: They Saved Luthor's Brain
Not to weigh this list too heavily toward late 1980s-early 1990s Superman stories, but this trade collects a variety of Superman/Lex Luthor battles, leading up to Luthor's apparent death and the rise of his mysterious son. These are solid Superman/Luthor stories, at times delightfully weird, and with plenty of intrigue and surprises along the way.

* The Death of Superman trilogy
The death and return of Superman are on just about everyone's list by now, but I think they're worth it. The stories benefit greatly from the fact that each is better than the last; whereas The Death of Superman is mostly all-out fighting, World Without a Superman has plenty of heart and The Return of Superman is a great mystery story.

* Superman: Birthright
Say what you want about the confusing multiple origins of Superman, Birthright remains an interesting, imminently readable Superman tale. Writer Mark Waid updates Superman's origins for the twenty-first century, and the choices he makes--from Clark's vegetarianism to his ability to see the aura of living things--are well worth pondering.

* Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?
Alan Moore's tale of the twilight days of the pre-Crisis Superman remains a classic. Everyone who's anyone, hero or villain-wise, appears in this story, with it's sad but hopeful ending.

* Superman/Batman: World's Finest
This remains one of the best Superman/Batman team-ups out there, taking a Jetsons Meet the Flintstones approach where the various supporting characters (Lois and Alfred, Joker and Lex Luthor, along with Superman and Batman) trade cities and team up. Steve Rude's art gives this modern story a classic feel.

* Superman: Panic in the Sky
This Superman space-opera guest stars nearly every DC Universe hero from the time. The trade ties together a bunch of dangling plotlines from the early-1990s, but should be accessible to new readers. Not only is there a lot of great action and alien warfare, but this story served as something of a post-Crisis transition from Superman the "new" hero to leader of the JLA. Highly recommended.

* Superman: Time and Time Again
A great time-travel tale set just after Clark reveals his secret identity to Lois Lane. Not only does Superman fight Nazis and dinosaurs, but he also meets three different eras of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The trade includes a couple of issues where Superman works with Waverider and the Linear Men, tying in to 52 and what have you.

* Superman: Speeding Bullets
This is a fun Elseworlds tale that I was recently reminded of. Baby Kal-El crash lands in Gotham City and is named Bruce by his adoptive parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne. When the Waynes are murdered, Bruce vows to avenge them with the help of his super-powers, taking on the persona of a bat ... A nice variation on the Superman and Batman mythos, with a good surprise at the end.

* What's your favorite Superman trade paperback?

Comments ( 22 )

  1. For a Silver Age fan, I think "Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" has to be the favorite. I know it's mine.

    Jeff Wetherington
    The Comic Guide at Athena Guides

  2. I'd have included Up, Up and Away, Red Son, Secret Identity and... For Tomorrow. There, I said it.

  3. Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow is absolutely perfect. Just amazing on nearly ever count.

    And the first Superman/Batman ranks up there, too - as does Absolute Power.

    My all-time favorite, though, doesn't fit your categories of being at all in continuity...Superman - Secret Identity. Absolutely beautiful story, wonderful artwork. It's a cherished part of my collection.

  4. You know, I haven't read Secret Identity, though I'm just impressed enough with Busiek's Superman to think that I probably should.

    I didn't get Red Son. There, I said it. It was good, but I didn't feel it really distinguished itself from other Elseworlds tales ... Superman in the middle ages, Superman in the Cold War ... it just didn't distinguish itself to me. But I know a lot of people liked it.

    Superman/Batman: Public Enemies was a high contender, short of already being on DC's Essential 30 list. If you haven't read World's Finest (the Rude one, not the Kesel) it's highly worth it.

    Jeffrey, I tend to agree on For Tomorrow, but I know a lot of people didn't like it. What about it ranked so high for you?

  5. My top 10 Superman trades:
    1 - Exile.
    2 - What Ever Happened To?
    3 - Eradication.
    4 - Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite.
    5 - Time and Time Again.
    6 - Panic in the Sky.
    7 - Death of Superman.
    8 - World Without.
    9 - Return of.
    10 - Emperor Joker.

    1. Loved EMPEROR JOKER and period of Superman's books.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. My two favorite Superman stories are Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? and For All Seasons. For All Seasons is a beautiful book and written well to boot.

  8. For All Seasons was a high contender (I really like it, too); just didn't have enough indie cred for the kind of list I was trying to create. Exile is a really good one -- some great detailed Kryptonian history, plus Mongul -- but I've always thought it needed the Pocket Universe issues to really work. Eradication is another good one; to be honest, I think I just plain forgot about it.

    Feel free to comment again and tell us why you ranked those as you did.

  9. My reasoning behind some of those trades I listed -
    Eradication: because it introduced a major character who appeared in the last volume of the Death of & Return of trilogy.

  10. I thought Red Son tied together beuaitfully at the end, linking it from the Elseworlds to a possibility of being a hugely distant past forerunner to the current DC universe.

  11. I just discovered this page today, so I thought I might chime in with an agreeing to most of this list.

    Regarding your opinion of Red Son, I just to say: THANK YOU! I thought I was the only one who felt it was "just another Elseworld"!

    Though I might agree with Eradication, I felt they should have added the issues where the Eradicator had come back, as well. Those issues are not only hard to find, but I think better than the story collected here. Putting them both together would have been just fantastic.

    That said, I think there's a few things that should be on the list:

    1) Secret Identity: This is, by far, my favorite Superman story. And best of all, it's not even really a Superman story in the true continuity. Without even being "our" Clark Kent, it touches on everything that Superman is really about. Great stuff.

    2) Up, Up, and Away: Maybe slightly bogged down by One Year Later and a bit silly of an ending, I loved the early chapters with Clark fitting back into the world without his powers. Once again, Busiek at his best.

    3) Kingdom Come: Mark Waid even admits that this epic pretty much boils down to a Superman story. I have a hard time disagreeing.

    4) It's a Bird: Steven Seagle's brief run on Superman sucked, but it was worth it for this semi-biographical book about him. It talks about how he has trouble relating with Superman and in the process of trying to do so, he breaks down nearly every aspect of Superman and studies them in a manner like a literary study. Great stuff, if only for the breaks in the story where he looks at an aspect of Superman (truth, justice, an outsider, the colors, the symbol, the letter, etc)

    5) Birthright. Nuff said.
    6) Death/Funeral/Return of Superman. I got the TPB of Death for Christmas the year that Superman died. It hooked me back into comics.
    7) For All Seasons: So much heart in this story that I can't help but love it. Plus, come on. Tim Sale's art is worth the price of admission alone.
    8) Alan Moore in the DCU: It not only has Whatever Happened, but also the decent Swamp Thing story AND For the Man Who Has Everything.
    9) I can't remember the issues, but there was one year that DC did all of their annuals as Elseworlds. It brought us the Pirate Batman and other things. But there was this great Superman story that was in, I think, the Action Comics and Superboy annuals. Alien armada takes over Earth, the heroes leftover are rebels. I can't count the number of times I re-read that story.
    10) Emperor Joker: Nuff said.

    I'll definitely be checking back here on a regular basis now.


    I had a long rant about my problems with DC, particularly their handling of TPBs and HCs on my own blog. Feel free to check it out sometime. (

  12. Argh. I got so wrapped up in telling my favorite Superman stories that I forgot that the two Annual books aren't in any collected form, which is a DAMN crying shame.

    I'll just replace it with...hmm. The recently re-released Greatest Superman Stories TPB, if only for Action Comics #750 (I think that's the right number. With the Elite's first appearance?)


  13. AnonymousMay 06, 2009

    This sounds like a good list for a DC newbie like myself except for the fact that over half of the trades listed here don't seem to be in stock at Amazon anymore. Kind of makes it hard to get trades that are no longer published.

  14. All of these are available, if not from Amazon direct, then there's new copies from third party sellers. Some of these have new editions; I'll update the links.

    Glad you enjoyed the list; check out our Batman list, too!

  15. I realize that this book doesn't meet the qualifications for being on the list as it isn't in continuity (and it wasn't even finished when this list was being compiled) , but my personal favorite is All Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly. It beautifully acts as a summnation of all that Superman has been. Quietly's art doesn't hurt either. I am really looking foreward to the absolute edition coming out later this year.

  16. My 10:

  17. Are there any other Superman TPB that are as long as Our Worlds at War? It seems like all of the TPB's I find average around 150 pages. I know it's not all about length, but I really enjoy being able to immerse myself in a Superman story. Any info would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Our Worlds at War is a special case, being an "omnibus"-type edition, and nothing else Superman-centric necessarily comes to mind. There was recently a Superman: Last Son of Krypton collection that included the previously-released Superman: Last Son and Superman: Brainiac collections; I'm not sure how long it is (and there's some stuff in between those books that isn't included), but that's a longer book than "average."

      The Batman: Night of the Owls tie-in collection is pretty long, as so is the Green Lantern: Rise of the Third Army collection, which I read and liked, but you said Superman ... Superman ... the Final Crisis collection, is pretty sizable and that features Superman pretty heavily; there's going to be a new Superman/Batman collection that includes the first two trades of Jeph Loeb's Superman/Batman, so that will have some heft to it. I'll keep thinking about it for you.

    2. "Superman/Doomsday" is a pretty hefty trade, collecting the prestige format miniseries of the same name and a lot of other post-"Death of" appearances by Doomsday. Almost all by Jurgens, I believe.

  18. Cool list! I'll definitely have to get some of these for the holiday season. In the meantime, though, here's what tops my Super trades:

    - All-Star Superman (continuity or not, these twelve issues define who Superman is and demonstrate everything that's been great about his character and mythos for 75+ years)
    - Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow (the HC edition that collects "Whatever Happened...?" the Swamp Thing story and "For the Man...")
    - For All Seasons (the sheer emotions, man)
    - Birthright (Mark Waid writing an origin tale? Yes, please)
    - Up, Up, and Away! (some of Busiek's best)
    - Brainiac (the one by Johns and Frank)
    - Kyptonite (by the always great Darwyn Cooke)

  19. I loved both of Geoff Johns titles:
    I'm also a huge fan of Curt Swan's Superman work from the 1970s which sadly have not been collected.


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