The Superman Chronicles, Volume 1, by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster – Seeing the earliest Superman stories is interesting, especially in light of how much Superman has changed over the years.
In his first appearance, he’s described as being able to “leap 1/8 of a mile; hurdle a twenty-story building” and “nothing less than a bursting shell could penetrate his skin.” Nowadays, it would take much more than a shell to take the guy down. The title “Man of Steel” is basically a throwback, as he’s obviously much stronger than mere steel. He didn’t start flying until the makers of the Fleischer cartoons decided that was easier to animate. He also started out as a champion of the oppressed, pretty much always using his powers to help those who cannot help themselves. The morality to some of his methods can be questionable, however. He demolishes slums so nicer homes can be built, traps the owner of a mine inside it, scares the piss out of reckless drivers, and doesn’t even seem to feel bad when he accidentally drops a taxicab racketeer to his death. It’s also noteworthy how cold Lois Lane is to Clark Kent in these stories, always trying to blow him off and once even getting him fired by giving him a false lead. Then again, Clark IS always scooping her due to his supernatural advantages, and I can see his coward act getting annoying.
Superman: A Celebration of 75 Years – This 2013 volume collects some of the most significant tales from throughout the Man of Steel’s long career, starting at the beginning at running through the introduction of Brainiac, his first meeting with Batman, and a recollection of when he dated a mermaid.
An out-of-continuity story has Lex Luthor killing Superman, utilizing an elaborate plot that includes developing a cure for cancer.
Lex isn’t someone who does things the easy way, is he? There’s also Superman dying for real in 1993, which I remember being a big deal at the time, even though I doubt anyone thought he was gone for good. A favorite of mine was “For the Man Who Has Everything,” written by Alan Moore in 1985, in which the evil alien Mongul traps Superman with a plant that shows him his greatest desire, that Krypton never exploded and he stayed there to raise a family. Not everything in this fantasy is good, however, as his father Jor-El is in disgrace after his predictions of doom failed to come true, and he’s started supporting a radical political group. Batman also wears the plant for a little while, and imagines a life in which his parents hadn’t been murdered. We also get this bad-ass moment from Wonder Woman:
Yeah, don’t patronize her. I’ve seen some people who are better versed in Superman lore criticize some of the choices made for the book, but I liked it overall. Most of what I’ve heard about the most recent DC comics hasn’t been great, but I’m quite interested in some of these classic tales.