For New Readers
In the 1987 reboot of DC, John Byrne was chosen to reinvent Superman. Here you will witness the events of Superman's origin updated for modern readers. You will see the planet Krypton and witness some of Superman's classic villains, like Lex Luthor and Bizarro.
The latest origin of Superman, and the perfect place to start in the New 52. The story has elements of the Golden Age Superman, and shows the first days of Clark Kent as his alter ego. Still not at his full potential, Clark has to fight the army, an alien menace, and the organized crime in Metropolis. Written by Grant Morrison, and illustrated by Rags Morales.
A retelling of the origin story, a maxi-series that sought to modernize the character, while installing new elements. It's a fan-favorite book by Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu.
A part of the Earth One series that allows the writers to explore the characters from a different angle. This title is more than a simple origin, as the writer explores and defines the place of Clark Kent in the world. Written by J. Michael Straczynski and penciled by Shane Davis.
A story about the early years of Clark Kent as Superman, seen through the eyes of those closest to him, on both sides of his life. Written by by Jeph Loeb and penciled Tim Sale.
Have you ever thought how Superman would have turned up if he was raised in Stalin's Soviet Union? This title is part of the Elseworlds imprint and answers that previous question. It mixes alternate versions of DC superheroes with alternate-reality versions of real political figures, such as Joseph Stalin and John F. Kennedy. Written by Mark Millar and penciled by Dave Johnson.
A very unusual story. A boy named Clark Kent lives in a world where superheroes exist only in comics (similarly to ours), and gains Superman's super power. The art is fantastic and the story really wins the reader's interest and heart. Written by Kurt Busiek and penciled by Stuart Immonen.
The last retelling of Superman's origin before the New 52 relaunch. The writing draws inspiration from the Silver Age of comics. Written by Geoff Johns and penciled by Gary Frank.
All-Star Superman is a beautifully-written tribute to the Superman of the Silver Age. It's a refreshingly modern take on the character, told with creativity, and usually considered the best Superman story. Written by Grant Morrison and penciled by Frank Quitely.
Although not completely a Superman story, defined the character in the 90s. Set in a future where the heroes of the old times have retired and the ones who took over lacked every moral and responsibility, a major disaster happens that makes Superman decide to rein in the new generation of heroes in the hopes that they will reform and adopt his generation's ideals of what being a superhero is all about. Kingdom Come is the ray of light in the dark and moody comics of the 90s. Written by Mark Waid and penciled by Alex Ross.
Superman teams up with his childhood friends from the future to stop a war that has been raging on the entire galaxy. The story explores racism and divides the alien and human part of Superman. Written by Geoff Johns and penciled by Gary Frank.
The breath-taking arc that took place in Action Comics #866-870. The first encounter between Superman and the real Brainiac is packed with a lot of action and changes in the life of Clark Kent. Written by Geoff Johns and penciled by Gary Frank.
This is a brilliant one-shot from the mid-80s. It tells the story of Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman visiting Kal-El in the Fortress of Solitude for his birthday, only to find that an apparent "gift" of a parasitic flower has burrowed into his brain, shutting him off into a fantasy world of pure happiness. Written by Alan Moore and penciled by Dave Gibbons.
Over a year has passed since Clark Kent lost his powers, and now he lives a normal life, having left the Superman persona behind him. Still fighting for the weak, Clark attacks Intergang through his articles at the Daily Planet, but when Intergang fights back and Lex Luthor returns, the world needs a Superman again. This story is part of the One Year Later event. Written by Geoff Johns and Kurt Busiek, penciled by Pete Woods.
Imagine that, somehow, the adventures of Superman were drawing to a close, never to begin again. This is that final tale: one of the most dramatic Superman stories ever, in which the Man of Steel makes his last stand among a huge cast of heroes and villains. This story marked the end of the Bronze Age of comics. Written by Allan Moore, and penciled by Curt Swan.
"Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us. And on my soul, I swear... until my dream of a world where dignity, honor, and justice becomes the reality we all share -- I'll never stop fighting." From just that line, you can understand the awesomeness of this story. A new team of superheroes emerges, ready to take lethal actions. As the popularity of the team increases, Superman wonders if the world has outdated him. Written by Joe Kelly and Doug Mahnke, and illustrated by Lee Bermejo.
Nothing was the same after this story. Doomsday, a monster of unknown origin, rises from the depths of Earth to destroy everything in his path. The killing machine must be stopped, and only Superman has a fighting chance against him. Written by seven writers and illustrated by nine pencillers.
It's Superman #247 - Must there be a Superman? / When on Earth..., written large! The general concept deals with Superman and other alien superheroes having an effect on the Earth's recurring cycles of peaking and destructing society (such as Rome and Camelot). Written by Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco, and penciled by Jesus Merino.
A collection of the most memorable Superman stories of the Golden Age.
Hitman "Of Thee I Sing"
Feeling guilty about being able to save a astronaut, Superman has a by-heart dialogue with Tommy Monaghan. Written by Garth Ennis, and penciled by John McCrea.
Originally published in 1971, this story turned Superman's status quo on its head by featuring a story in which all Kryptonite was destroyed. However, that leaves the Man of Steel anything but invulnerable, as his powers slowly begin to fade and a doppelganger Superman arrives on Earth with strange powers of its own. Written by Curt Swan and Dennis O'Neil, and penciled by Murphy Anderson.
One of the best illustrated Superman stories. Superman is off Earth for some time, and when he comes back, he finds that millions of humans have disappeared, including Lois Lane. For Tomorrow has a dark tone, and some may not find Superman as his usual self, but the story delivers great dialogues and the plot is really well thought-out. Written by Brian Azzarello, and illustrated by Jim Lee!
Metropolis tries to recover from a series of catastrophic events, and their symbol of hope Superman is missing. Not even his wife Lois Lane knows where he is. Back on Krypton, Kal-El has forgotten everything about his past on Earth. As he slowly regains his powers, Kal-El is brought to the middle of a horrific conspiracy. Written by Joe Kelly, Talent Caldwell, and the late Michael Turner.
A classic story that examines the continuing question of what Superman's place is in the world, and whether he does more harm than good. This is the story that first brought this popular aspect of Superman. Does Superman hold back humanity by saving them all the time? Written by the mighty pens of Curt Swan and Elliot S. Maggin.
What happens to the world when Joker gains absolute power? Superman becomes a villain and has to solve why the world has gone insane! Written by Jeph Loeb, Joe Kelly, and Ed McGuinness.
A Kryptonite asteroid is headed for Earth, and President Lex Luthor declares Superman and Batman enemies of the state, putting a $1 billion bounty on their heads. Written by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness.
The second arc of the Superman/Batman series. The Kryptonite asteroid is revealed to hold a pod that contains Superman's cousin, Kara Zor-El. The arrival of Kara catches the attention of the Amazons, Apokolips, and the whole superhero community. Written by Jeph Loeb, and penciled by Michael Turner.
For more stories you can look at ComicVine's Top 100 Superman Universe Stories.