Another entry based on a question I was asked in the last forum.

Here are who I consider to be the best three incarnations of Superman. In my eyes, only a podium is required for the truly greatest ones.


3. Donnerverse, as portrayed by the one and only, Christopher Reeve



Who else to start this Top 3 with than with the man who every artist at the time used as model when drawing Superman?

There are tons of iconic portrayals in the world of cinema, though I'd say Christopher did such a fantastic job that he's up there with the likes of Boris Karloff's portrayal of the Frankenstein Monster, because... Come on, does anyone else think of any other actors when it comes to real life Supermen? You don't need to, because Reeve was essentially that. He had the charm, the smile, the design, the build... You couldn't have possibly asked for a better live-action Superman at the time.

Though I wasn't a fan of the Smallville TV show from a while ago, the addition of Christopher Reeve was brilliant. For that alone I would like to believe it's part of the Donnerverse, that's how much I love this Superman.

Of course... You know why he's third here... Superman III and IV... They were not great, and Superman Returns was barely okay, so yeah. Though keep in mind even without those weak entries he would've still been placed third...


2. Fleischer Shorts



Ah, my childhood Superman, the first time I ever even heard of the name and character, all thanks to this marvelous series, which is also a staple in animation and comic book history in general. Watch this if you want the long version of it:



Assuming you watched the video, or even if you didn't, yes. The DCAU wouldn't have existed without this how. Superman's ability to fly, and therefore one of the most popular super powers period, flight, wouldn't be thought about without this cartoon's help. Countless other animated features have taken inspiration from this, and even beyond the realm of animation, Godzilla himself, one of the biggest icons in pop culture, may have taken some inspiration from an almost exact gigantic dinosaur that smashes around without a care in the world. John Williams' own Superman was also inspired by this Superman's respective intro theme.

Overall, the 1941 series established a good chunk of the mythos, and it's the best possible introduction to anyone who somehow doesn't know who Superman is.

The look and feel of the cartoon is great, and though the era it was made in influenced the last few shorts they made, Superman was still great in them.

I love this Superman's design.



The black insignia especially. I'm glad it made a return in Rebirth for a while, and I love every artist that goes back to the black colors, they help the others stand out way more.

It wasn't just the design that made me like this Superman as a kid, but how serious he was most of the time. Like his Golden Age counterpart but less agressive and talky, his powers did all the talking and that's something I miss, Superman keeping his mouth shut while he obliterates an opponent, it makes him all the more intimidating and badass. When he did speak, he mostly did it as Clark Kent, and he seemed like a very nice man who had a ton of fun hiding his secret from Lois and the world.

But yeah my only gripe is how the last few shorts or episodes aren't as good as the first few, it didn't make me care as much and things got a little too dark, visually speaking.


1. Post-Crisis (Bronze Age & Modern Age)



Whew... Gosh. Where do I even begin?!

Well, first off, this Superman clears up two things people say about Superman all the time that are WRONG.

1. He's not strictly american, he always defended the Earth as a whole and serves no specific country. And this isn't just from when he renounced his citizenship, you can see it right up there in the picture, and that's from the 70s or 80s, the very start of the Bronze Age.



He was raised a boy on Earth, and grew up to become a wonderful man with a pretty decent life, non superhero stuff aside of course. He learned how to become a better person than most. Not without flaws of course, but that's how he shows that he's a model to follow, by being human.

2. He's not a f***ing boy scout. Only a few certain incarnations (and I could count those few certain with my hand cut in half) depict him as some sort of boy scout that obeys and follows the government's every order. He doesn't do what he's told unless it's by those whose opinions he trusts, like say, his good buddy Batman, or any other Leaguer without any shady history. I swear if I see one more random guy call him boy scout I'm going to do what Superman did to Major Force when he pulled the same crap on him.









Yeah, I do hope we're clear on that, reader...

Like the video I posted for the Fleischer incarnation says, Superman is, at the core, nothing but a dude who does the right thing.

Of all the Supermen on this list, this one, by far, emphasizes the most the importance of showing Superman as a man more than an unbeatable superhero. This Superman goes through the most harsh problems and shows the most emotion because of them (as opposed to Golden Age and Silver Age Supes who are a bit more emotionless and nonchalant), all thanks to him being the Superman with the largest quantity of good writers. Good writers that could write a Superman while perfectly balancing the 'super' and the 'man'.

He was fair and righteous, but not overly so. He held his rage within most of the time, even in the harshest of situations. It helps the many fantastic artists he gets also do a good job with his many and very human expressions, my favourite being John Byrne, one of my all-time favourite comic book artists of his time, who's always been great at facial expressions (you won't be surprised to read that I plan on finishing off this post with his art ).


As for the rest...


Those I've never liked nor I'm ever going to like...

Superboy-Prime (Earth-Prime)



Do I even need to say anything?


Injusticeverse



Evil Superman? Uh... No thank you. Especially not when being THIS poorly written. I'm glad he got beaten up by a version of Superman that resembled and acted like his Post-Crisis self.


Red Son



Superman is russian... Cool, I guess? There's not much to say about him other than that, other than being a big jerk and kind of an idiot.


DCAU



And here's the biggest Superman jerk of them all. Countless instances of him being a douche for no good reason, though he's at the top of this list because Superman: The Animated Series had plenty of very well-written episodes (including one where they kind of pull off the evil Superman angle well, a shame it got wasted on this Superman) and because of this moment:



I do respect and admire all the work they put into this series, though.


Millerverse (Earth-31)



No offense, because I know you're actually a pretty nice guy but please, f*ck off, Frank, and stay away from Superman. Write your godawful Batman comics as much as you want, I guess that'll keep the meme lovers busy for a while.

sigh But I'll give his Superman THIS much: he's actually a pretty nice guy, despite starting the whole boy scout myth. Can't say the same for any of the jerks that I've already described.

...At least in The Dark Knight Returns, but in All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder, he and the rest of the JL are a*****. Thanks, Miller.


The bland ones (or ones that I either don't care about but are kinda alright and respect)...


The Batman



Almost follows his DCAU counterpart's footsteps up until he's saved by Batman from Luthor using Poison Ivy's gases to mind control the kryptonian. Batman gets more allies over the course of the final season, and we get very few and brief moments with Batman that are pretty nice, as well as a finale which sets up the creation of the Justice League after Superman and Batman end the whole series with a conversation about a group... Nay, a league.


Superman-Prime (DC One Million)



Cool design aside this Superman is nothing but a godlike entity that doesn't even bother to show us how truly strong he's become in thousands of years. He's BORING as hell, too, he barely even does anything in his comic, other than getting a happy ending, which is nice I guess.


All-Star



One of the most popular Superman out there... And for me one of the most boring. In all honesty I've never found this story particularly impressive for Superman standards, neither the first nor best as far as storylines depicting Superman's overwhelming and godlike power are concerned. He has his sweet and epic moments here and there, but not enough in my opinion. I consider him a more improved version of the Supes from Superman Returns, at best.


Most animated Supermen



Lazy I know, but I'm piling up some of the other animated ones here, because while not badly written or unlikeable for the most part... They're portrayed really blandly, especially the likes of Superman: Unbound or Super Friends, which resemble their contemporary counterparts but without any of the charm.

The only reason I put them all this high is because of the Supes from Superman & Batman: Public Enemies. Tim Daly finally sounds and acts great as Superman, and the chemistry between him and Batman is awesome.




Those that are okay at best... or nearing kinda good.


Adventures of Superman, as portrayed by George Reeves



I don't have much nostalgic value or appreciation for this portrayal other than the sound they made for whenever Supes flies which remained iconic for some time I believe. Still, he's important to the mythos of Superman and did a good enough job to earn him a spot here, even if most of it comes from things I've read and heard, and from my sheer respect towards the actor.


Stan Lee's Superman (Just Imagine) (Earth 6)



I admire Stan Lee as much as the next guy, and I know he loves Superman as well... So this rewritten backstory feels a little forced...

It's not quite as interesting as Superman's original origin story and while I dig the new design, he doesn't really seem like Superman to me. Still, he's a well written hero who goes back to Superman's roots as being less powerful and a little more basic, as well as being on a quest for revenge towards the kryptonian who killed his wife, who he follows all the way to Earth. After the boring evil kryptonian's defeat, I forget what he does when aligned with that Earth's Justice League, but I do remember that throughout his short adventures his main motivation is his wife's love for him, so that's nice.


1948 Serial Superman, as portrayed by Kirk Alyn



The first very iconic Superman actor before Christopher Reeve, and apparently one of the most important and relevant faces that have had the pleasure to portray the Man of Steel. Due to my lack of knowledge and experience as well as bad memory, I'm forced to place him here, by virtue of him not being that special but being highly recognized in the world of DC.


New 52



(Chose this pic 'cause I really like this cover, reminds me of one of my favourite Hulk covers.)

I was fine with the costume change despite the unnecessary amount of detail, but his personality was pretty obnoxious at first. Very cocky and sure of himself, thank God he got better over time, and I'm happy he's switched roles with a better Superman after Convergence.


Silver Age (Earth-One)



Okay so, I did say this was a bad era for The Joker, but Superman was just fine, if only REALLY inconsistent. However, this Superman was part of the Bronze Age for a bit and took part in Crisis on Infinite Earths, so despite how crappily written he was for a long while, he was still well written by the time we had to say goodbye to him, and damn did he go through a lot of goodbyes, most importantly the death of his Earth's Supergirl.


Batman: The Brave & The Bold



If Fleischer Superman spoke more often, he'd be like this version, hence why I place him here. He's more traditional and less flashy than that Supes, however, but he's still loveable, even if his first appearance has him being mind controled, which are the kind of stories I really don't like. It's one of the things I didn't appreciate too much from Batman: The Brave & The Bold, how dependant most other heroes were on Batman. Luckily that's the only time he needs Bats' help, and the other times it's the other way around. He even gets a cute moment with Wonder Woman here and there.


Golden Age (Earth-Two)



The original, and the main reason why he's so high up here to begin with. He didn't really set up much of the lore that would come later on, and though ballsy and well written for the time, this Superman doesn't have a whole lot going for him, other than a good heart and like I said, a big pair to demonstrate how badass he is. He technically became Silver Age Superman but for the most part I tend to separate the two entities, as SA Supes is nowhere near as comfortable with death threats as GA Supes is.

However, main as it might be, it's not the only reason to place him at the top. Despite how he isn't that relevant in Superman's history beyond being the very first, his story arc during Final Crisis is really good, and the happy ending he gets is very sad and very heartwarming.



He returned with an awesome redesign as well. I dunno, but I love the white hair and the older face, it makes him look like he's from a past time, from the golden age.




Those who warmed up to me or already liked but not enough to enter the podium...

DCEU, as portrayed by Henry Cavill



Now it's pretty obvious why he's at the bottom. Man of Steel wasn't exactly great and aside from a few bits Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice wasn't either. There were parts in BvS where my hopes for a good Superman got a little higher, up until the fight occurs and he shows very little patience or understanding. The scenes of him saving people are good, but they're then ruined by some other dumb scene, like the one in MoS where he twists a truck just because the truck driver pissed him off.

In comes Justice League, the movie, where Superman gets hyped up quite a bit after a very unnecessary and badly placed death in BvS. As Superman, Henry finally feels more calm and collected, more sure and confident of his performance and thus we're at last treated with a good Superman. In many ways he reminded me of Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man. In just a short period of time... I could already tell... The spirit and charm of the character followed his performance everywhere. I can now see and respect DCEU Superman as a good modern cinematic depiction of the greatest hero of them all, and I hope he improves in the future to live up to the character he's portraying.




Speeding Bullets



One of my favourite AUs, where Kal-El crashes into Gotham and lives Bruce Wayne's life. Yes folks, this is quite literally Superman as Batman, before anyone else did it.

They go through it pretty well, though with a few differences of course, such as having Bruce/Kal-El's moment of acceptance as his powers show up more and more often combined with Bruce's symbolical motivation and inspiration.



The moment Thomas and Martha died is done really well here, as always 'cause no one likes to ruin such a scene, with a more despicable and brutal version of Joe Chill, who doesn't just shoot each parent once, but riddles them with two or more bullets with a sickening grin on his face, and decides to shoot Bruce just because he hates the sound of kids crying... And he doesn't waste bullets on him either. Unfortunately for Chill, Bruce had been standing there observing the massacre, and once the bullets made contact and did nothing, he got pissed, pissed enough to unleash his heat vision on Joe Chill's face, killing him.

From the point he puts on the cowl, he's one heck of a terrifying figure. Imagine Batman with immense super strength and durability, flight, heat and enhanced vision, incredible hearing and a powerful breath, donning a design that is honestly a tad more intimidating than what Bats usually wears.



The concept is unfortunately not as expanded as it could've been, but we do get plenty of great bits. Alfred is awesome, as always, though takes a setback in relevance here and is little more than the butler, not guiding Bruce around as much, Lois Lane is awesome, as always, though at first I thought it was Lana Lang (DC's Mary Jane Watson and Clark's best childhood friend in most continuities), because for some reason they decided to color her hair red. I dig it, though. She actually narrates the story which we don't learn about up until the middle of the story, which is cool.

And then we get Luthor, who is... the Kingpin? They gave him quite a few more kilos in this story (also made him a bit of a creep as seen in the scene where he tells Lois to get in his car), I don't know why. Something I had to go back to reread was that the first time he shows up is in the newspapers as the only survivor of a catastrophic event at a chemical factory, which only makes you realize what that means when it's revealed who he really is...



"Lex Luthor is dead, you jackass! He died in a flood of chemicals and flame! He suffered! He burned... and he was reborn... as The Joker!"

Now, I am a bit mixed on this reveal hence why I didn't add it to the Joker list I made a few pages ago, but it's a pretty cool reveal still, even if the whole Joker-Luthor thing kind of had been done before, during the Silver Age. With LexCorp's resources, however, this shows how dangerous Joker could be with this kind of technology and wealth.

Despite the war this Joker starts, letting loose dozens of mercenaries armed with advanced weapons in Gotham, killing hundreds, Bruce is at first reluctant to save him after he drops him into the ground while hundreds of meters in the air, but saves him, as both he and Lois know, to prove The Joker wrong on what he said about Batman and Joker both being no different in terms of craziness.

Lois gives Bruce a powerful speech about how he could do so much more and stand as a symbol of hope, as well as giving the comic's final epilogue while Bruce, now having revealed his identity, carries Lois into the night sky, and we cut to a sunny day...




Superman: Doomsday



What if Earth-Two Superman had fought Doomsday? I mean... Other than the time he fought it alongside Post-Crisis Superman, but that's another story.

This would basically be it. This is the ever famous story of Post-Crisis Superman, a.k.a., The Death of Superman (and of course, his return, with the classic black and silver costume which is badass), but done with an older, more Earth-Two esque Superman, and what we get is the emotions I would've wanted to see in All-Star Superman, but with the added bonus of Doomsday, who is perfectly adapted in the story minus parts of his origin, leading to an epic brawl which even surpasses the original fight between these two powerhouses, imo.



Stylized like the DCAU too... WHY COULDN'T THIS HAVE BEEN THE DCAU SUPERMAN?! God... So yeah this is basically a perfect blend between All-Star, DCAU and Earth-Two, hence why he's so high. My only gripe with this movie is how they handled the Superman clone stuff, but it's more of a personal nitpick.


Kingdom Come (Earth-22)



Of course I had to include this Superman at the top here. Just look at 'im, he's like a combination between the Fleischer Superman and the Earth-Two Superman (which I now just learned was Alex Ross' intention when drawing him), what's there not to love in his design?

Now, obviously he doesn't start off that way, as I'd already heard prior to reading this story, which didn't happen to long ago since for a while I was a stranger to any comic Alex Ross had worked in. All I did was admire his work from afar, because good god, his art is stunning.

If you've read or watched Superman VS. The Elite, then you might have an idea of how this Superman might be, but he's not quite like that. He's a little more special than that. This Superman loses faith in humanity's goodnees when a random superhero kills The Joker instead of taking him to the court and the public adores him for getting rid of such a pest. Other superheroes weren't as admired anymore because dead villains were the more preferred option for the public, so Superman quite literally quits his job and goes away, back to Kansas.



Now this isn't particularly new for a superhero to do, but it's been done very few times and there's a big difference between other heroes quitting their jobs and Superman.



This Superman doesn't just give up, he simply doesn't have any more hope left for humanity, until he goes back in Action to confront Luthor's evil schemes one last time, courtesy of the dimension-hopping Post-Crisis Superman, who has come to motivate him and succeeds. The interactions between those two are great, how could I not have Kingdom Come Superman at the top after all that?!

But wait! There's more... What is possibly Superman's best happy ending. In most other continuities and timelines, the ending is somewhat tragic, but not here. Here he lives for a very long time, marries Diana and decides to live in Themiscyra, has four children and chooses his best friend Bruce Wayne to be their godfather. He lives a long, happy life, as the man responsible for a new, righteous line of superheroes.




Now for actual honorable mentions: His best successors and those he inspired:



There are too many crappy Supermen on this list, and Superman has inspired others to be better than that. Plus I don't want to end this just yet.


Power Girl



insert boob joke here

Actually don't.

Lord knows we've had enough of tho-



...DC, stop taking the piss.

Give Kara back her 80s badassery, goddamnit. She was like a sassier Supergirl back then (which makes sense since she is technically a more mature Supergirl from another Earth).



Or at least, get rid of the dumb boob window.



Ah, who am I kidding, we all love it.

Though she's got better designs out there.



Anyway yeah, Power Girl is rarely non-cool even if she's 80% boobs.




Supergirl



Superman's cousin, and (as DC Superhero Girls puts it) the ever adorkable newbie. Personally, what makes her among the best is the fact that she barely changes across her many incarnations, always staying cute and a bit of a smartass. She can get annoying at times but she's still fun, and always has been enjoyable to read, whether it's Kara, Caitlin, Linda, etc.




Lex Luthor



It always rubs me the wrong way when I see Lex dressing up as Superman... Either to fool others or because... he has Superman... As an inspiration? Yeah it's weird, I don't like it most of the time, BUT, It's been written well at times thus I reserved a spot for him here. He does a good job as Superman, so thumbs up, Lex.




Superboy (Post-Crisis)



A clone with a ton of swagger, Superboy during the 90s was super rad, which I loved. A bit of a shame what he's turned into, but he might return to his old roots one day, who knows. Maturing is cool and all, but we all gotta keep our inner child somewhere


Cyborg Superman



Easily one of Superman's deadliest enemies and as far as earthlings go, Hank Henshaw's story is pretty f***ed up, basically a Fantastic Four rip off but all the FF die, with the exception of two, Hank and his wife, who Hank accidentally scares to the point of her jumping out of a window to her death. Then Hank grows an immense hatred for Superman who could've stopped this from happening and the rest is history. Moral of the story? Don't f*** with Cyborg Superman.


Steel



One of Superman's more popular and well received supporting characters from the 90s.

Essentially Superman's Iron Man, a man who saw the horrific use of his weapons and gadgets on wars and decided to work on something else, only that unlike Stark, John here isn't an alcoholic or a jerkass. When Superman died at the hands of Doomsday, he personally took on the mantle to make the people of Metropolis happy, and once the true Man of Steel returned, the man known as John Henry Irons became one of the hero's most valuable allies, and one of the highlights of the Reign of the Supermen arc. He only got more badass over the years, even if he wasn't as prominent or relevant anymore.

Still, it's hard to forget about the epic man that was Steel. Especially after they made that godawful movie about him...


Bizarro



Bizarro was one of, if not the first adversarious doppelganger in fictional history, and he's only gotten better since his inception, always a persistent and worthy challenge for the Man of Steel and not just a boring clone. It fascinates me how f***ed up his speech is, I cannot understand him at all most of the time, no other comic book character is like that. It makes you THINK about the fact that everything he says is the opposite of what he says.

Though personally, he works best when he's nothing but a clumsy, incompetent, doofus. He cracks me up when he's like this:




Anyway...

Regardless of incarnation, to me Superman will forever be the best superhero in my eyes, for all years to come.



He's everyone's inspiration, really.



Always been, always will be. The ultimate and archetypical superhero.



If you ever need help on creating a new superhero, you know who'll be there to serve as an inspiration to help you out...