Superman Soars Again: Great Graphic Novels About the Man of Steel

No stranger to the screen, Warner Bros. Pictures reboots the Superman film franchise with Man of Steel (PG-13), slated to premiere June 14 in conventional, 3D, and IMAX theaters. It will have teens flocking to libraries faster than a speeding bullet for comic book classics about this tried-and-true hero. Stock up on and display some of these Superman standards, guaranteed to grab the eye of YA moviegoers and graphic novel fans.
Adorned in his familiar blue suit with S-shield insignia, swirling red cape, and rippling muscles, this legendary DC Comics character has hardly changed a bit in the last 75 years. The brainchild of high school buddies Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Superman made his literary debut in Action Comics in 1938, ushering in the age of the superhero and quickly becoming the genre’s golden boy. No stranger to the screen, Superman has also been the subject of several TV series and motion pictures, including a sequence of movies starring Christopher Reeve (1978-1987) and Superman Returns in 2006. Man of SteelWarner Bros. Pictures reboots the character—and the film series—with Man of Steel (PG-13), slated to premiere June 14 in conventional, 3D, and IMAX theaters. Directed by Zack Snyder (Watchmen) and produced by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy), the movie presents a fresh take on Superman’s beginnings. Learning as a young boy that he possesses amazing powers and is different from everyone else, Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) wrestles with questions about where he came from and  what he was sent to Earth to accomplish. However, when the planet and all of mankind are threatened with total destruction, the role he is destined to play soon becomes crystal clear. The cast also includes Diane Lane and Kevin Costner as Clark’s adoptive parents, Amy Adams as Daily Planet journalist Lois Lane, Laurence Fishburne as editor-in-chief Perry White, and Russell Crowe as Superman’s Kryptonian father. Played by Michael Shannon, the nefarious General Zod, another surviving Kryptonian and Superman’s equal in abilities, serves as antagonist. Send teens to the official movie website for video trailers, photos, downloads, and more, and suggest a stop at DC Comics “Superman Mini-Site” for a bio and links to comics and movies. Look! On the Library Shelves! It’s Art! It’s Epic! It’s a Superman Graphic Novel! Man of Steel will have teens flocking to libraries faster than a speeding bullet for comic book classics about this tried-and-true hero. Stock up on and display some of these Superman standards, guaranteed to grab the eye of YA moviegoers and graphic novel fans. Earth OnePart of a DC Comics series designed to re-launch legendary characters with a 21st-century flair, Superman Earth One (2010; Gr 7 Up) offers a riveting and refreshingly contemporary take on the familiar origin tale. As the story opens, a 20-something Clark Kent arrives in Metropolis to seek his fortune and sets his sights on becoming a reporter for the Daily Planet. Tired of being an outsider, he wants a shot at fitting in and is determined to keep his powers carefully concealed. However, when a powerful conqueror arrives from outer space and threatens Earth with destruction unless the alien he believes to be hidden there reveals himself, Clark must make a difficult choice. J. Michael Straczynski’s script pays homage to the source material with traditional elements and punch-packing action while stirring the pot with unexpected twists, deftly explored coming-of-age themes, smart—often delightfully bantering—dialogue, and powerful characterizations. Sepia-hued flashbacks to scenes of Clark interacting with his adoptive parents and “downloads” revealing the last days on Krypton provide insight into the protagonist’s motivations and struggles to define his identity. Shane Davis’s finely detailed artwork balances gritty modern-day settings and volatile battle scenes with down-to-earth emotion. The adventures—and personal challenges—continue in Volume 2 (2012, both DC Comics). BirthrightMark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu’s Superman Birthright (2004; Gr 7 Up) opens with the fiery final moments of a distant planet, as a desperate Lara and Jor-El place their beloved infant aboard a small starcraft. Twenty-five years later, the last son of Krypton has left his adopted home of Smallville, Kansas, to travel abroad, launch a journalism career, and figure out how he fits in. Filled with a sense of destiny and longing to use his abilities without causing fear among those around him, he decides to make his powers known, while hiding in plain sight behind the facade—and horned rim glasses— of a purposefully mousy Clark Kent. Superman strips off his button down shirt and makes his debut when unmanned military copters go rogue and endanger Metropolis. Not only is evil genius Lex Luthor pulling the strings behind the attack, but he’s also pushing the public into an anti-Superman hysteria. Sparkling with humor and heartfelt emotion, this origin tale flashes back to a teenage relationship between Clark and Lex, tackles themes of isolation and alienation, and headlines a wonderfully bossy, ballsy, and bright Lois Lane. Featuring a square-jawed Superman, the artwork blends stunning colors with strong lines and bold angles to deliver mythic-scale, kapow-worthy action. The otherworldly protagonist has an innocence and cornball candor that makes him endearingly human. Last SonIn Geoff Johns and Richard Donner’s gripping graphic novel, Superman: Last Son of Krypton (DC Comics, 2013; Gr 7 Up), treads new territory when a mysterious rocket crashes to Earth with a single passenger—a young boy identified as Kryptonian—and he steps into the role of parent. Things look dire when General Zod arrives, claiming the boy as his own and intending to transform a conquered Earth into New Krypton, but the child ultimately proves himself a pint-size hero. In a second adventure, Superman tangles with the terrifying Braniac, an artificial intelligence/cyborg bent on “collecting” specimens of species across the galaxy, miniaturizing entire cities, and destroying civilizations (and Earth is the latest target). Action-packed and vibrantly told, this volume includes appearances by Lex Luthor and Supergirl, and a visit to the extra-dimensional (and eerily illustrated) Phantom Zone. The dynamic artwork varies between large-size portraits and rapid-paced panels that illustrate events and add to characterizations. All StarBounding from witty to jubilant and movingly tragic, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman (DC Comics, 2011; Gr 7 Up) offers an imaginative, thoughtful, and satisfying take on the "Man of Steel" mythos. Exposed to a lethal dose of solar radiation during a rescue mission, the seemingly invincible Superman faces death. Resolved to use his remaining time wisely, he reveals his secret identity to his ladylove Lois Lane (she doesn’t believe him), gifts her with a potion that allows her temporary superhero status, writes his last will and testament, and saves the day (several times). Meanwhile, Lex Luthor, who is on death row, still manages to sit pretty and engineer evil plots galore. Perfectly paced, the 12 episodes describe individual storylines, with all of the elements and themes interconnecting in clever ways. Moments of introspection and candid emotion are balanced with high-flying antics and humor. The precisely detailed artwork is aglow with luminous hues that augment both action and emotion. Action ComicsPart of DC Comics’ recently rebooted “New 52” lineup, Morrison’s Action Comics: Superman and the Men of Steel (DC Comics, 2012; Gr 7 Up) features a T-shirt (yes, it’s blue and the symbol is still there), worn jeans, and work-boot-wearing novice who eagerly takes on gangsters and performs valiant rescues. Meanwhile, the loathsome Lex Luthor advises an uneasy military on ways to control what he deems a “powerful and parasitic alien organism.”  However, the real battle is on when Braniac arrives and Earth is in the cross-hairs. Flashbacks and imaginative strokes complete the origin tale of this just-getting-his feet-wet hero, as he tests his abilities, wins the heart of Metropolis, and defines his future role. A fresh and contemporary re-envisioning, illustrated with explosive and muscle-bound artwork. Superman’s World Ultimate Guide to the Man of SteelDaniel Wallace’s Superman: The Ultimate Guide to the Man of Steel (DK, 2013; Gr 7 Up) provides a comprehensive overview of the character and his ever-evolving comic-book oeuvre. Illustrated throughout with vibrant and crisply reproduced comic book artwork, two-page entries treat Superman’s 1938 origins, costume, powers and weaknesses, home world and Earth locales, allies and enemies, and much more. Perspective is provided on changes and themes associated with different comics eras (from Golden Age to the New 52) with reference to historical events and cultural trends. Key issues are highlighted throughout with backgrounds and plot summaries. Dazzling artwork and lively writing make this a fun-to-browse treat and go-to reference for graphic-novel fans and movie viewers who want to know more. Publication Information STRACZYNSKI, J. Michael. Superman Earth One. Vol. 1. illus. by Shane Davis. DC Comics. 2010. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781401224684; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781401224691. _____. Superman Earth One. Vol. 2. DC Comics. 2012. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781401231965. WAID, Mark. Superman Birthright. illus. by Leinil Francis Yu. DC Comics. 2004. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781401202521. JOHNS, Geoff & Richard Donner. Superman: Last Son of Krypton. illus. by Adam Kubert, Gary Frank, & Jon Sibal. DC Comics. 2013. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781401237790. MORRISON, Grant. All-Star Superman. illus. by Frank Quitely. DC Comics. 2011. pap. $29.99. ISBN 9781401232054. _____. Action Comics: Superman and the Men of Steel. illus. by Rags Morales & Andy Kubert. DC Comics. 2012. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781401235475. WALLACE, Daniel. Superman: The Ultimate Guide to the Man of Steel. DK. 2013. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781465408754.

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