I am tentatively excited about the next Superman film, The Man of Steel, which is set for release on June 14. As much as I love Superman, his live-action films haven’t always been the best and often the lack the enchantment of the comics. Colorful villains are eschewed for the same plots on repeat and Kryptonite has become such a routine threat that it’s become boring. And we’ve had multiple films with Lex Luthor and Zod, but the rest of the villains are left alone.
Considering the PG-13 rating, which has me, and other writers, bothered, I wanted to find some good all-ages Superman comics to help parents who want to show their kids a sunnier Superman for all seasons.
Based on Superman: The Animated Series, Superman Adventures are not only some of the best comics based on the DC Animated Universe, but they are also some of the best Superman stories of all time.
By having the freedom to pull in high quality creators for the title and by allowing them to work on building the universe, the comic paid off in high quality, ultra accessible all-age comics that are still regarded highly during a time when the mainstream comic universe Superman was struggling for relevance.
The first six issues are available online through Comixology and in the Superman: Adventures of the Man of Steel paperback, which present a fun and expertly crafted set of Superman one shots, throwing him up against a variety of villains from Lex Luthor to Livewire.
While some animated series adaptations have left me cold, Superman Adventures succeeded by bringing on big name talent in the form of Paul Dini for the first issue and Scott McCloud for a good deal of the following issues. Dini, one of the two fathers of the DC Animated Universe — which includes Batman The Animated Series, Justice League and Batman Beyond, shows his knack for understanding action scenes when pitting Superman against an actual man of steel created by Lex Luthor. While the issue is action packed, the violence is kept cartoonish and dynamic.
Scott McCloud is meanwhile given more space to work on the series solely through his number of issues. The author of Zot! as well as Understanding Comics shows his love for the Last Son of Krypton by pitting him against a variety of villains like Metallo, Brainiac, Livewire and even Mr. Mxyzptlk. McCloud, who also ended up doing the page layouts for his issues, shows that he knows how to make enjoyable comics.
The biggest boon for the series is that it doesn’t simply depict Superman just punching out villains over and over again. Instead, he solves problems by out-thinking his enemies, and he ultimately cares for the people around him. And while Superman isn’t faced with unbeatable enemies, Superman Adventures does deal with more serious problems.
When the villain Livewire is tired of the poor treatment that she gets as a woman, she takes over all of the media and ends up only allowing women on TV. It is an extreme way to approach the concept of women in media, but the comic does a good job bringing up all types of reactions toward Livewire’s ploy and in the end, even though she’s arrested and jailed, she unsettles readers enough to (hopefully) make us consider what she was complaining about.
Superman Adventures frequently measures up as some of the best Superman stories for keeping true to the character and keeping everything light. I highly recommend the series to those looking for Superman comics that are safe for all ages and are still fun and engaging and gorgeous to look at.