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Old 04-09-2021, 09:57 PM   #1
Leo656
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Greatest Superman Stories

So, a Good Brother asked me for some of my favorite Superman stories to read. He's more of a Batman guy, and only kinda/sorta a comic book fan, and never cared much for Superman until the "Man of Steel" movie. He'd recently read "Superman For All Seasons" - which is great - and asked me for some of my recommendations.

I gave him a really long list of stuff from post-Crisis in 1986 through "Infinite Crisis", and it ended up being such a long reply that it seemed like it was too good not to share and turn into a thread. I figure this has probably come up before but I can't be assed to look for an old thread, so Deal With It.

Again, some stories from pre-1986 and post-2006 definitely warrant mention, but I purposely excluded them from this list because I wanted to focus strictly on my preferred era of Superman comics, the 1986-2006 run. So while "For The Man Who Has Everything" is indeed one of the All-Time Greats and belongs on any list, I don't have it here. I'm also sticking to canon stories for this list, so no Elseworlds or stuff like "All-Star Superman". Don't @ me.

So, here's My List, along with a description/synopsis for each. Most of these stories have been collected, but in cases where I'm not sure if they were I included the issue numbers.

- Byrne's "Man of Steel", obviously. That should be the Very First Thing you read, as everything comes from that and later stories make more sense in-context since so many are borrowing heavily from it.

- Action Comics Annual #1. Superman and Batman team up to fight vampires in Louisiana. EPIC.

- Adventures of Superman Annual #1. An entire town abruptly goes missing and the government calls Superman in to investigate. VERY dark stuff with a shocking twist ending.

- "The Supergirl Saga", from Superman #21, Adventures of Superman #444, and Superman #22 (the infamous issue where Superman kills the Phantom Zone villains). I *believe* this has been collected in TPB. A Supergirl from an alternate dimension enlists Superman to come to her world to stop Zod and his allies from killing everyone on her Earth. Spoiler Alert: They're too late, and so Superman has a Very Difficult Choice to make once Zod promises to come to Superman's Earth and kill everyone there, too...

- "Superman: Exile". Superman's guilt over killing Zod has him ultimately decide to exile himself into space. Along the way, he encounters Mongul on Warworld, reconnects with his Kryptonian heritage, forgives himself for his "sins" and recommits himself to being the hero the universe needs him to be. Most of this stuff becomes important during "Reign of the Supermen" and the "Return" storyline.

- "Day of the Krypton Man" (Action Comics #650, Superman #41, Adventures of Superman #464, Action Comics #651, Superman #42, Adventures of Superman #465, and Action Comics #652). An ancient Kryptonian relic known as The Eradicator starts influencing Superman's mind and trying to turn him to embrace his Kryptonian heritage and turn away from Earth. Introduces the Fortress of Solitude, and The Eradicator would later be VERY important to the Death and Return of Superman story.

- "Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite". Clark has to learn to live without his powers for the first time in his adult life after a prank by Mr. Mxyzptlk goes awry. Along the way we see that with or without his powers, Clark has a compulsive need to be "Superman", and we also get the reveal that Lex is dying of cancer.

- "Red Glass" (Superman #56, Adventures of Superman #479, Action Comics #666). Superman returns from a mission in space to find out that he's murdered all of his villains and the entire world hates him. He has no memory of these events and has to somehow figure out what the hell is going on. A really good exploration of how losing control is his greatest fear.

- "Panic in the Sky". Brainiac invades Earth and Superman leads an army of heroes (and Anti-heroes) in the planet's defense. One of the last big "event" stories before the Death and Return saga, it ties up several lingering plot threads from the "Exile" arc. It also sets up Superman joining the Justice League for the first time in post-1986 continuity; after the Byrne reboot Superman had never "officially" joined the JLA and had only assisted them periodically, as he was uncomfortable working with a team and especially being put into any sort of "leadership" position. But after leading the planet's heroes against Brainiac in this story he had a change of heart and became the official leader of the JLA. Both Superman and the JLA books were being written by Dan Jurgens at this point so there was some very tight continuity between them.

- The Death of Superman/Funeral For A Friend/Reign of the Superman. I could do a whole novel just about this saga.

- "Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey". The official sequel to "Death of Superman". Superman has recurring nightmares about Doomsday and realizes several things: First of all, for the very first time in his life, he's afraid of something, and secondly, he still knows NOTHING about the beast that killed him and is afraid that either Doomsday isn't really dead OR, even worse, that there could be more Doomsdays out there somewhere. So he goes into space to get answers once and for all, and in addition to finding out the official origin story for Doomsday himself, we of course get the inevitable rematch: Superman is bigger, stronger, and more powerful than ever after coming back from the dead... BUT, so is Doomsday, who'd already killed Superman once before and has now "evolved" to the point where he's going to be even harder to stop. As a bonus, we get a knock-down drag-out slugfest between Doomsday and motherf*cking DARKSEID... and it turns out that even Darkseid himself already knows of, and is in fearful awe of, the creature we know as "Doomsday". This is great, GREAT stuff.

- "Bizarro's World". Set after Superman comes back from the dead; Luthor's clone body is deteriorating - Long story short, he faked his death when he had cancer and had his brain put into a younger, healthier clone body to give himself a "clean slate"; he spent years posing as his own long-lost son, pretending to be a super-nice guy while rebuilding his empire without anyone the wiser. Superman and "Lex Luthor Jr." were even pretty close friends and allies; it ended up being one of Lex's most diabolical schemes in how he played the long con and everybody, even Superman, fell for it. Anyway, so now his clone body is deteriorating, he's dying, and in his desperation he's trying to find a way to fix things, and he goes all the way back to one of his earliest schemes, from Byrne's "Man of Steel" mini-series, and recreates that version of Bizarro. This was only the second Bizarro story post-1986; once again, SO MANY of these stories require reading Byrne's "Man of Steel" to get the full effect, as This Story is a direct sequel to an issue from That Story. One of the best Bizarro stories ever, as it avoided the stereotypical "backwards-speak" and "Me Bizarro Am Dumb" nonsense; here, he's more of a well-meaning but imperfect Frankenstein's Monter type of creature, and it altogether works much better. It's a pretty heartfelt and tragic story.

- "Dead Again". Superman's corpse turns up, and Superman has to figure out what's going on since he's... y'know... alive and everything. He slowly starts to unravel as he finds more and more evidence that he may in fact be just another imposter, a possibility he isn't at all willing to accept.

- "Superman: Arkham/The Reign of Emperor Joker". Superman wakes up in a world where he's imprisoned and the Joker rules all reality. Turns out Joker has outfoxed Mr. Mxyzptlk and became all-powerful, re-shaping the entire universe in his image. It's pretty batshit crazy, but it's a lot of fun.

- "Superman: Y2K". A hyper-evolved Brainiac from the future manifests on New Year's Eve 1999.

- "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way?" (Action Comics #775). Superman is confronted by The Elite, a team of bloodthirsty super-beings who try and convince him that he's out of touch and that he needs to step aside and let "heroes" who are willing to kill off the bad guys take over... or else. This was the basis for the very faithful "Superman Vs. The Elite" animated movie, and also won tons of awards when it came out. It's often cited as possibly the best single-issue Superman story of all time.

(Cont.)
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Old 04-09-2021, 10:00 PM   #2
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- "Doomsday Rex" (Superman #175). 100 issues after the Death of Superman issue, a recreated, more powerful Doomsday (pumped full of Joker venom) is unleashed for an epic rematch. Superman shows in no uncertain terms that he's not afraid of the beast anymore, and in fact it's Doomsday who finally learns what fear is.

- "Superman/Batman Vol. 1: Public Enemies". The first six issues of Jeph Loeb's Superman/Batman monthly. Superman and Batman team up to take down President Lex Luthor once and for all. The animated "Public Enemies" movie was based on this one, but the print version has a lot more going on. Tons and tons of fun.

- "For Tomorrow". One year after an event known as "The Vanishing" in which one million people - including Lois - spontaneously disappeared, Superman is trying to solve the puzzle while still grieving and working through his guilt at not being able to prevent the disaster from happening. He strikes up what ultimately becomes a tragic friendship with Father Leone, a priest who's dying of cancer, as the two of them share their feelings of grief, guilt, loss, etc. while trying to figure out what comes next for each of them. Superman decides that the only way he can fix what's gone wrong is to recreate the Vanishing event upon himself; Wonder Woman tries to stop him, convinced that there is no coming back from being "vanished". Superman is insistent, convinced that he can bring everyone back; when Diana desperately tells him that "You have no proof!", Clark replies "I don't need proof; I have FAITH."

And then... Zod.

This was a very controversial story at the time of its publication, because there are a lot of flashbacks and time-jumps and as a monthly read it was a bit confusing, but reading all 12 issues in one shot it makes a ton more sense and it's incredibly powerful stuff. It ended up being a sort of prologue to the OMAC Project and Infinite Crisis storyline; some of the "confusing" bits turned out to be foreshadowing of those events, and in turn they all make a ton more sense in hindsight. This is, by far, one of my all-time favorite Superman stories, period.

Trivia: "For Tomorrow" is also one of Henry Cavill's very favorite Superman stories, as well, and he read it several times while preparing for "Man of Steel". The scene in that film where Clark seeks advice from a priest in the church was a direct homage to this story, and in fact the priest himself is Father Leone, although his character's name only appears in the credits.

- "Superman: Sacrifice". The final run-up to "Infinite Crisis". Max Lord has managed to get inside Superman's mind and take control of him, making him see some of his closest friends and allies as his most dangerous enemies, with horrific results. Wonder Woman tries to stop his rampage, and ends up discovering that Max Lord is the key. Spoiler Alert: This is the infamous "Wonder Woman kills Max Lord" storyline that set "Infinite Crisis" in motion.

- "Infinite Crisis". Not strictly a Superman-only story, but he's so pivotal to the plot (especially during the finale) that it should really count anyway. Proof that when company-wide crossovers work, they really, REALLY work.
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There's obviously a ton more great ones out there, but this is long enough already. I'm by no means against any of the Elseworlds or out-of-continuity stuff, I just felt like this list was pretty long and that we can get into that other stuff later on anyways.

Let's discuss!
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Old 04-10-2021, 10:09 AM   #3
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Agreed completely on Byrne's MOS, but for simply accessible and readable Superman I'd include his entire run after that across all of the titles.

As for best Superman stories?

Superman Annual #11 written by Alan Moore. By coincidence was the first comic book I ever owned - pulled it off a newsstand at Jewel/Osco as a kid and couldn't believe how I lucked out when I was older and realized what that book was. I have a modest collection of this book now.

This story was also adapted into a cool episode of the Justice League Timmverse cartoon.



Action Comics #775 written by Joe Kelly. This was adapted into the DCU movie "Superman vs the Elite". It's an honest classic that encapsulates who Superman is into a digestible story that proves the character's relevance even today.



I'd also say Alan Moore's "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow" should be here. I'll have to photograph those later.
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Old 04-10-2021, 03:35 PM   #4
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Leo's rattled off virtually almost every pick I was going to make

Here's a couple of my modern era favourites that haven't been mentioned

-Fall of Metropolis: The direct follow up to Bizzaro's World. Lana Lang gets married while Metropolis experiences a 9/11-level tragedy as a desperate and dying Lex Luthor threatens to inflict devastation...only for one of his lackeys to ultimately pull the switch that unleashes doomsday devices that tear through the city. Culminates in a throw down between Lex in one of Clark's Kryptonian healing suit and the man of steel

-Emperor Joker: Eventually adapted for the animated 'Brave and the Bold' series, this a wonderful blend of manic Joker mania with that other thing Superman is most vulnerable to: magic. Seizing control of the world with the powers of fifth dimensional imp Mxyzptlik, Joker seemingly all the cards, even finally managing to break Batman's spirit, before Superman points out to him that he can't ever imagine a world without Batman in it, and in realising that, his grip on whatever passes for this sort of reality slips away from him.

-Geoff Johns' Brainiac: Adapted into the animated movie "Superman Unleashed". Basically retcons all previous Brainiacs are pretenders to the throne and establishes a 'definitive version' that has come to capture the Earth and Supes must stop him. Story ends in the death of Jonathan Kent, which at the time was a big deal, though did feel rather pointless given Clark had been long established as Supes by this point while Jonathan had been alive the whole time, so his death didn't do much to influence any future career path.
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Old 04-10-2021, 04:42 PM   #5
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I did mention "Superman: Arkham/The Reign of Emperor Joker."
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Old 04-10-2021, 04:55 PM   #6
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No love for "All Star Superman" or "Superman for All Seasons"?
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Old 04-10-2021, 05:08 PM   #7
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I explained that already. I fully expect people to talk about them, but my list started out as an email to a friend and given that I was doing strongest recommendations I wanted to keep more to canon stuff than Elseworlds stuff. Thus, no All-Star.

Frankly, I'm not super-high on it anyway, so it probably wouldn't be on my personal list to begin with but I'm well aware that plenty of other people like it a lot. Too "goofy" for me.

"Superman For All Seasons" was the story my friend had read that kicked off the initial conversation, and thus I really didn't have anything to Copy/Paste for the purposes of this thread.
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Old 04-10-2021, 05:10 PM   #8
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Most consider All Star Superman in continuity, no? It certainly serves as a prequel to DC One Million? Which is (at least was, or whatever) in continuity.
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Old 04-10-2021, 05:46 PM   #9
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It's in "Grant Morrison Continuity", in which case everything Grant Morrison has ever written is canon within itself, but not with most of what a lot of other writers have done or consider "canon". Most people don't consider "DC One Million" to be "canon", either.

But no, All-Star definitely, absolutely is not canon with anything outside of Grant Morrison's own imagination. Both that one and All-Star Batman & Robin were explicitly marketed as being "out of canon" so that the writers could just jack off to their hearts' content.

...And in my personal opinion, both books stand as a shining example of why you generally don't let writers do that. ASB&R is the more infamous because of all the blatant child abuse and "Goddamn Batman" stuff, but All-Star Superman has some cringey stuff in it, too, just from a different direction. It's so unapologetically Silver Age that I really can't embrace it. There's maybe five or six Superman stories altogether from before 1986 that I'd say were actually "good" and I'd pulp almost all of the rest. Certainly no more than ten. That stuff is 100% of the reason why people hate Superman and think he's "stupid and lame", and the Byrne reboot did well to scrap all that silly stuff. Given how they spent almost 30 years burying the Silver Age, and in so doing they finally managed to make Superman interesting and relevant to a wider audience that has no patience for nonsense and goofball stuff, it baffles me how some people actually have a genuine fondness for that stuff and a strong desire to bring it back in a big way.

I like Morrison, in general. But he hated Byrne's reboot Superman, and he unapologetically loves the Silver Age in all its goofiness. So very little of his Superman actually passes muster, with me. He doesn't write him as a person, he writes him as an archetype, the cartoon character he watched on TV when he was five years old. The guy everyone makes fun of because objectively, That Superman is honestly a rather boring and sh*tty character, and the Silver Age stories were pretty juvenile.

Like, he STARTS All-Star with one of my all-time least-favorite Silver Age Superman tropes: "He suddenly has a brand new made-up power because Plot Demands It!" And while I appreciate his upfront honesty that Yes, This Is That Type Of Superman Story, it" not the kind of Superman story I personally care to read.

I don't know. It's not bad at all for what it is, and in fact is very good at being what it tries to be - A "love letter" to Silver Age Superman, which is Grant's personal favorite and "proper" version of the character. I hate the Silver Age stuff, so I can only give the story a tepid recommendation. It's very much "One man's junk, another man's treasure" kind if stuff. To some people that's "the best Superman story ever", but to others it's everything they ever hated or thought was stupid about the character. There's really no middle ground.

Plus, his cape looks like a bath towel. Damn Frank Quitely... his style just doesn't go with Everything.
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Old 04-10-2021, 05:50 PM   #10
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Though as I recall, DC One Million was even revisited by Booster Gold in his last solo series... written by Geoff Johns. That would kind of semi-cement it, no?

ASB&R was pretty much an unmitigated disaster. And I think the general idea for what the "All Star" line was abandoned fairly early on... revisited with greater scrutiny in the "Earth One" line. So I don't think "All Star Superman" having the "All Star" moniker means anything either way, continuity wise.
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Old 04-10-2021, 06:03 PM   #11
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Hah, I remember there was going to be All-Star Batgirl and All-Star Wonder Woman, too. All of that got "Noped" pretty early. Probably for the best, I suppose.

I think the fact that All-Star Superman very directly contradicts just about every other Modern Age Superman story in both Plot and Tone does plenty by itself to disconnect it from being canon with anything else. There is absolutely zero chance that any of the Byrne/Jurgens/Stern/etc. stories happened in the same universe as All-Star. No chance. It's like trying to retrofit Adam West's Batman TV show into the Denny O'Neil/Chuck Dixon/Jim Starlin Batman universe and saying it's the same character. Clearly, it isn't.

The only thing that even links All-Star to DC One Million is the whole "Superman's inside the Sun" thing, and even Morrison admitted that was more or less just a self-indulgent thing so that if a person WANTED to pretend the two stories were connected, you can, because there's that one thread. But that's literally all it is, is one thread. The two stories are otherwise pretty contradictory; DC One Million actually represents the mainstream DC canon pretty strongly, as it was indeed written to be a very likely Possible Future. Whereas All-Star Superman was explicitly written to be nothing but a standalone out-of-continuity Superman story in which Grant could indulge his every whim about what he loves about the character without restrictions.

If All-Star was written to be anything besides "Grant Morrison Canon", he absolutely would have made a lot of very different choices. As it is, it doesn't fit into anything else because it simply wasn't designed to.

Refresh my memory, but weren't the Future Supermans of DC One Million Clark's direct descendants? I think they were supposed to be, but I forget if that was explicitly stated. Well, by the time he sent himself into the sun at the end of All-Star, he and Lois had no kids. So therefore, the two stories aren't "canon" with each other, it's just a winking homage from one of Grant's stories to another one.
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Old 04-10-2021, 06:17 PM   #12
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Wasn't All Star Batman and Robin so terrible it never officially finished?
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Old 04-10-2021, 07:09 PM   #13
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More or less, although it got close to completing its initial 12-issue run - the Collected Edition lists 10 issues and it was originally presented or marketed to be a 12-issue series - and apparently must have generated enough interest that at one point it was supposed to continue under the rebranded title "Dark Knight: Boy Wonder". That was announced back in 2011 and nothing came of it since. It's pretty much just "vaporware", now. Especially since Miller went ahead and did TWO more sequels to "The Dark Knight Returns" since then, which suggests that there's no strong interest on either side to continue the ASB&R story or they would have done it by now. Either DC doesn't want it, or Miller isn't interested in finishing it, or both.

To be completely fair... it's not the WORST Batman stuff I've ever read, and I can buy it as a Definitely Not Canon take in which this particular Bruce is really screwed up and much more of a jerkass than normal. And if we must accept the whole "Dick Grayson Became A Twisted Super-Villain" plot point from "The Dark Knight Strikes Again" - and good LORD, you wanna talk about a BAD Batman comic? DK2 probably takes the sh*t taco - then this version of Robin's origin story where Bruce was outright abusive, calling him retarded and making him eat rats definitely fits into the... "questionable" canon of Miller's other Dark Knight books. And if nothing else, Jim Lee's art is always amazing. His Black Canary is... hm. Well, she's "something", let's put it like that.

ASB&R is a little more cut-and-dry than All-Star Superman, what with its "Canon Or Not?" status, as Miller has openly said numerous times that while all of his Batman stories share a continuity with each other they're not canon with anything else outside of that; the only one that gets muddy is Year One, since that was printed in the main Batman book and since other writers liked that one so much that they borrowed from it heavily later on, and so it basically became the de facto Batman Origin Story from that point on. But the Dark Knight books, ASB&R... none of that is canon anywhere except in the Frank Miller Batman Universe. And honestly, Thank F*cking God for that. But it does get weird, because Year One is canon with all of those, BUT is also more or less accepted as "real canon", whereas the rest are all very explicitly Elseworlds stories and labelled as such. Kind of a "Not All Rectangles Are Squares, But All Squares Are Rectangles" deal.

Definitely a rather... bizarre take on Batman & Robin, for sure. But I can see it making sense in its own self-contained way, and it's admittedly very, very pretty. So I do see some value in it, compared to "Dark Knight Strikes Again" which is, bar-none, one of the worst Batman comics I've ever read in my life. I can re-read it when I want a laugh and it doesn't hurt me; DK2, by contrast, is physically painful for me to even look at.
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- More to topic, y'know whose run on Superman ("Adventures of Superman", specifically) I really liked? Greg Rucka. I really liked the whole "Ruin" saga, and his use of the supporting cast, even though I thought the Prof. Hamilton reveal was kind of a letdown and came sort of out of nowhere. That was a really strong run on the whole, though, especially compared to the absolute dogsh*t run Chuck Austen was having over on Action Comics at the exact same time. I mentioned "Sacrifice" above but you really can't go wrong with anything from Rucka's whole run on Superman. He's not often mentioned as one of the best Superman writers but I definitely think he is.

- Side Note: After I started this thread, I bought both hardcover volumes of "Superman: For Tomorrow" for under $20 total. I don't often do this for stories I already have the single issues of, but given how all my longboxes are stacked up that's definitely one I want to have right at my fingertips on the bookshelf for "anytime" reading.

Kind of "agnostic" on Brian Azzarello but he spun a damn good Superman story in his one turn at bat. Didn't much care for the "Lex Luthor: Man of Steel" mini, but "For Tomorrow" is terrific.
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Old 04-10-2021, 08:48 PM   #14
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Back on the "All Star" and "Earth One" lines... I remember Grant Morrison waited too long, so basically his whole pitch for "All Star Wonder Woman" was entirely transplanted into "Earth One: Wonder Woman."
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Old 04-11-2021, 06:53 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leo656 View Post
I did mention "Superman: Arkham/The Reign of Emperor Joker."
So you did, can't believe I blanked there.
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Old 04-11-2021, 06:57 AM   #16
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It's okay, I led into that one with the "Superman: Arkham" Title since that's what the first few issues were before the "Emperor Joker" reveal. Most people just lump it all in and call it "Emperor Joker", so I assumed you were skimming it and that my use of the "proper" title is what threw you off.
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I laid them out in stone, in case they need to last forever..."

"But hey... I'm not telling you anything that you don't already know."
nWo Tech: The Official Thread Poison of the Technodrome Forums
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxr...awnHgDz1ceDcfA
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