ED. NOTE: Throughout the week, Comic Riffs has focused on facets of Superman — the big, blue birthday boy — in advance of the new “Man of Steel.”

— M.C.

JUST MINUTES before tonight’s midnight release of "Man of Steel” (we’re in line now), ComiXology is allowing Superman fans to stock up on many of the comics that are source material for the movie — thanks to the website’s Superman 201 99-cents digital comics sale.

This kind of sale, of course, makes a fanboy’s heart leap in a single bound. So if you're looking to dive into some of the best Superman stories ever told, here are some can't-miss Superman picks from among the 200-plus comics available for the sale:

Action Comics #1 (1938):

Although you won't be able to sell a digital version of Superman's first appearance in a comic for millions, why not take a look at the book that started it all. It’s great to see how far Superman has evolved since he came onto the scene in 1938.

The book that started it all. (METROPOLIS COLLECTIBLES via AP/.)

Superman Annual #11 (1984):

"For the Man Who Has Everything," was written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons, the same team that brought us "Watchmen." On his birthday, Superman is visited by Batman, Robin and Wonder Woman, but he's in a coma after a plant called the "black mercy" latches onto him, feeding him realistic dreams supposedly linked to his strongest desires. Superman dreams of a Krypton that never exploded, and of the life on his home planet he never had.

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Action Comics #584-599 (1986-88):

Any time you crack a comic book by John Byrne, you’re in for a treat. If it’s a Superman book, all the better. Byrne has been one of the best in the business at drawing Superman. This 16-issue run on Action Comics frequently featured Superman and a guest star.

The Man of Steel #1-6 (1986):

Another story written and drawn by Byrne, this served for years as the definitive post-Crisis on Infinite Earths origin for Superman.

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Action Comics #662 (1991):

This is the issue in which Clark Kent finally reveals to Lois Lane that when the glasses come off, he's more than just a reporter. Now before you go all crazy on Lois for not knowing, remember: Superman doesn't wear a mask, the thinking goes, so there's no reason for the public to think he has any other identity. Also, Clark always did a good job combing away that spit curl.

Action Comics #858-863 and #866-870:
Writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank took Action Comics to new heights. Johns, of course, is known for his 10-year run on Green Lantern, which rose Hal Jordan to the status of a DC Comics heavy hitter — up there with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. So you can imagine the magic he works with the Man of Steel.

Frank draws a riveting all-world Superman that is clearly influenced by Christopher Reeve. These two-story arcs involve the Legion of Superheroes and Brainiac.

Superman: Secret Origin #1-6 (2009-10):

The aforementioned Johns and Frank take on a new origin for Superman pre-New 52.

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All Star Superman #1-12 (2006-08):

Grant Morrison writes one of the most distinctive Superman stories ever — told in a tale set outside of DC Comics continuity, and in which Superman has only one year to live. Frank Quitely provides art that seems like the perfect fit for Morrison's words.

Trinity #1-3 (2003):

Matt Wagner writes and draws this tale of the first meeting among DC Comics’ big three of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

Justice League #1-6 (2011):

If there is a Superman designed to coincide with Henry Cavill's Kal-El, it's this one. Don't believe us? Look: No red trunks. This new Justice League is a part of DC Comics’s New 52.

Kingdom Come #1-4 (1996):

What happens when in the future, a new generation of superheroes is out of control? Superman is reluctantly forced to come out of retirement to try to make things right after his years-long absence has clearly had an effect on the world. Mark Waid writes a true classic here. With art by Alex Ross — who has the uncanny ability to render superheroes the way you think they would look in real life — this is a story that’s still an incredible read almost 20 years later.

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Superman Birthright #1-12 (2003-04):

If there's a story that can be said to have influenced the "Man of Steel" movie, it's this one. Waid writes yet another definitive Superman tale, showing the struggles Jor-El had sending his only son to an unknown future — and a young Clark Kent, traveling the world trying to figure out his destiny. This one packs an emotional ending.

Superman for All Seasons #1-4 (1998):

When writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale team on a project — no matter who the hero — it's worth the read.


Superman: Red Son #1-3 (2003):

Writer Mark Miller provocatively poses the question: What would happen if Kal-El's rocket landed on a Ukrainian farm during the Cold War ‘50s?