“Superman vanished and all he represented disappeared with him…”

In 1984, DC Comics published Action Comics issue #554 which featured the story If Superman Didn’t Exist – one of my all-time favourite Superman stories. With today being Superman’s 80th birthday, I thought it would be the perfect time to reflect on some of the best-loved and best-remembered Superman stories of the past – specifically this one.

If Superman Didn't Exist comic

Image: DC Comics

Written by Marv Wolfman and showcasing art by Gil Kane, If Superman Didn’t Exist is a simple story, yet one with high stakes on the line. The tale focuses on the invasion of Earth, in a world without heroes.

If truth be told, while this is one of my favourite stories of the many, many Superman stories that exist, I must admit this is a story about Superman rather than one that needs him to be on every page.

In If Superman Didn’t Exist it is explained that due to an earlier event, Earth’s history has changed and Superman no longer exits – in fact, he never did. Without Superman to provide a source of inspiration, Earth has no super heroes and the world is in a vulnerable position, ripe for invasion from an alien race – which is exactly what happens.

Throughout the course of the story, readers are witness to a world in which Earth is at the mercy of an uncompromising force, with death at every turn and all hope gone. Well, that is until two boys, Jerry and Joey – a nod to Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster – dream up a hero who they’re convinced can turn the tide, if only people believe in him.

If Superman Didn’t Exist is a story about hope – the idea that one person can inspire others to do great things. This is the most important ideal behind every great Superman story and is of course a key factor in making this such a standout tale.

We need more stories like this and more heroes like Superman. Sure, Supes might be a work of fiction, but the values he represents continue to inspire.

Stories such as If Superman Didn’t Exist remind us that you should never give up hope, no matter the circumstances. They also remind us that Superman is truly one of the greatest heroes of our time, even if he is nothing more than a figment of someone’s imagination.

So, what is your favourite Superman story? It could be a one-off tale from the comics, a key storyline that defined the Man of Steel, an episode of Smallville or something more personal? Whatever it is, sound off in the comments section below and share your favourite Superman stories from the past 80 years.