Having just finished the JMS Supreme Power books, I had been thinking about the many and varied Superman analogs out there in comics. Of course, I will skip over the countless DC versions of this.
Hyperion from Supreme Power is foremost in my mind since I just read it. As originally portrayed, I never really felt he was supposed to be Marvel’s Superman. Just never occurred to me at the time. With JMS revamping the character, the connection is clear. In fact Marvel has never really had a Superman of their own. A character that is the clear leader, someone who is the ideal in power and attitude. Mostly that is a result of the modern company’s genesis. The first Marvel heroes as we think of them today were the Fantastic Four, and even those that have come later, have never really filled the spot. With the purchase of the Marvelman rights, I had hoped that he could be retconned in and become that person for Marvel. There is a lot that could be done with him, despite Marvelman actually being a Captain Marvel rip off rather than a Superman one. But alas, that appears dead in the water since Marvel has yet to get everything ironed out legally, and has made no new use of the character.
Also among the modern versions is Mark Waid’s Plutonian from Irredeemable. This version is the nightmare. The “what if Superman were bad?” vision that plays out in a mostly believable fashion. Like Hyperion (JMS version only), he is dark and imposing and not really a friend to humanity. the Plutonian is what Superman would be if DC could get away with a story like that, which they can’t. While Irredeemable is a very good book, the fact that most of the characters are Captain Erzats version of more recognizable ones makes this never seem quite real. Basically, all of the Übermensch archetypes in comics are compared to Superman, and often seem hollow by comparison. As much as I like Irredeemable, that is always in the back of my mind.Here, all the characters were created ONLY for the purposes of this story. With no emotional investment from prior knowledge, the book cannot help but suffer at times. Not the fault of Mr Waid, just one of the pitfalls of playing in this particular sandbox.
Invincible by Robert Kirkman is another. Cant say I have even been able to enjoy this book, but I can clearly see the similarities.
Marvel made another attempt, this time very obvious, with the Sentry. This was a good try, but once multiple writers and editors got a chance to use the character, things got very muddled and the focus was lost. There was huge potential here and they completely missed the chance.
The closest of the “sun-god” analogs (and, yes, all the Samson and other bible parallels aside, Superman is a modern sun God) is Apollo from the Wildstorm end of the DCU. Another missed opportunity here, I feel. The various writers have, for the most part focused on just one aspect of the guy, and missed other, more compelling aspects in the relationship between him and the Batman analog he is involved with, Midnighter. Most gays and lesbian people will tell you, that while their sexuality is an important component in who they are, it is not the sole defining one. Any person that is completely one thing to the exclusion of all else, is not much of a person. Comics still fall back on the shallowest possible traits to define individuals much of the time. This is very evident when the character in question COULD be interesting and complex. Instead of really giving a full multi-layered relationship between these two, they are just portrayed as the new gay stereotype, and that is no better than the OLD gay stereotypes. But, in mainstream comics, I may be asking too much. For that kind of depth, there are lots of good indi books. While under Wildstorm, nothing really improved, they were token gays. I am hopeful, but not very, that DC can improve on this.
Still other Captain Erzats versions of Superman include Dr Manhattan from Watchmen, the Sameritan from Astro City, Captain Marvel of course, Alpha one from the Mighty, Gladiator of the Shi’ar over at Marvel, Supreme, Atoman from Top 10 and even the Saint from The Pro.
anyone have some others I may have not mentioned?