Superman is re-entering the public consciousness in a very big way this week, with the long-anticipated <i>Man of Steel</i> hitting theaters on Friday. <p> But DC doesn't necessarily have a monopoly on Men of Steel. The Marvel Universe has been populated with many similar characters over the years, some obvious analogues, and others that are more spiritual successors. One Superman-inspired hero, the Blue Marvel, is resurfacing in a big way this fall, as part of the September-debuting <i>Mighty Avengers</i> series recently announced by Marvel. <p>The Marvel Universe is surprisingly full of Supermen, and here are 10 of them, including the obvious choices and the decidedly less obvious ones. (<I>Albert Ching contributed to an updated version of this article.</i>)
Ignoring the difference in scale of super-powers, Cap and Superman actually have a remarkable amount in common: Both are traditionally the moral centers and figureheads of their respective communities, both are closely identified with the idea of "the American way," both are unable to return to their homes for various reasons, and both have often been accused of being out-of-step with current trends or old-fashioned for their strong beliefs. <p>All Cap really needs is a cape and the ability to fly, and we'd be all set. Hey, Remender...?
There's been a surprising amount of discussion online over whether or not Marvel's Friendly Neighborhood Wall-Crawler is a Superman analogue or not. On the face of it, it doesn't seem to be the case when you consider power-sets or the character's backstory, but when you look at it from another angle... <p>Works for a newspaper in a major Metropolitan area? Check (Well, most of the time). A secret identity that enjoys a flipped social status from the superheroic identity? Check (Again, most of the time). Survivor guilt? Check. Constant need to do the right thing at all times, underscored by the few times when he's ignored that need and come to grief as a result? Check. Red-and-blue costume? Check. Longstanding marriage that was undone due to corporate desire to de-age the character? Check! <em>It's like they're the same guy, you guys</em>. If you, you know, squint hard enough and really want that to be the case.
A strange visitor from another planet who came to love humanity so much that he fought on its behalf — even, eventually, against others of his own race. <p>Sound familiar? Sure, Mar-Vell — his <em>name</em> even sounds like Superman's Kryptonian name! — may have messed up the whole "secret identity" thing (you're supposed to pretend to be an average joe, not swap places in space with an average joe who gets dumped in the Negative Zone when you're off saving the day), but Marvel's mishmash superhero certainly has some DNA in common with the Man of Steel.
Let's see: Hyper-powerful hero who generally holds back for fear of going <em>too</em> far, wears cape, flies around a lot and has a giant "S" on his outfit. <p>Thankfully, Robert Reynolds had a freaky alter-ego (that eventually overwhelmed his "Sentry" persona and led to <em>Siege</em>, of course) to differentiate himself from Superman, otherwise all we'd have to go on was the fact that one of them was blonde and had a mullet once and the other one was brunette and had a mullet once. You know, like a mullet-ed Betty and Veronica.
Not only did Steve Gerber, Mary Skenes and Jim Mooney's mid-'70s superhero look like a post-hippie Superman with his blue bodysuit, red cape and coiffure'd hair, but he's also the last survivor of a destroyed planet who landed on Earth to become a superhero. <p>Admittedly, things go slightly off-topic when you factor in the whole thing about his being shot dead by the police and then turning out to be a bio-engineered humanoid created by another alien race altogether, but there had to be <em>some</em> differences to keep from everything being a little too close for Marvel's lawyers' comfort, right?
Clearly, Steve Gerber had a thing for hippie Superman, because here's another version of that idea from the creator's <em>Fear</em> run in the early '70s. <p>This time around, Wundarr is the infant son of Hektu and Soja, who was rocketed to Earth because of an impending apocalypse that ended up not actually happening. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, Wundarr has super-strength, incredible depth of knowledge and, it turns out, the ability to fight off zombie infections when needs be. All he needs to come into full-Superman mode is to lose the beard. He wouldn't want to be mistaken for Henry Cavill, after all.
On the plus side, Adam Breshear isn't an alien rocketed from a dying planet, but instead a Korean War vet whose body was exposed to massive amounts of radiation that transformed him into a living anti-matter reactor and America's greatest hero for a short period — one who just so happened to have Superman-esque powers like super strength, super-speed, flight and super-senses... Oh, and his own Fortress of Solitude-style hangout at the bottom of the sea, to boot. <p>Someone clearly has a little bit of a Single White Female thing going on with the Man of Tomorrow, which is ironic considering he's actually a married black male, and now one of the <i>Mighty Avengers</i>, a new team with a new series, debuting in September.
Sure, you could look at the leader of the Imperial Guard's OMAC-esque hairstyle and purple skin and proclaim "He's nothing <em>like</em> Superman! Just look at his origins! There's no doomed planet or anything going on!" <p>And yet, with a power-set that essentially <em>is</em> that of DC's favorite alien, a chest emblem that's Superman's triangle turned upside down and the fact that he was created to be a stand-in for Superboy in a faux Legion of Super-Heroes, there's no getting around it: For all intents and purposes, this is <em>a</em> Superman, in all but name. And skin color.
There have been multiple Hyperions in Marvel Comics throughout time, including the latest, in the Jonathan Hickman-written <i>Avengers</i> lineup. One thing links them all together: They're all Superman deep down. <p>The character was, after all, created by Roy Thomas and John Buscema to <em>be</em> Superman to all intents and purposes in <em>Avengers #85</em> as part of the Squadron Sinister (which later became known as a the Squadron Supreme), and he's always shared Kal-El's origins, super powers and weaknesses — except, of course, instead of Kryptonite, he stays away from Argonite, because it's less legally actionable that way.
Not many people really remember Ethan Edwards, former <em>Spider-Man</em> character and most recently seen in <em>Avengers</em> alongside Wonder Man and his Revengers, and there's a reason for that: You probably thought he was Superman instead. <p>Edwards has it all: Infant rocketed from a dying planet that crash-landed on Earth and grew up to become a superhero with super-strength, flight, heat vision and invulnerability oh, and his secret identity? That's a mild-mannered reporter at a big newspaper. Next time Marvel and DC get together for a clash of their titans? Maybe one of the Avengers should remember to bring this guy along just to freak out Superman before things even begin.