The Superman Analogue is a character that is analogous to Superman. That is, a superhero that is based on Superman but is different in a significant manner. In the over eighty years, since Superman first appeared in Action Comics #1 (1939), there have been numerous examples of the Superman Analogue.
Ironically, the first Superman Analogue may have been the original Captain Marvel, who first appeared in early 1940 in Whiz Comics #1. Based on comic book sales, the character was the most popular superhero of the 1940s, outselling even Superman. Captain Marvel was also the first comic book superhero to be adapted into film, in a 1941 Republic Pictures serial titled Adventures of Captain Marvel.
The Captain Marvel character effectively ceased to be published in 1953 when DC Comics sued for copyright infringement claiming that Captain Marvel was a copy (i.e. analogue) of Superman. The suit was settled out of court when Fawcett Comics agreed to stop using the character from henceforth. Subsequently of course, DC would acquire Captain Marvel from Fawcett.
So, before we dive into the concept of the Superman Analogue, we need to understand exactly what that means. First and foremost, of course, the Superman Analogue is an over-powered being, perhaps of alien origins, deriving his powers from the sun and typically possessing the powers of flight, super-strength and invulnerability.
This character would be the first amongst equals – in a world of superheroes, he would be top dog and most likely a leader. Creators utilising this analogue would typically deconstruct Superman to arrive at a flawed personality – how would a god-like person behave in ‘real’ life? Would he use his powers for the good of mankind or for his own purposes, whatever they might be?
With that in mind, let’s examine what we consider the top ten examples of the Superman analogues that have graced the pages of comic books in the history of the superhero genre. In alphabetical order, of course…
Created by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch
First Appearance : Stormwatch vol. 2 #4 (1998)
Although, visually Apollo seems quite distinct from Superman, his powers are derived from the Sun and he possesses the same abilities as Superman. There is the added twist of Apollo being openly gay and having a relationship with The Midnighter, a Batman analogue. World’s Finest indeed! Though Apollo first appeared in Stormwatch, he was a more prominent character in The Authority.
Created by Kevin Grevioux.
First appearance : Adam : Legend of the Blue Marvel #1 (2008)
With all the talk about Warner Bros developing a Black Superman movie, Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios might beat them to the punch should Marvel adapt the Blue Marvel from the comics. Blue Marvel is a Superman-like character that operated in the 1960s but was shut down by the government due to the fact that he was African-American. Arguably the Blue Marvel was more a vehicle to make commentary about American race relations in the 1960s than a genuine attempt at developing an interesting superhero character. Will the Blue Marvel turn up in The Marvels?
Created by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson.
First appearance : The Boys #3 (2006)
Like Invincible’s Omni-Man, The Boys’ Homelander answered every comic geek’s nagging question – what if Superman used his powers for evil instead? In Garth Ennis’ skewered superhero worldview, the heroes were really the sociopathic bad guys and Homelander was at the top of the shit pile. Ennis also maximised the Nazi associations perfectly, with Homelander being the ideal white power icon – a far cry from Superman’s humanistic philosophy no doubt. The streaming adaptation has added emotional nuance to the comic book character making him even more memorable. No mean feat!
Created by Roy Thomas and Sal Buscema
First appearance : The Avengers #69 (1969)
Intended to be a throwaway pastiche of Superman in opposition to The Avengers, Hyperion has been developed into a fully-fledged Marvel character in his own right, eventually becoming an Avenger himself! Of course, that character is very different from the original that appeared in the late 60s and in fact, there have been numerous alternate versions of Hyperion as well. Writer Jonathan Hickman redefined Hyperion as more than a “poor analogue for Superman” by the time he was re-introduced in The Avengers in 2012.
Created by Jim Lee and H. K. Proger.
First appearance : WildC.A.T.s #11 (1994)
The advent of Image Comics in the 1990s provided superheroes with an independent outlet outside of the big two (i.e. DC and Marvel) which resulted in a slew of new characters inevitably and invariably based on the existing paradigms. Cue Mr. Majestic – basically Wildstorm Universe’s version of Superman. Not much else to say cuz Mr. Majestic was not really that distinctive or special a character.
Created by Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker.
First appearance : Invincible #1 (2003)
Technically, Omni-Man is a side-character to the story protagonist Mark Grayson – who is the son of this Superman analogue who turns out ultimately to be ‘evil’ (sorry, spoiler). With his Tom Selleck moustache and arrogant demeanour, Omni-Man can be seen to represent all established superheroes at odds with the upcoming upstarts like Invincible, perhaps an analogy of what Image Comics were trying to achieve, in competition to the big two. Or maybe we are overthinking this. An intriguing character in the context.
Created by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson and Alex Ross.
First appearance : Astro City #1 (1995)
About a decade after Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Astro City aimed to deconstruct the superhero genre in similar fashion. Par for the course, the various characters in the Astro City universe were analogues of existing superheroes. Samaritan was the Superman analogue but of course with a twist. Instead of being an alien, Samaritan was a human time traveller sent back in time to prevent a catastrophe. However, in the process of moving through the time stream, Samaritan gained his amazing powers. What set Samaritan apart from other analogues is his human quality – an almost sad wistful aspect that defined the strongest hero in the universe. Surely, that Astro City streaming adaptation cannot be far behind!
Created by Rob Liefeld.
First appearance : Youngblood #3 (1992)
Originally, Liefeld’s Supreme was a violent, egotistical Superman archetype, but fortunately (for fans) he was retooled by Alan Moore as a tribute to Mort Weisinger’s Silver Age Superman. That’s really the only reason, Supreme is worthy of a mention on this list. If not, he would be as significant as Mr. Majestic. Of course, in the expert hands of Moore, Supreme was transformed into a deconstructive tour de force. Moore was awarded a well-served Eisner for his efforts in 1997.
Created by Rick Veitch.
First appearance : Maximortal #1 (1992)
Rick Veitch’s magnum opus is concerned less about the Superman analogue per se and more about the creators behind Superman. True-Man, as a character, was probably closer to Alan Moore’s Miracleman than the son of Krypton but Veitch used the character as a vehicle to expound on the severe injustice experienced by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster at the hands of DC Comics. An incisive allegory about the corrupt comic book industry and a biting commentary on the blatant abuses meted out by comic book companies upon the creators of the intellectual properties that have made millions.
Created by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely.
First appearance : Jupiter’s Legacy #1 (2013)
The Utopian is probably one of the most faithful Superman analogues out there. Well, with respect to the much beloved ‘boy scout’ version of the Man of Steel – you know, upholding strict moral codes and all that. A man out of time, basically. The Utopian’s origins seems closer to pulp heroes like Doc Savage than Supes but his adherence to a code of conduct provides an excellent parallel for deconstructive commentary. While the comic book gave short shrift to the character, there is more development available in the Netflix adaptation.
Created by Mick Anglo. First appearance : Marvelman #25 (1954)
Though really a Captain Marvel analogue, Marvelman began life as a British version of the Big Red Cheese before it ceased publication in 1960. Twenty years later, a young Alan Moore would reinvent the character in the pages of Warrior Magazine in a groundbreaking manner that would set the tone for the many Superman analogues listed here to follow.
… still there’s more …