Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Of man and superman...

And here's part two of the countdown.

5) Hyperion (Marvel Comics - Supreme Power version)
Mark Milton is the sole survivor of an alien race, rocketed to Earth and given over to the custody of the United States government. As the child grew, his powers grew as well, and the young Mark found himself possessed of unearthly strength, the power to fly, enhanced senses, atomic vision and superhuman speed. The arrival of Mark's rocket sparked other superhumans - in some cases granting powers to normal humans, in other cases re-awakening long dormant powers. Leading many of them as the head of the Squadron Supreme, Mark Milton is no doubt the most powerful being on Earth.

Why he's number 5: First, please excuse me for the fact that I'm talking about the Supreme Power version of Hyperion, but using a picture of the old-school Hyperion. I just like the visual better. Hyperion is a very straightforward pasting of Superman, right down to the aliterative name. (Yes, Clark and Kent start with different letters, but they're the same sound.) His origin differs once he gets here, but the infant that would become Hyperion could very well have been Kal-El. It again comes down to attitude - Hyperion sees himself as a hero, but he is far more brutal than Clark would ever allow himself to be. Part of that comes from the fact that Hyperion never had the chance to be human - something that defines Clark.

4) Samaritan
(Homage Comics)
The man who calls himself Asa Martin in his daily job at the Astro City Current is, in fact, Samaritan. A displaced traveler from the future, sent to save our time-line from mirroring his own, Samaritan commands Empyrean Flame, and is the leader of the Astro City Honor Guard.

Why he's number 4: Samaritan shares a lot with Superman both in level of power and in attitude - something which rockets him ahead of those on part one of this list. It's in his origin story and more significantly, ability to be "human" that makes him really different. Samaritan does share that "last survivor" aspect with Superman, but he's a time-traveller instead of being from another world. Samaritan also started as a normal human and then became superhuman, something that wasn't the case with Clark. But Samaritan lacks any semblance of a normal life. He has a job and co-workers, but none of them are really friends. He doesn't date, or go to parties. Even his assumed name, "Asa Martin" is an anagram of his code-name.

3) Statesman (City of Heroes computer game/Image Comics)
Marcus Cole received his powers by drinking from the Well of Zeus, at the same time as his one-time best friend, Stephen Ricter did. Ricter became the menacing ruler of Arachnos, Lord Recluse, while Marcus became the world's greatest hero, Statesman. Leading several generations of heroes through the Freedom Phalanx, Statesman has been a steadfast protector of mankind from threats both native to Earth, and from far beyond.

Why he's number 3: Statesman is actually a pretty straight-forward alternate version of Superman. World's greatest hero, superstrong, invulnerable, and even wearing a similar color scheme. (Actually, one of only a few on this list who shares colors with the last son of Krypton.) He also shares the fact that it was his presence in that universe that prompted other heroes to come forth. Where he's mostly different from Superman is that his role in the universe *must* be downplayed in order to make players of the game feel important enough. He also lacks an achilles heel like Superman does.

2) Icon (Milestone Comics)
An alien starliner malfunctioned and exploded, jettisoning a life-pod in the middle of a cotton field in the American South. The life-pod made its passenger mimic the first-life form who found it, in this case, a slave woman. The alien is still with us, disguised as his own descendant and using his superhuman power to perform quiet acts of charity, until one night when a teen girl, Raquel, sees him use his powers. Raquel persuaded Augustus to become a superhero named Icon, with herself as his sidekick.

Why he's number 2: Icon's creators dismissed seeing him as "the black Superman," but it's hard to deny the similarities. Icon's race may still be out there waiting for him, but he's had no more contact with them then Kal-El has. The idea that the life-pod altered the alien to resemble humanity is a carry-over from Superman's origin as well, at least in some versions, and most "possible futures" show that Clark either doesn't age, or does so very slowly. There are only two reasons why he doesn't actually take the number one spot: The first, obvious one is that he's black - something which cannot help but color his perception of humanity. The second one is a bit more subjective, but in my mind is significant, and that is the fact that he has met Superman, in-continuity (at least for him). It's harder for me to say "you're another version of Superman" when the character has met the man.

1) Supreme (Image Comics - Alan Moore version)
Supreme is really Ethan Crane, a mild-mannered artist for Dazzle Comics, who received his powers as a result of a childhood exposure to a meteorite composed of pure Supermium, a meta-element that can alter reality. When not saving the world as the archetypal superhero, Crane illustrates the adventures of Omniman, a Supreme-like character undergoing a re-launch with a change of writers.

Why he's number 1: Once Alan Moore got his hands on this character, Supreme became what the others on this list only flirt with - a method of discussing the role of Superman in comics and within it's universe. Through the meta-narrative, Supreme illustrates the changes that have come in a character with sixty years of history. Supreme has a supporting cast that is as closely a mirror of Superman's as he is of the man himself. Moore also used the cliches which are a part of Superman's mythos without his customary irony - and he himself has said that Supreme is, in part, an apology for the deconstruction of comics that he has been blamed/credited for. I adore V for Vendetta, Watchmen, Miracleman, The Killing Joke, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and others, but if I could only have one Alan Moore graphic novel on a desert island? It'd be Supreme: The Story of the Year.

So, there's my top ten. Who do you think I missed? Who do you think belongs elsewhere on the list? I'd love to hear.

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Blogger Brandon said...

No Underdog?

5:10 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Nope, I figured one animal pastiche of Superman was enough.

That and Underdog was a parody. His adventures were played simply for laughs, his costume was ill-fitting, etc. Mighty Mouse, oddly enough, was usually played straight.

6:44 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

I'd have bumped Samaritan up on the list to the number two or three slot. That's it really.

4:14 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

I would have bumped Hyperion (the latest version) up to #3 since his powers are basically the same and because he serves as a great example of what Superman could have been if he wasn't raised by Ma and Pa Kent and instilled with their good values. Hyperion reminds me a lot of the Superman that is portrayed in the Red Son series.

I would have put Statesman down to five since he's always struck me more as being more similar to Captain America than Superman with his military background and miraculous liquid origin that changes him from a normal guy into a living legend.

11:54 PM  

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