Are Copycats Better Then The Original? Superman re-imagined

Look up in the air! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s Superman… wait nope sorry that is not superman; just another guy pretending to be him.

In the world of comic books with every good idea there is about a thousand imitations looking to steal some of that thunder. For every imitation that sinks there is one that swims, becoming a wonderful re-imagining or an anti-version of what we already know.

Out of all the copycats I would say that Superman and Batmanesque type characters spring up every year, with creators taking that basic construction of that character and trying to re-tool him in a sort of different way.

Superman is probably even more imitated than Batman; but why? Superman is probably the most re-imagined because essentially he is probably the most flawed out of all the old school super heroes. Not flawed in the sense that he has an overwhelming amount of character flaws but rather he is flawed because he has none.

Of course can we really blame Joe Schuster and Jerry Siegel for creating such a delightfully boring character as Superman? Probably not, basically they created the comic book super hero. They basically took the idea of Phillip Wylie’s 1930s pulp novel “Gladiator” and made it into a comic book. Superman was the prototype there wasn’t a lot of thought about creating a hero with personality and weaknesses.

The thing about Superman is that whatever power he didn’t have he would later receive, when it was revealed that Fawcett comics Captain Marvel could fly DC made it so Superman could fly. For a while it was basically whoever had an idea for a power Superman would receive. Even in the attempt to create weakness in the character, through the use of Kryptonite, he was still too powerful—his brain was a weapon too.


So now we have a situation, and the situation is that Superman is boring but he is a safe read, a safe read for kids. I am not saying that all Superman stories are immature or that all are bad, but I would say for a while Superman was the go to comic for most parents. Him being so accessible probably is what makes him the type of character that writers want to re-imagine.

So with a dozen or so Superman analogues I think it is appropriate to start with one that is a little bit more recent, I am talking The Sentry. For the longest time Marvel was without a Superman style character in mainstream continuity. That all changed though with a little April fools prank they did about 10 or 11 years ago. The Sentry was supposedly a forgotten character created by Stan Lee and a fictional artist Artie Rosen.

A mix between Captain America and Superman, the Sentry allegedly received his powers from a stolen super soldier serum that turned him into the most powerful being in the Marvel U. Basically Sentry is a guy that flies around, has super vision, and can do just about anything conceivable. Sounds a little bit like Superman right? Well here is the twist the guy is his own worst enemy, and is a sheltered agoraphobic-schizophrenic recluse. The Sentry basically created his own worst enemy, the Void, or rather the Void created him. Void is an evil manifestation of his darkest desires that he battles from time to time.

Sentry is a bit of an interesting cat and just like Superman he is essentially immortal, yes immortal; he was killed and came back to life. Superman was killed and also came back to life. So Sentry steals a lot of similar elements from Superman, but the real change is he has an unstable personality.

Next up I would like to focus on Robert Kirkman’s “Invincible,” I have to first admit that I have never read “Invincible” but I do know the basic idea behind it. Basically there is this teenager who is from another planet and is the son of a famous super hero, who isn’t really a hero at all. The teenager goes by the name Invincible and he has super human


strength, speed and flight, pretty much a young Superman in the making. Ok, so you might be wondering about the whole daddy situation. Well from my understanding his dad pretends to be a hero but is doing so that he can conquer the planet for his alien empire or something. Invincible says, “no way jose,” fights and brings him to justice. So basically Invincible is a young Superman with severe daddy issues.

Lets next move on to Mark Waids “Irredeemable,” I am probably even more unfamiliar with this one then Invincible but I will attempt to summarize. Basically “Irredeemable” is the story of a Supermaneesque hero with all the powers and such of Superman but goes from being good to bad. The story from my understanding is about how decisions made in life can influence who or what you become later on.

Finally, the last of the Superman analogues I want to cover is Rob Liefeld’s Supreme. Supreme was in the beginning a character who was like Superman but didn’t have the sort of moral hang-ups that Superman had about killing. The character was a bit of a flop so he was re-tooled from the ground up by Alan Moore.

Alan Moore’s “Supreme: Story of the Year” was an Eisner winner and it painted the character as a traditional Superman character with the exception of being knowledgeable of his own retcons by his comic book creators. The story was really very cool and it was told in a style were in the process of re-claiming his memory Supreme has flashbacks of his past told in the style of a classic Golden Age and Silver Age comic books.

What was most interesting though is that the events that happened in his past, where he fought a villain similar to the Kryptonite man, were caused by events that happened in his present. Fighting his arch-nemesis Darius Dax, a Lex Luthor style character, Dax tries to harness the power of Superemium, Supereme’s Kryptonite, causing him to travel back in time and become the villain that Supreme fought in his youth. But after Dax is defeated in the past he then continues further backwards in time becoming the asteroid that originally gave Supreme his powers. So essentially Dax created his own worst enemy.

Of course there are many more Superman style characters out in the world of comics, each one with their own unique quirks. There are also many Batman style characters but that is for another article at a different time.





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