Homage to a Man of Steel
How many different heroes are comparable to Superman (or even stronger) with a similar power set?
A question I get on a fairly regular basis: Who’s out there that is as strong as Superman?
- With the usual main course of: Can they kick his butt?
- Today’s has a side order of: Do any of them have powers like his?
There was a limiter of the Marvel Universe but I went beyond the call of duty (so I wouldn’t have to make multiple versions of the same document when someone asked for DC/Image/Milestone next time. I will just add to this one in the future). I didn’t go into butt-kicking specifics. Most of these guys are pretty powerful and should be able to go a few rounds with Superman.
I have stated before in a couple of articles, Superman, the Last Son of Krypton is one of the most popular superheroes ever created. He is also one of the most imitated, as well. I will share with you just a few of the heroes and histories of characters at both Marvel and DC (and a couple of independents) whose powers, origins or histories pay at least a cursory homage to the enduring legacy of Superman.
Almost everyone on this list should be considered equal to or maybe even more powerful than most versions of Superman, Post-Crisis. Pre-Crisis Superman is still one of the most powerful versions of the Man of Tomorrow ever. (Though Supreme and Mr. Majestic may give him a run for his money.)
DC COMICS — Superheroic Necromancers:
- Since DC had a habit of acquiring other comic companies on their deathbeds, they ended up with a number of heroes whose powers and abilities may have been inspired by the Man of Steel.
- Others were born during the Silver Age of Comics, when new ideas were born and there were a number of heroes whose power sets expanded. Other DC analogs of Superman include:
- J’onn J’onzz: (Pre-Crisis, Silver Age) a.k.a. The Martian Manhunter; He didn’t just share a power set, he shared an origin as the last survivor of his race, having nearly same powers (plus a few extra) during the Silver Age.
- The Modern Age Martian Manhunter has a slightly altered origin, as a weapon created to subjugate the Earth (think Son Goku) for the White Martians. He still has all of the superpowers of Superman, plus shape shifting, phasing, the ability to split his consciousness, and Omega-level psychic abilities.
- Sodam Yat: (Pre-Crisis, Silver Age — Daxamites) Take a Green Lantern, give him the powers of a Daxamite (a distant but comparable genetic cousin of the Kryptonians) and you have Sodam Yat, one of the most powerful beings roaming the DC Universe. All the power of a Kryptonian and all the flexibility of a Green Lantern ring. Oh my….
- Captain Marvel/Shazam: Acquired from Fawcett Comics, World’s Mightiest Mortal, equal in overall power level to Superman during the Silver Age. Similar powers, but lacking the super senses and energy projection powers. In the Modern Era, dubbed Shazam, Batson is now the Wizard, having access to all of his previous abilities and the magic of the Council of Wizards who used to inhabit the Rock of Eternity. Now he has access to spell magic and divine power. He may even be stronger than Modern Age Superman.
- Vartox: (Pre-Crisis, Silver Age) A humanoid alien (during the Silver Age, they all were) whose powers equaled Pre-Crisis Superman! Yes, this guy arrived first as a challenger to Superman and later as an ally.
- Vartox held his own easily against Superman and if he were honestly revived at the same power-level he would be terrifying.
- But I suspect it was his lack of fashion sense that did him in. Thigh-high boots on a man during that period, just never quite made the grade. Think Sean Connery in Zardoz. (Don’t look this up. Do not Google this. You were warned!)
- Captain Atom: Acquired from Charlton Comics the atomic age hero, Captain Atom was the most powerful hero of his universe. The result of atomic experiments in which he was atomized (sorta the same way Doctor Manhattan was — which kind of makes Manhattan an homage to Captain Atom…) Captain Atom gained the power of flight, superhuman strength, near invulnerability and the power to project bolts of radioactive energy. In this case, its not a perfect fit but since he was the most powerful hero of his universe, and a great degree of overlap, we can be certain some respect was layered in there somewhere.
- Apollo (from Wildstorm): Formerly a U.S. soldier, Apollo was a member of a secret experimental academy team created by the insane former Stormwatch Weatherman, Henry Bendix. Bendix’s extensive alterations made Apollo almost a Sun God, with flight, superhuman strength and invulnerability, and heat vision. However, he needs frequent exposure to full sunlight to recharge his powers and his health. (Almost a complete and direct riff on Superman except for the alien origin.) He was later purchased by DC Comics.
- Captain Comet: The other Man of Tomorrow, was born in 1931, to a farming couple in the Midwest; called a metahuman mutant, 100,000 years ahead of his time (and 12 years before the X-men even existed). His powers were activated (or at least heralded) by a passing comet. Born with vast psychic abilities, he had a genius IQ, perfect memory, telepath and mental domination powers. He was also a powerful telekinetic, capable of moving tens of thousands of pounds. He could create mental barriers of force and even project his mind into distant places as a form of clairvoyance. In this instance we could make a case that Superman is/was an homage to this character…
- Thor: The Odinson — As befitting a guardian of the Nine Realms, Thor Odinson is a physical titan, his prodigious strength allows him to engage the mightiest of enemies barehanded. Rounding out Thor’s powers is his great weapon, Mjolnir. Using Mjolnir, Thor is capable of flight. His short-hafted warhammer, can crack open a mountain range, slay a giant or destroy a skyscraper in a single blow.
- Mjolnir’s thrown speed is incredible, able to take a trip to the sun and back in a matter of minutes. The hammer is also capable of opening wormholes between worlds and different dimensions as well. Mjolnir’s enchantments via Odin allow Thor a number of energy manipulating and energy generation feats even in excess of his storm-summoning abilities.
- While not a direct analog, he was definitely designed to be the Marvel Universe’s first answer to the noble protector, defender of the Earth, flying brick that is Superman. Based in magic (or super-science depending on who you ask), Thor loves the world and would die to protect it.
- Hyperion (comics): Written for a Marvel homage to the Justice League, the Squadron Supreme was something for the Avengers to beat up until smarter, more creative writers experimented with them and made them something more than lame copies of the Justice League. Hyperion is Superman in every way that matters. Yet still different enough to be enjoyed by readers. His latest recreation promises to be excellent. King Hyperion was also a riff on Superman-Prime (not the Golden Superman, One Million but the crazed Superboy who ran roughshod over the DC Universe in a story that should have never happened. Yes, I’m bitter.)
- Sentry (Robert Reynolds): Middle aged, overweight Bob Reynolds remembers that he is the Sentry, a superhero whose “power of one million exploding suns” derives from a special serum. Realizing that his archenemy the Void is returning, Reynolds seeks out several prominent Marvel characters to warn them and to discover why no one remembers the Sentry. The Sentry is one of Marvel’s most powerful heroes. So powerful, writing for him has become a burden at times and the character is given psychological limitations to keep him from running amok or defusing every story with his incredible god-like might. He has fought the Hulk and Thor to a standstill; his power: unquestioned. His mental status: To Be Determined.
- Superior: In association with Icon, Marvel Comics released the Superman analog, Superior, a hero whose powers were magically-derived from a demonic source — in fact, making him as much an analog of Captain Marvel as Superman… Simon Pooni, an angry, bitter 12-year-old boy suffering from multiple sclerosis, idolizes superheroes, particularly Superior, a Superman analogue. An alien monkey named Ormon appears at Simon’s bedside, informing the boy that of all the people on Earth, he has been granted the honor of being bestowed a single magic wish. Simon is then transformed into Superior.
- Gladiator (Kallark): A straight riff on the Superman of the 1970’s, Gladiator’s powers were vast and nearly incomprehensible. Gladiator’s Superman influences were immediately recognizable in the company he kept (a collection of metahumans who resembled DC Legion of Superheroes with Gladiator playing the lead role of Superboy…) He would later be the template for which the 1990 Superman (and clone Superboy — see: Tactile Telekinesis) would later be based on during John Byrne’s Man of Steel run.
- Gladiator was as powerful as his confidence in his powers, and they could be disrupted if his concentration was broken. Reed Richards defined his powers as a form of telekinesis super-field, which allowed Gladiator to rip the Baxter building out of the ground without falling apart under shearing stresses (the same way Superman manages to carry things without them tearing apart under their own weight.)
- Blue Marvel: Adam Brasher acquired his powers in a scientific mishap. He would become a living antimatter reactor with a host of other powers including flight, limitless superhuman strength, near-invulnerability, energy projection, and superhuman senses.
- His powers were so incredible, he was asked by the government to not go public with his powers for fear of cultural race riots in the sixties. Living undercover and working as a covert mystery man in the Marvel Universe as one of the Mighty Avengers, he fought the good fight from the shadows.
- Eventually he would defy that government edict and return to the stage in a battle against the Avengers. Trouncing them completely (including the Sentry), he would go on to save the day, beat the snot out of King Hyperion, and do a bunch of other amazing things before becoming an Avenger and leading a team of troubleshooters called the Ultimates.
- Marvelman (Miracleman): formerly known as Marvelman, is a fictional character, a superhero that appears in comics published by Marvel Comics, created in 1954 by writer-artist Mick Anglo for publisher, L. Miller & Son. Originally a United Kingdom home-grown substitute for the American character Captain Marvel, the series ran until 1963. He was revived in 1982 in a dark, post-modern deconstructionist series by writer Alan Moore, with later contributions by Neil Gaiman.
- Miracleman’s powers and origin included a convoluted backstory, magic words, kid sidekicks, lost memories, alien invaders, a superheroic disaster, and a post-human future. It is one of the best and strangest development of a god-like Superman-like character who alters the future of Humanity as we know it. I am sure when Marvel brings him back to their fold, all of that writing will become Apocrypha, but if you can find any of that old classic Marvelman, do so. It was wonderful work.
- Icon: The flagship hero of the Dakota Universe, an alien named Arnus (Augustus Freeman) lands in the slavery era South and takes on the physical characteristics of the woman who finds him. He is taken as the son of a slave. He hides his powers from Humanity, pretending to be his own descendants, until he is persuaded into using his abilities Raquel Ervin to help during an event where a number of new metahumans are formed due to a chemical accident. Icon is as powerful as Superman, and shares many of the fundamental beats of the character, including being an alien, hiding among humans, and a degree of reluctance to use his powers.
- An original character from Milestone Comics, he was created by Dwayne McDuffie and M. D. Bright and first appeared in Icon #1 (May 1993). At the 2008 Comic-Con, DC Comics executive editor Dan DiDio announced that the Milestone Universe and characters would be revived and merged into the DC Universe proper. This was the result of a complex publication/distribution agreement drawn up between the two independent companies. The merger treated the characters as new to the universe, ignoring the Worlds Collide crossover of 1994. Icon, along with Shadow Cabinet, appeared in Justice League of America (vol. 2) #27, written by Dwayne McDuffie.
- Supreme: Crazed superhuman whose powers dwarf even Superman’s. Brings order to his world by simply stamping out ALL CRIME. Supreme has had multiple origins, retold a number of times. Some versions were well received, others panned completely. A being of incredible ability, his writing has fluctuated as much as his power has. Some versions of Supreme are a darker version of the Man of Steel.
- Mr. Majestic: Another Image Superman-like character, created by Jim Lee. Lee was asked why he based Mr. Majestic so much on Superman, he stated that he was tired of seeing so many comic heroes who possessed great power but were too afraid to use it. Mr. Majestic possesses powers similar to those of Superman, but his personality is entirely different. Majestros has more militant views, as he is a Kheran warlord.
- Mr. Majestic’s abilities are often very inconsistent. His strength and durability vary greatly from appearance to appearance, but the majority of his appearances portray him with powers fairly similar to those of Superman. He possesses great strength, speed, flight, eye-beams, genius level intellect, micro vision, ice breath, ability to survive in space, accelerated healing and is invulnerable to conventional weaponry. Unlike Superman, Majestic has the ability to shoot energy beams from his hands.
- Omni-Man is a superhero, supervillain and anti-hero in the Image Comics Universe. Omni-Man is the father of Invincible and a member of the Viltrumite race, a humanoid species of extraterrestrial origin who possess superhuman strength, super speed, virtual immortality, and flight. As is customary for male Viltrumites, Omni-Man sports and is proud of his large mustache.
Anime and Manga
- Saitama (One Punch Man): Saitama is a citizen of a futuristic world, filled with heroes and monsters. Being a superhero is a way of life, a job even, depending on your powers, or your zeal to work with the public. Saitama is a registered Rank B hero who has yet to earn City Z’s respect. His apprentice is a Rank S cyborg who seeks to learn Saitama’s secrets.
- Unbeknownst to almost everyone, Saitama’s powers appear to exceed all but the most powerful Rank S metahumans, beings whose powers defy effective classification. He is so strong, fast, durable and powerful, most battles, and I do mean most, end with him throwing a single punch against said foe.
- The source of Saitama’s powers remains unknown, even to him. His exercise regimen and diet reveal no secrets, but he is incredibly fast, strong, durable, capable of incredible leaps (from the moon to the Earth for example) and able to punch his way through alien spaceships, sea monsters, and just about anything else that gets in his way.
- Is One Punch Man’s ‘Saitama’ an homage or a parody of super-strong heroes such as Superman or Son Goku? An article for another day. Wait, I already wrote it. Enjoy.
- Son Goku (Saiyans): An alien conqueror species, the Saiyans invaded planets, conquered or destroyed them as proof of their dominance over alien life in their galaxy. When a species might not be worthy of their full might, they sent an infant to that world and let it conquer it instead. Goku was such an infant. Landing on Earth, he would have surely defeated everyone on the planet except for losing his memory and being found by the perverted Master Roshi, who raised the boy as his martial apprentice.
- Born with superhuman strength, instinctive fighting prowess from their animalistic heritage, natural abilities of energy manipulation, the Saiyan physiology only improved with struggle and continued training. Goku would increase in might, training in various arenas against more powerful foes, Goku would one day become the mightiest fighter in his Universe, achieving levels of power once thought only legendary. Goku would become a Super-Saiyan and with his example, many of his friends and family would as well.
- More god than man, Goku goes on to become Champion of the Earth, protecting it from alien threats including other Saiyans. He would go on with the help of Earth’s greatest warriors, the Z Fighters, to challenge threats to the Universe at large.
- In a battle between these two legendary heroes, who wins: Superman or Son Goku? (More information on Goku.)
A final note:
I doubt seriously this list is all-inclusive. There are likely many more homages and parodies of the Man of Steel that I am not thinking of at this very moment. Feel free share any you can think of in the comments or as notes on the sidebar. (As I am closing this I am remembering Wildstorm’s Samaritan…I’ll have to come back later…)
Other Comic Articles
- Is it possible to create a truly original, unique comic character?
- How do DC superheroes compare to Marvel superheroes?
- How can comic fans keep up with 80 years of comic history?
- Superheroes: Why are superheroes depicted defying the laws of physics?
- Who are the favorite superheroes of Thaddeus Howze?
This essay originally appeared on Quora and is © Thaddeus Howze, 2016. All Rights Reserved.
The Answer-Man’s Archives are a collection of my articles discussing superheroes and their powers in relationship to their respective universes. We deconstruct characters, memes, profiles and how superheroes relate to real world culture. You can find other Archives on Quora and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Stack Exchange or at The World According to Superheroes.
Thaddeus Howze is a writer, essayist, author and professional storyteller for mysterious beings who exist in non-Euclidean realms beyond our understanding. You can follow him on Twitter or support his writings on Patreon.