Superheroes have been the driving force of the comic book industry for well over 75 years now, and with countless thousands of characters having been created since then, it truly is difficult to create an original character nowadays. Most new creations are simply amalgams of various, pre-existing characters. Other times, they’re either inspired by or ripped off of other superhero characters to some degree. And more often than not, those characters tend to come from rival publishers.
Marvel and DC Comics have rivaled each other in every form of entertainment since their respective inceptions, and their characters are proof of that: Green Arrow and Hawkeye, Catwoman and Black Cat, Aquaman and Namor, and, of course, Superman and…well, everyone. Dozens, if not hundreds of superheroes are rip-offs of the Man of Steel — and why wouldn’t they be?
Superman is the original (well, kind of) and arguably the most well-known superhero in existence. So why wouldn’t other publishers try to capture some of that fame? The thing is, they did. And the House of Ideas definitely got in on the fun. Here are 15 Times Marvel Ripped Off Superman.
There have been numerous Superman clones over the years, but Marvel’s first one was the superpowered being known as Hyperion. The thing with Hyperion, though, is that there are multiple versions of the character appearing across several alternate realities, and many of them resemble Supes, with the first having made his debut in 1969 as a member of the supervillain team Squadron Sinister.
Some versions of the character exhibit different abilities, such as healing abilities and super breath, but they all possess superhuman strength and reflexes, the ability to fly, durability, and atomic vision (which is just another way of saying heat vision).
In 2003, Marvel published Supreme Power, a new take on Hyperion’s origin story that very closely resembled that of the Last Son of Krypton, with the major difference being that Marvel’s hero was taken in by the US government to become an operative. Interestingly, that same year, DC came out with a Superman story arc set in an alternate reality (Superman: Red Son) where the Man of Tomorrow was taken in and raised by the Soviet Union as a superpowered agent. Great minds, we suppose.
14. Blue Marvel
Blue Marvel is as close to being Superman as they come, as he sports similar powers, a similar-ish suit, and he’s even looked up to in the same way. He may essentially be a clone of the Man of Steel, but there is a very specific reason behind his creation. Comic book writer Kevin Grevioux wanted to explore a time, particularly in the ’60s, when characters like Supes and Captain America were worshiped by the public (the fictional, comic book universe public) — but with a twist.
What if Superman wore a suit covering his entire body, saved the people of Metropolis, and was praised for it…but then, what if he removed that suit and revealed to the world that he was a black man? Would they rally behind him, or would the government ask him to retire? The basic premise behind Blue Marvel was to confront and discuss the racism that was so prevalent in America just a few short decades ago. We wish we could say such prejudices were completely in our rearview mirror, but unfortunately, Blue Marvel’s tale is still relevant today.
13. Marvelman (aka Miracleman)
Marvelman, aka Michael Moran, debuted in the early ’50s as a replacement for Captain Marvel, following Fawcett Comics’ decision to stop publishing superhero comics in 1953. Since Captain Marvel (now known as Shazam) was something of a Superman clone himself, it only made sense for the U.K.-created character, Marvelman, to also be inspired by the Man of Steel. A key difference between Marvelman and the rest of the characters on this list, however, is that he was originally published by L. Miller & Son before later being acquired by Marvel Comics.
In the ’50s, L. Miller & Son hired Mick Anglo to recreate the Marvel family, which he did, but he kept enough of the original characters intact so that fans wouldn’t lose interest in the new series. Billy Baston became Mickey Moran, who would incant the word “Kimota” to transform into a superhero, instead of Batson’s “Shazam.” So, being a rip off of Captain Marvel indirectly makes the character a rip-off of Superman (but aren’t all characters rip-offs of each other nowadays?).
Created by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum, Gladiator debuted in Uncanny X-Men #107 in 1977 as an alien warrior. Since then, he’s appeared in numerous story arcs affecting a wide variety of heroes and teams.
Unlike most of the characters on this list, who distinct knockoffs of Superman, Gladiator is more of an homage to Supes than anything else. The evidence is clear as day: his name was inspired by Philip Wylie’s novel Gladiator, the same novel that inspired Superman. His alter-ego, Kallark, is a portmanteau of Superman’s Kryptonian name, Kal-El, and his Earth name, Clark Kent. Furthermore, the superpowered alien team he’s a part of, the Imperial Guard, was meant to be an homage to DC Comics’ Legion of Super-Heroes.
Despite having virtually the same power sets, an interesting difference between Superman and Gladiator, in terms of strength levels, is that Gladiator can be as strong as he wills himself to be, while the Man of Tomorrow requires radiation from a yellow sun.
11. Ethan Edwards
On the surface, Ethan Edwards, aka Virtue, may not seem like a Superman ripoff; he’s a shapeshifting superhero who has the ability to see every frequency on the light spectrum. However, the more you hear about him — particularly his backstory — the more he sounds like a Superman clone.
Upon the destruction of the Skrull’s homeworld by the world-eating supervillain Galactus, Ethan Edwards is sent to Earth in order to begin life anew. His soon-to-be Earth parents were driving home, to their Iowa farm, when Ethan’s ship passed over them and crashlanded. They promptly took him in and raised him as one of their own. When Ethan grew up, he left Iowa and moved to New York City to become The Daily Bugle’s new reporter.
Sure, Ethan possessing superhuman strength, the ability to fly, and invulnerability are all common superpowers among heroes, but there’s no denying his origin story is remarkably similar to Clark Kent’s. It doesn’t take x-ray vision to see right through the Kansas-for-Iowa swap.
10. Wundarr the Aquarian
There are undoubtedly dozens of Superman clones out there in the comic book world, but not all of them are all that subtle about it. Some of them are meant to be parodies, of sorts, of Superman, such as Wundarr the Aquarian, whose origin is lifted straight from Superman’s.
Shortly after Wundarr was born, his scientist father noted that their planet’s sun was going supernova. So he and his wife placed their son in a ship and sent it to Earth to avoid their planet’s inevitable fate, where Wundarr is taken in by Maw and Paw (though not released from the ship). He grows to possess the same superpowers that Superman originally started out with during the Golden Age of Comics.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you, Wundarr even comes from the planet Dakkam, where people are known as Dakkamites. Does that sound similar to Daxam and the Daxamites from the DC Universe, a species descended from Kryptonians (who debuted in comics over a decade before Dakkam)? We thought so too.
A relatively new character to the Marvel Universe, Sentry debuted in 2000 as a middle-aged man starting to remember a life he forgot, a life everyone in the entire universe forgot. Judging by his origin story and character arc, the Sentry is not someone that appears to be a Superman clone, at least when you get into the below-the-surface details, but everything else says otherwise.
On the surface, however, Sentry wears a costume reminiscent of the Man of Steel’s, including a pronounced “S” on the front. His superpowers include superhuman strength and invulnerability, which are common abilities, but he has several others that, at least superficially, appear to mirror Superman’s own gifts.
Overall, the Sentry is not exactly a Superman ripoff, but rather a Superman analogue; he may be fundamentally different, but he still bears striking resemblance to another character (he was likely even inspired by said character). Furthermore, what’s interesting about “Marvel’s Superman” is that he may in fact be fmore powerful than the Man of Steel.
Though he doesn’t appear in the primary Marvel Universe, Superior is still a Marvel character, as he’s published under the company’s Icon imprint. Created by Mark Millar, Superior is another intentional Superman analogue — but to an extent. Sure, he has a relatively similar costume, but the similarities go far beyond that.
He not only has superhuman strength, speed, and agility, but he also has freeze-breath and flight capabilities (in addition to being nearly invulnerable, of course). The similarities to DC’s Big Blue Boy Scout don’t end at his powers and abilities; they continue through his stories. For instance, as Superior, Simon was able to safely bring a crashing satellite down to the ground, drag a submarine to shore, and prevent a nuclear disaster.
Superior may be a Superman analogue, but his origin actually has more in common with DC’s
Captain Marvel Shazam (or, in some cases, Black Adam), who is ironically one of the most famous Superman clones of all. So when it’s all said and done, Superior could potentially be considered a rip-off of a rip-off.
7. Wonder Man
Shortly after introducing The Avengers, Marvel created a character who would attempt to bring down the superhero team before eventually joining their ranks. Wonder Man, aka Simon Williams, debuted in 1964 imbued with superhuman strength and reflexes, heightened senses, invulnerability, and flight, as well as being empowered by ionic energy.
Not to be confused with the Fox Comics character of the same name from 1939 (who DC Comics sued into oblivion), Wonder Man may be more of a Superman analogue than a straight rip-off. But there’s no denying that the character possesses striking similarities to DC’s Wonder Woman, which is probably why DC Comics also once sued Marvel for the use of the name, according to Stan Lee.
The biggest difference between Superman and Wonder Man comes down to their personalities. Simon Williams works as an actor when he’s not fighting villainy, and he’s sort of a love-to-hate-him sort of hero. The ever-altruistic Clark Kent, on the other hand, is an intrepid reporter for the Daily Planet, and he doesn’t have an attention-loving bone in his body.
6. Count Nefaria
Over the years, several comic book publishers have tried their hand at creating their own Superman, and some have been relatively successful. However, only a few publishers took a look at Supes and decided to create an unstoppable villain. This interesting tactic becomes even more of an eyebrow-raiser when you recall that the original version of the Man of Steel, before he debuted in Action Comics #1, was a villain.
In the mid-’60s, Marvel created the supervillain Count Nefaria, the longtime Avengers villain and the father of Madame Masque. What’s interesting about the Count is that he obtained his powers in an experiment conducted by one of Baron Zemo’s top scientists. His powers are a culmination of the villains Power Man, Living Laser, and Whirlwind.
Superhuman strength, energy absorption and projection, and the power to spin at hypersonic speeds are all abilities he gained by undergoing the experiment. Those powers may be common now, but in the ’60s, those powers closely resembled those of our boy Superman. And while his outfit first calls to mind the duds of one Doctor Strange, comparisons can certainly be drawn to the Big Blue.
5. Ted Simmons (as Captain Universe)
Captain Universe is a rather interesting character, and that’s because he isn’t so much a superhero as he is a superhero persona. The Uni-Power, which emits from the Enigma Force, has bound itself to several hosts over the years, imbuing said hosts with a laundry list of cosmic powers, including superhuman strength, speed, and agility, as well as flight, telekinesis, and time travel, among other things. That host then becomes Captain Universe, the defender of the cosmic entity Eternity.
Perhaps the most well-known host was Ted Simmons, a Chicago police officer who dreamed of helping his community when he was a kid. The character made his debut in Amazing Fantasy #15 back in 2005. Sure, a cop from Chicago that finds himself imbued with cosmic powers doesn’t sound like a Superman rip-off, but if someone were to take a passing glance at him, even the most devout Superman fans might find themselves confusing Simmons for Clark Kent. They are, at times, indistinguishable.
4. Omega the Unknown
Speaking of indistinguishable Superman lookalikes…Omega the Unknown appeared in a brief, 10-issue series in 1976, in which he wasn’t actually the main character. Instead, the series followed 12-year old James-Michael Starling, who goes about his life having dreams of the superhero named Omega the Unknown, the last surviving member of a then-unidentified alien species.
Omega was fundamentally different than Superman, but there’s no denying that he looked like the Man of Tomorrow from head-to-toe, with his red cape, red boots, and blue suit (albeit with minor differences). Interestingly, though, Omega’s motivations tend to resemble those of General Zod, who is also a bio-engineered warrior of a doomed species — more so than Superman.
Unfortunately, the Omega series was short-lived, and the character died in the final issue. Had he been given a chance to continue, it’s possible that he could have become one of the more popular Superman analogues we’ve seen in the Marvel Universe. Then again, this one was a bit too on the nose.
Thor, the God of Thunder, and Superman, the Man of Steel, may not seem to have much in common on the surface, but the fundamentals behind the guardian of the Nine Realms say differently. To this day, Superman is viewed as the protector of the DC Universe, as the Boy Wonder once eloquently said: “Gotham needs Batman and Robin… but the world needs Superman.”
When the Marvel Universe was first being established, the publisher needed a character like Superman to fill the void; not someone who protected one neighborhood or one country, but someone who protected the entire planet (or, in Thor’s case, the entire realm) — and Thor was the answer.
Unlike Superman, who people perceived to be a god, Thor was literally a god to humanity. His flying brick powerset, augmented by using his trusty hammer Mjolnir, makes Thor one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe. So while Thor may not be a Superman clone (the two characters couldn’t be more different), his fundamental aspects are still derivative of the Man of Steel.
When comparing Superman to a character like Cyclops, aka Scott Summers, it would be difficult to imagine the latter being a rip-off of the former. They are two vastly different characters, but that doesn’t mean Marvel didn’t borrow some elements from the Man of Steel, namely his heat vision. Early in Cyclops’ history, it was revealed that his optic blasts were powered via solar energy, just like Supes, whose abilities are powered by the yellow sun of Earth.
Because of Superman, we’ve become so attuned to thinking that anything emitted from someone’s eyes has to be heat vision, but that’s not the case. Cyclops’ optic blasts don’t use the same energy. Whereas as Superman emits a form of heated x-ray vision, Cylcops emits a kinetic blast without any heat involved. Rather, it’s a concussive force that has the ability to break through objects, not melt through them. It’s a key difference many people fail to realize, but that won’t stop the comparisons between the two characters. Their altruistic, boy scout-y personalities won’t, either.
1. Captain America
Long before Marvel came along, there was Timely Comics, and the publisher carried three big-name superheroes at the time: Namor the Sub-Mariner, The Human Torch (not to be confused with Fantastic Four‘s Human Torch), and Captain America. The latter of those three heroes easily became their most famous creation. Perhaps it was because he punched Hitler in the face in his first issue. Or perhaps it was because his strength and unwavering patriotism resembled that of DC Comics’ Superman.
Sure, both Superman and Captain America wear similar colors (though they have starkly different suits) and both carry an ubermensch persona (with similar power sets at the time) in their respective universes, but, overall, there is little that Cap and the Big Blue have in common. Still, there’s no denying that publishers created Captain America and a slew of other superheroes in the late ’30s/early ’40s trying to replicate DC Comics’ success with Superman.
What other superheroes (and villains!) remind you of DC’s Man of Steel? Let us know in the comments.