Superman continues to endure, as evidenced by the box office success of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. When you’re arguably the most famous superhero in the world, people are going to copy you. After all, they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So it’s really no surprise that there are many Superman wannabes out there, all across the comic book pantheon (and elsewhere in pop culture) – including fellow DC characters.
Some are very consciously created as Superman types, others just happen to be similar. Some are even satires of the Man of Steel or outright bad guys, but still very much akin to the Last Son of Krypton. One rule: we’re not going to include other characters from Krypton, because that’s too easy. So no Supergirl, Zod or Krypto the Superdog.
Here are 13 Characters Inspired By Superman
13. CAPTAIN MARVEL/SHAZAM
The history of Captain Marvel/Shazam is a complicated one involving three comic book publishers, and we’ll get to it in a second, but just look at this guy: he’s Superman wearing red and yellow instead of red and blue, with a lightning bolt where the S crest would go. There are many different Captain Marvels, but we’re focusing on the DC one known now as Shazam. Like Superman, he can fly and is virtually invulnerable.
So here’s his deal. Captain Marvel was created by Fawcett Comics in 1940 and for a while was even more popular than Superman. But DC (then known as National) was not down with the similarities to Supes, so they sued. In the ‘60s, Marvel gained the “Captain Marvel” trademark and started publishing their own books, but a few years later DC licensed the characters, but they have to refer to Captain Marvel as Shazam, due to Marvel’s ownership.
12. BLUE MARVEL
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Supe – er, no, that’s Blue Marvel. Easy mistake. Yes, Blue Marvel can fly, he’s got Superman’s superhuman strength and speed, plus near-invulnerability. He’s even got a blue costume and, sometimes, a cape. One of the newer Superman wannabes, he debuted in 2008 in Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel, published by, no surprise, Marvel.
But, unlike Superman, he wasn’t born with his powers. Blue Marvel got his super on thanks to a negative reactor explosion. With his origin set in the early ‘60s, as an African American, he also had a fascinating civil rights storyline. Originally, he wore a full face helmet, so his skin couldn’t be seen, but when it was exposed, the public couldn’t accept him and President Kennedy reluctantly asked him to step down from his superhero duties.
11. THE PLUTONIAN
On his podcast, Plutonian creator Mark Waid mused, “What if you go from Superman to Lex Luthor? How do you go from being the greatest hero in the world – someone that everybody knows, and everybody loves, and everyone recognizes – to the greatest villain in the world?” And that is exactly the basis for the Plutonian in his Boom! Studios series Irredeemable.
Debuting in 2009, the Plutonian essentially has all the powers of Superman. He’s considered the world’s greatest superhero, and is part of a team of superheroes, like the Man of Steel. But here’s where the Plutonian takes a different fork in the road of heroics. An alien creation, he eventually comes to resent the human race and essentially embarks on a plan of extinction, killing millions of innocent people.
With Omni-Man, you have the predominantly blue costume with red cape – sound familiar? You have the power of flight, plus super strength, speed and invulnerability. Plus, he was sent to Earth from another planet and his alter-ego is a writer. So there are a lot of Man of Steel similarities to check off the list. But Omni-Man, unlike Superman, is not all sunshine, lollipops and do-gooding. And he has a manly moustache just to show how not-Superman he really is.
A Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead) creation for Image Comics’ Invincible series, Omni-Man was sent to Earth as an adult (as opposed to Kal-El’s journey as an infant) to conquer it for his people, not to save it. Fortunately, after many adventures on Earth and throughout space, he ultimately sees the error of his ways and turns on his people.
9. NATHAN PETRELLI
Superheroes dominated the big screen in the mid-’00s, with the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man franchise, the X-Men films and even Superman Returns, NBC decided to develop their own group of superhuman folks. Heroes debuted in September 2006, with a beloved first season, followed by three more lackluster seasons.
Each character had their own superpower, but easily the most Superman-like was Nathan Petrelli (Adrian Pasdar). First of all, he had Supe’s power of flight. But he also had the short, dark hair and strong, square jaw of the Man of Steel. Plus, he was a born leader.
8. WONDER MAN
Let’s just try to get into the head of Stan Lee for a second. Wow, it just reverberates with great power and responsibility in here. There’s an incessant chant of “Excelsior!” Anyway, ‘nuff said. The point is, we’re imagining the great Marvel creator took a peek in the thesaurus under “super” (for “Superman,” of course), found the word “wonderful,” cut the “ful” off and added “man” to the end to name his Superman-like hero. Or maybe he’s just a male Wonder Woman – Marvel was actually sued by DC because of the name.
Wonder Man has all those powers we know and love thanks to Supes: flight, strength, speed, crazy eye powers, etc. He’s got the dark hair and chiseled features. In between stints with the Avengers, West Coast Avengers, Defenders and other Marvel groups, he finds time to do some acting and stuntman work.
7. THE CAPED WONDER ON THE TICK
The Tick is a flat-out satire of superheroes in general. In fact, The Tick himself has some characteristics of the Last Son of Krypton: he has superhuman strength and is almost invulnerable. But in The Tick comic book series, he meets a character who practically is Superman in everything (right down to the curl in his bangs) but his name: The Caped Wonder (although his alter-ego is the Kent-ish Clark Oppenheimer, his superhero name is actually a combination of Batman and Robin nicknames).
The Tick meets The Caped Wonder when he gets a job at not The Daily Planet, but the Weekly World Planet newspaper. He boasts all the powers Superman possesses, although he refers to his heat vision as “very hot vision” and his x-ray vision is “see-through vision.” Ultimately The Tick ruins the Superman-wannabe’s disguise by poking, and breaking, his glasses.
First off, we’re not talking about the Marvel Apollo character (although he does have certain Superman-like powers). This Apollo comes from the DC imprint WildStorm, primarily in the Stormwatch and The Authority series.
First off, unlike Superman, he’s known for being one of the first gay comic-book superheroes, and his hair is usually white. Like Superman, though, Apollo’s powers are unlocked by the Earth’s sun, resulting in extremely Kal-El-like abilities such as flight, superhuman strength and speed, near-invulnerability and heat vision.
5. MR. MAJESTIC
Mr. Majestic is WildStorm Comics’ (like we said earlier, an imprint of DC) very literal answer to Superman. Like The Caped Wonder, he even has the hair curl. Let’s go through our handy Man of Steel checklist: Alien? Check. From a planet that starts with a K? Check (Khera). Has an alien name? Check (Majestros). Likes to hang out in the arctic when he’s feeling blue? Check. Flies? Super strength? Super fast? Shoots beams out of his eyes? Check, check, check and check.
You get the point. Majestic has even run into Superman during his adventures. But the point of all the similarities, according to creator Jim Lee, is to highlight the significant differences. Majestic is much more militant. While he’s a good guy, he’s not afraid to use his powers, ever. He’s all business and will even throw villains in prison without a trial.
4. THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO
There was a Superman resurgence in the early ‘80s thanks to the popularity of Superman and Superman II. So the ABC television network decided to get in on the action, creating the series The Greatest American Hero. It starred William Katt as Ralph Hinkley, a teacher who is handed a red superhero suit by a bunch of aliens, and the suit gives him superhuman abilities. It was a fun, goofy romp, as Ralph deals with being a reluctant superhero.
Like Superman, when Ralph wears the suit, he can fly, has super strength, x-ray vision, super speed, and bullets can bounce right off him (as long as he’s shot where the suit covers his body). He even once changed into his suit in a phone booth, as Superman has been known to do. Not surprisingly, DC slapped ABC with a lawsuit, but the case was dismissed. In the end, we got a fun show, an iconic theme song and word is The Lego Movie directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are working on a new TV movie.
There are no fewer than seven characters called Hyperion lurking around the Marvel Universe, including both good guys and bad guys. You know how Superman is actually an alien from a dying planet sent to Earth? Same story for Hyperion, in some versions of the character. The very first Hyperion, who debuted in Avengers in 1969 was based on Superman and was part of a Justice League-like team of supervillains called Squadron Sinister.
A few years later, a new Hyperion was created that was good and part of a team called Squadron Supreme, and he, like Superman, protected primarily the United States. Most Hyperions possess many of the same superpowers as our faithful red-caped protector: flight, super strength, x-ray vision, heat vision, and super speed. But one big difference between Hyperion and Superman, is Hyperion dies much more often.
Much like Hyperion, the Marvel Universe features a grab bag of characters that go by the name Sentry, beginning in Fantastic Four comics in 1967. That one was an android. Another one was a man who used an armored suit and weapons – more Iron Man than Superman. Another, Robert Reynolds, is kind of a mentally unstable version of Superman, and that’s who we’re talking about here, first appearing in Ultimate Fantastic Four in 2005.
He, like many of these guys, has the iconic hairstyle. He’s got a similar costume, only yellow with a blue cape, and similar powers. His zombie version even has a torn up space on his chest vaguely in the shape of Superman’s logo. In fact, the zombie version was originally meant to be derived from a zombie version of Superman himself, but copyright issues wouldn’t allow it.
Bizarro may have originally been created as a doppelganger/foe for Superboy, but there’s no denying he’s forever tied to the Man of Steel. He’s evolved somewhat since his first appearance in 1958, and there have been different versions in different storylines, but the essential idea is that he’s the opposite of Superman. While Superman is (mostly) indestructible, Bizarro constantly dies and is remade.
He lives on a planet called Htrae (Earth spelled backwards, of course) in one version, where bad means good and all the laws are the opposite of human laws. He has freeze vision instead of heat vision, flame breath instead of freeze breath, he can see short distances behind him instead of far distances ahead, and the only substance he can see through is lead, as opposed to Superman’s ability to see through everything but lead, among other strange, opposite powers. Bizarro is even vulnerable to blue kryptonite, while Superman’s weakness of green kryptonite strengthens Bizarro.
Can you think of any other superheroes with super similarities to Superman? Let us know in the comments!