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10 of the Nicest and Nastiest Superman Analogues

Superman is the oldest superhero, and he’s been featured in thousands of stories since 1938. He's also inspired a slew of analogues—Superman-like characters that other companies (and sometimes even Superman's home, DC Comics) created to comment on Superman or superheroes in general. These characters also allow stories that could never be done with the real thing, like Superman going berserk and wiping out whole cities. Here’s a look at 10 Superspawn.

1. Samaritan

This blue-haired boy scout appears in Astro City, a creator-owned comic by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, and Alex Ross that’s been published for 20 years and excels at capturing life’s small moments for superheroes and non-superheroes alike. In the story “In Dreams,” Busiek shows the sheer exhaustion a Superman type must feel with so much responsibility—from morning to night he’s foiling bank robberies, averting natural disasters, defeating rampaging robots, and maintaining a secret identity. Only when asleep and dreaming is poor Samaritan able to fly for the sake of flying.

2. Apollo

Superman’s friendship with Batman is a key feature of the DC universe, and that friendship got a new spin in Stormwatch in 1998. Writer Warren Ellis and artist Bryan Hitch created Apollo and the Midnighter, brutal vigilantes based on the two oldest superheroes. There's another twist: The pair are in love and eventually get married. Just like that, decades of superhero subtext became text.

3. The High

Another Superman type popped up during Ellis’ run on Stormwatch. The High is even more directly modeled on Superman. Like Superman, he first appeared in 1938, came from another world, was raised by farmers, and spent his early years fighting for the little guy against tycoons, landlords, and Nazis. Unlike Superman, The High disappeared, sat motionless on a mountaintop for 10 years, then reemerged with a plan to eliminate all governments on Earth by providing every person with endless food, medicine, and freedom. Needless to say, this anti-authority mission did not go over well with the authorities.

4. Omni-Man

This Superman type is the father of another Superman type: Invincible, the star of Robert Kirkman’s long-running Image series of the same name. Like Superman, Omni-Man came from another planet. Unlike Superman, Omni-Man was sent here to ready the planet for conquest. As you might expect, that arrangement led to an awkward conversation/brawl with his son. Imagine if you thought your dad was Superman, but it turned out he was more like Space Napoleon.

5. The Homelander

This extremely creepy character played a major role in The Boys , Grant Ennis and Darick Robertson’s Dynamite series about a CIA team tasked with keeping superheroes in check. Like most superheroes in this series, the Homelander is an abusive monster. In this world, you’d be safer in a CIA prison than anywhere near the equivalent of the Justice League.

6. The Saint

Garth Ennis took another swipe at superheroes in The Pro, an extremely funny one-shot about a prostitute (who not-coincidentally has a revealing costume a la Power Girl) given superpowers to settle a bet by meddling aliens. Along the way, we meet the Saint—a ludicrously naïve simpleton and scathing satire of Superman. I don’t want to spoil anything, but this series reveals something I’ve always suspected: super-sperm and airplane safety do not mix.

7. Hyperion

Marvel and DC Comics have been riffing on and ripping off each other's characters for decades: Quicksilver is a version of the Flash, Swamp Thing is basically Man-Thing, and Namor the Sub-Mariner is a much-improved Aquaman. Hyperion is Marvel’s rarely used version of Superman, and he’s part of the Squadron Supreme, a team of Justice League analogues who are usually treated as a winking joke.

8. The Plutonian

Mark Waid and Peter Krause’s Irredeemable shows the horrific consequences of a bad Superman. In the very first scene, we see the Plutonian incinerate a hero’s wife and child with his heat vision. As the series goes on, Waid and Krause show how and why the world’s most trusted and beloved superhero went berserk and became the greatest mass murderer in history. Waid has explained his inspiration, saying, “In superhero comics, pretty much everyone who’s called upon to put on a cape is, at heart, emotionally equipped for the job. I reject that premise.”

9. Supershock

Along the same lines, this character in Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming’s Powers also has ungodly abilities he uses for mass murder after losing his marbles. Supershock—the original superhero in this world—incinerates the Vatican and annihilates the Gaza Strip, among other atrocities. The cause of his turn is mysterious. The best guess is his brain wasn’t as ageless and invulnerable as his body, and Supershock went senile.

10. Supreme

Created by Rob Liefeld for Image Comics, this creator-owned character had its best run under comics legend Alan Moore, whose stories critiqued '90s comics while paying tribute to the more innocent titles of the '30s through '50s. Moore celebrated every aspect of Superman lore, including Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, and Krypto the Superdog, who became Diana Dane, Darius Dax, and Radar the Hound Supreme. Best of all, Moore created the Supremacy: a place outside space-time where previous versions of Supreme go after being written out of the comics. I’d like to think there’s a Super Supremacy out there where all the Supremes, Supershocks, Samaritans, Plutonians—and, of course, Kal-Els—go when they’ve been “revised,” as Moore puts it.

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Afternoon Map
Marvel vs. DC: This Map Shows Each State’s Favorite Comic Universe
Disney/Marvel Studios
Disney/Marvel Studios

Which comic book company is the best: Marvel or DC? This is a perennial argument on middle-school playgrounds and Reddit threads, but this map, courtesy of USDish.com, might just give us a definitive answer. The information here is broken down by state, using information provided by Google Trends to give us a clear winner of not only the most popular comic book company but also the most popular individual hero in each state (let’s show a little respect to Indiana for championing the Martian Manhunter).

According to the map, Marvel is the most popular publisher in 37 states, with DC trailing behind at eight, and five additional states coming to a 50/50 stalemate. The totals weren’t a blowout, though. In certain states like Mississippi, Iowa, and Pennsylvania, the favored company only won by a point. And just because a state searches Google for a specific publisher the most doesn’t mean an individual character from the opposing team isn’t its favorite—Hawaii is listed as favoring Marvel overall, yet they love Aquaman on his own. Same with DC-loving Maryland showing Black Panther some love (helps to have a big movie coming out). Take a look at some of the most notable state preferences below:

So how did Marvel amass so many states when there are just as many DC TV shows and movies out there? Well, according to Andrew Selepak, Ph.D., a professor in the department of telecommunication at the University of Florida, and director of the graduate program in social media, the answer lies in the depth at the House of Ideas.

“While Superman and Batman may be dominant characters,” Selepak said in a statement, “the DC Universe offers few other well-known heroes and villains and when these other characters are presented to the audience in film and on TV, they often are less than well-received.” This is opposed to Marvel, which launches new heroes on the big and small screen seemingly every year.

Does this map tell the whole story? That’s up for debate. When it comes to comics sold, DC and Marvel are always in a close battle: In January 2018, DC had six of the 10 best-selling comics of the month, placing four of the top five. Marvel, meanwhile, had three, while Image Comics had one with The Walking Dead. In terms of overall retail market share, though, Marvel eked out DC 34.3 percent to 33.8 percent.

This is a battle that's been raging since the 1960s, and for an industry that thrives on a never-ending fight between good and evil, we shouldn't expect the Marvel vs. DC debate to be settled anytime soon.

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The Dark Knight Is Returning to Theaters, Just Ahead of 10th Anniversary
DC Comics, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
DC Comics, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Believe it or not, July 18 will mark the 10th anniversary of the release of The Dark Knight, the second entry in Christopher Nolan’s game-changing superhero movie trilogy. To mark the occasion, Showcase Cinemas—the movie theater chain behind the Cinema de Lux experience—is bringing the movie back to select theaters on the east coast for limited screenings on February 8 and February 11, /Film reports.

Many people consider The Dark Knight the best film in the Batman franchise (Tim Burton and LEGO-fied movies included). The film currently holds a 94 percent “fresh” rating with both critics and audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the highest-rated movie in the Batman universe.

Much of the film’s acclaim came from Heath Ledger’s brilliant turn as The Joker—a role that won him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar (making him the only actor to win that award posthumously). Even Michael Caine, who plays Bruce Wayne’s ever-dutiful butler and BFF Alfred, admitted that he wasn’t sold on the idea of bringing The Joker back into Batman’s cinematic universe, after the character was so ably played by Jack Nicholson in Burton’s 1989 film, until he found out Ledger would be taking the role.

“You don’t try and top Jack,” was Caine’s original thought. But when Nolan informed the actor that he was casting Ledger, that changed things. “I thought: ‘Now that’s the one guy that could do it!’ My confidence came back,” Caine told Empire Magazine.

To find out if The Dark Knight is playing at a theater near you, visit Showcase Cinemas’s website. If it’s not, don’t despair: With the official anniversary still six months away, other theaters are bound to have the same idea.

[h/t: /Film]

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