After my post the other day about Superman, I have been thinking more about Superman. As a Marvel comics reader, I have been thinking especially about whether there is an analogous character in the Marvel universe.
There have been crossover events of Marvel versus DC, and matching someone against Superman is always a challenge. At least, I can assume. I remember seeing covers, mainly, and Superman fighting the likes of the Hulk.
But I’m not necessarily thinking about who can match Superman, or even necessarily who has matching powers. I’m thinking more, who has a similar sort of story as Superman? Parallels can be drawn between some other Marvel and DC characters, like Green Arrow to Hawkeye, or Batman to Iron Man. But who is a parallel for the Man of Steel? Let’s explore a few thoughts!
If my first thought is that Hulk and Superman would get matched up if the Avengers had to fight the DC universe, what are the similarities between these characters? You pass the super strength, and the glasses in their secret identities, and is there much?
My answer is no. Bruce Banner is a genius, whereas Clark Kent is really just more of a cover. The Hulk is not in control, while Superman is quite in control. Superman is from another world, while the Hulk is a human with a science experiment gone wrong.
No, Hulk is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, is a constant struggle between two extremes. Superman does not have a literary origin quite like that. No parallel here.
The Silver Surfer
So, if one of the major points about Superman is his connection to space and an alien world, then let’s think of some of Marvel’s extraterrestrial characters. How about the Silver Surfer?
Imbued with a wide array of cosmic powers, and fighting to protect people in the face of evil, there are certainly some similarities in character. However, the Earth-bound Superman has very different encounters and adventures from the star-faring Silver Surfer.
In a lot of ways, I would say that the Silver Surfer is closer to Green Lantern. I say this, I suppose, knowing only a little about either of these heroes. Also, Silver Surfer does have the whole herald-for-a-planet-eater side of him, which makes him a conflicted (and interesting) hero. Superman is far more free from such evils – not a parallel!
The Super Folks
Alright, I’m going to explore a couple of characters here. Marvel has a number of very powerful characters, who often have a life mainly in The Avengers – not headlining their own longstanding series, or only doing so occasionally. Characters like Ms. Marvel, Wonder Man, Mar-Vell, Black Bolt. Powerful characters, whose job almost seems more to be there as a powerhouse than much else.
In some ways, these seem like characters who are maybe built to be like Superman. Powerhouses, that have chosen good, I think some of them are even alien in origin? I don’t know. Because that’s part of it all: these characters are not all that popular, or interesting, and are there for support. Meanwhile, Superman is a headliner. So even if there are stronger similarities with these characters and Superman, I don’t know them. Because these characters have not drawn me – or audiences in general – in.
In which case, if there are strong similarities, they might be intentionally there to try to be like Superman. Except they’re not pulling it off as well.
So let’s talk about an alien Avenger who is a headliner, and who could be like Superman. Thor. Powers, strength, weak cover identity, inhuman… there are strong similarities. They both end up as a super guy in a team of heroes. They choose to be good instead of evil.
However, there are some big differences in their backstories. Such as, Thor’s people are still alive. Also, more importantly, Thor is something from Earth’s own history. He comes with a lot of baggage. I can question whether Marvel is creative in what they have done with Asgard, or whether they are just trying to find explanations for the things that are already there in the mythology.
Thor may be my answer for the character most similar to Superman in intentional sorts of ways. It’s like Marvel wanted a character similar to Superman, and turned to mythology to find something different enough to not seem like it.
I think similarly, I was a little annoyed with Thor in, say, The Avengers – there as a powerhouse, but almost overpowered, without as much character development as the humans. Like my complaints about Superman in my last post about him, Thor’s just not quite as interesting as the other heroes.
So let’s look at this a different way. Superman is DC’s unbreakable man, their popular man who had a backstory that’s been explored and introduced over time, who did not know his past. Who could just as easily have ended up a villain, but ended up a hero instead. Who has similar characters that have been spawned based on him. Who ends up a part of many of the hero teams in the comics, to add popularity even more than power.
Is Wolverine the parallel for Superman in the Marvel universe?
If Thor represents the parts of Superman that irk me, Wolverine represents the parts of Superman that are popular, that others see in him – much like people see things about Wolverine that they like. I talked a lot about Wolverine in a past post – and he just keeps getting interesting. After this much time, maybe Superman is too. We’ll see, when Man of Steel hits the theaters!