With the recent success of Man Of Steel, I thought we could let our minds wander and take a look at the many Superman-analogues that have spawned over the decades.
Titan – Will To Power
With his recent reappearance in Catalyst Comics from Dark Horse, we are reintroduced to the story of the super-powered Frank Well’s descent into madness – an excellent tale of what happens when a man takes on too much responsibility, or just a tale of a man that was manipulated just a little too far. An excellent parable of the dangers of playing with fire, with multiple spin-off properties such as the Man From The Vortex.
Irredeemable – The Plutonian
One thing Hollywood knows well, is that if it works once, it will work again. Only hopefully bigger and better. Kurt Busiek’s tale of a Superman gone mad takes the meme one step further than we saw with Titan, where the world’s greatest hero becomes the world’s greatest tyrant and natural disaster rolled into one. And in this world, the only thing that can defeat him is himself.
What if the Superman goes mad, but fails to lash out? Trying to bury his fears under a haze of drugs and anxieties, only to have them escape into a psychodrama that traverses the face of the planet as the Sentry discovers his archenemy is himself? There are so many angles that this story could focus upon – from the definition of mental health to the psychedelia inherent within Bob Reynolds own struggle.
Adam The Blue Marvel
With Adam, we move to a struggle of a whole different nature. A black Superman who was convinced to retire from society in the Fifties because some old white guys felt the world was not ready for him; the themes presented in this tale are sadly as relevant today as in Adam’s original era. Behind the shield of fiction, multiple issues could be tackled, such as the struggle between personal identity, racial identity and societal expectation. Whether Hollywood would want to touch The Colour Purple in spandex is a question that we will never know the answer to.
Charlton’s own answer to Superman, Captain Atom has changed greatly over the years. Yet he is still an alien in an unfamiliar world as he is catapulted into the future. Once again resplendent with themes to exploit, the time travel exploit could be played up, or maybe the military identity? Or a man realising that in this new world, he is indeed a Superman?
The journey started with Captain Atom would be carried to its ultimate conclusion if Hollywood were to look at Epic’s interpretation of Miracleman. What would a man do with the power of a god? What would he learn about the human condition, now that he has lost it?
Shazam – With One Magic Word
Far less what a man would learn, than what a boy would learn with the power of the gods. If Percy Jackson can make it in movies, then the pseudo-mythological aspects of the Marvel Family can only entrance moviegoers both young and old. Forget that awful TV series from yesteryear, and replace it with Young-Adult, identity seeking heroic quest of Billy Batson.
Wundarr The Aquarian
What if Superman wanted to conquer war? Rocketed from a planet that didn’t die after all, would Wundarr discover his quest to be as futile as his initial departure from his home planet? Would the natural combative nature of humanity drive the most powerful pacifist to betray every principle he holds dear?
Which rather brings us full circle.