Top 5: Best Superman Homages & Rip-Offs

Next time you look into the store, go down an aisle and you’ll see all the name-brand goods and then loads of knock-offs. Some blossom into their own unique brands (like Pepsi did), and some revel in their not-quite-it-but-almost stance on shelves. And comics are no different.

Since his introduction in the 1940s, Superman has been the flagship character for the entire superhero genre and subset of comics. And over the years there have been numerous clones, homages, pastiches, rip-offs and parodies of the Big Blue Boy Scout, and we’ve accumulated a list of the most inspired, the most unique and the most interesting characters that owe their existence to Superman.

5. The Sentry (Marvel Comics)

Created as a subtle analogue of Superman set in the Marvel universe, the Sentry, became a testy super-powered character whom his Avengers teammates could barely trust and were openly afraid of. Norman Osborn ultimately turned him against the heroes in “Dark Reign” and Siege and was felled by Thor as a last resort. Fans never quite acclimated to Sentry as a hero, and I could never get over how he reminded me of Nuclear Man from Superman IV: The Quest For Peace.


4. Supreme (Image Comics)

Rob Liefeld has a long history of creating heroes loosely (and sometimes not-so-loosely) inspired on other, more popular heroes. Created in the early days of Image Comics, the character trudged along in his own solo series but found his true self when Alan Moore took the character on and brought the unspoken homage to Superman to the forefront, creating a straight-up analogue to Superman — in effect, allowing Moore to write Superman stories without dealing with DC. I’m among a chorus of discerning readers that can attest that some of the best Superman stories of the 90s weren’t in fact Superman but Supreme instead.


3. Captain Marvel / Shazam (DC Comics)

While he’s gone on to be quite different from his DC colleague Superman, Captain Marvel (now calling himself Shazam) was originally created by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker for Fawcett Comics as an unbridled ripoff of the Man of Steel. The character quickly grew into a more magical boy’s power fantasy, but DC successfully sued Fawcett for copyright infringement and took over the character in 1972. Despite outselling Superman for a time in the 1940s, as part of DC he became a second fiddle to Superman with the publisher not knowing quite what to do with him. After a inspired kid-friendly take by Jeff Smith a few years back, DC’s chief writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank are giving it another go in the back pages of Justice League trying to create a more grounded Shazam and alter-ego Billy Batson.


2. Superduperman (EC Comics)

Although he may not be virtually unknown to modern comics audiences, Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood’s Superduperman changed comics as we know it. It saved the flagging comedic magazine Mad and gave the publishers there a template for parody that stands to this day. And crazier,  this comedic character sowed the seeds for a then-young Alan Moore to take a critical look at superheroes and refashion them in his own image. Crazy enough, Superduperman inspired Watchmen. If you’re interested, these stories are collected in a number of Mad collections like The Mad Archives as well as the 80s dusty classic A Smithsonian Book Of Comic-Book Comics.


1. The Samaritan (DC Comics)

As the premiere superhero in Kurt Busiek & Brent Anderson’s Astro City, the Samaritan casts a long shadow on the town and the outlying universe. The creators take that archetype in a strange and raw direction however, focusing on the solitude a man like this can sink into and the pressures the role can be for a person.



  1. Personally, I like Plutonian. I’ve never read Supreme and after reading that Moore did “super man stories” that were Supreme I’m going to find a way to track those stories down.

  2. I was always a fan of Batmanuel in The Tick. I’m not sure if that fits into this list or not though.

    • If you like Batmanuel you should check out some of the Tick comics, or even the animated series. The characters original name is Die Fledermaus and is absolutely hilarious. I lover the Tick but personally feel the live action show was seriously lacking compared to the cartoon and especially the comic.

  3. The Sentry? THE SENTRY?????

  4. I probably would have put Apollo from Authority or Majestic from Wildcats on this list ahead of Sentry. Normally it’d make sense that major Wildstorm characters would place behind minor Marvel characters, but then again, number one on this list is an Astro City character.

  5. I read Shazam/Captain Marvel when it crossed over w/ Superman (see First Thunder miniseries) & Second Thunder in Action Comics around #830s & the Samartian from Astro City. The others mentioned I avoided as a loyal long term Superman fan of 30 years. I also remember a Superman type of character from Wildstorm known as Mister Majestic that I liked also.


  6. Marvelman / Miracleman! Although I guess he’s more of a Captain Marvel / Shazam analog, who was a rip off of Captain Marvel who was originally a Superman rip off?!?!?!?!?!?

    (((((((THE RABBIT HOLE)))))))

  7. I’m not sure that Captain Marvel can be called a ‘Superman homage’. While Superman definitely appeared on the stands before Captain Marvel and the ‘Shazam’ book was only commissioned and published due to the success that National Comics was having at the time, there’s been a lot of debate over which idea actually came first.

    • I think the fact that DC successfully sued for copyright infringement makes it ok to call him a “Superman homage”.

  8. And shame on Geoff Johns for allowing circumstances where ‘grounded’ and ‘Shazam’ can be used in the same sentence. Sometimes it’s perfectly okay to have talking tigers, big toy robots and colorful cave-men in horned helmets play a central role in a book. With the JSA book being set on it’s own Earth, I don’t see what was stopping them from taking the same approach with a more bombastic Shazam title.

  9. Superman has always been my favorite but for some reason I like the rip offs, Shazam, Sentry, Gladiator(Marvel), cant remember any other that I have really read about in a full comic…Majestic and the others above seems cool but I don’t know much about them…I don’t think I know anything much about any of the Superman ripoffs but I still like them.

  10. I assume the sentry is here only to create conversation.

  11. Does Tom Strong count or is his Superman-ness outweighed by his Doc Savage-ness?

  12. I’d swap in Hyperion from the Squadron Supreme for the Sentry and make the Plutonian 6, follow by Majestic, then Apollo. Honorable mentions: Omni-Man from Invincible, Alpha One from the Mighty, and the High from right before the Authority was formed.

    I’m hoping this means there will be a Top 5 Best Batman Homages.

    • Yes, Hyperion was pretty creepy at times, sort of a precursor to Plutonian.

      And yes, The High from Authority would fit here. John Cumberland in tha house!

  13. No Apollo?

  14. for some reason, i thought of apollo before shazam.
    also mark millar’s superior comes to mind.

  15. Agree with @ResurrectionFlan that MircleMan was right up there, but technically a Captain Marvel rip off. In fact, some of the really fun/disturbing parts played directly off of the boy in a superman’s body that was all Captain Marvel, and the whole Mavel family.

    But where oh where is Captain Carrot? I mean, besides Earth C.

  16. I know you guys always do top 5’s, but this warrants a top 10:

    Apollo (Authority)
    Hyperion (Supreme Power)
    Dr. Manhattan (yes he is!)
    The Saint (The Pro)

    ….some other one too..

  17. Yeah, you’ve gotta have Squadron Supreme’s Hyperion on this list.

  18. Really the obvious one we’re all missing is Batman

  19. What about The High from ‘Stormwatch’, Majestic from ‘Wildcats’, Apollo from ‘The Authority’, Omniman from ‘Invincible’, Plutonian from ‘Irredeemable’ or various ones from ‘Powers’ such as Super-Shock? There are loads of good Superman analogues out there, most of them deal with the idea of Supes going nuts and all murdery.

  20. Gladiator (Kal-el + Clark = Kallark!) and Omni-Man realy should be on the list, especially Omni-Man for his subverson of the archetype

  21. Supreme only one notch above SENTRY?

    Ack. What Alan Moore did on Supreme outweighs pretty much every other Superman rip-off combined. Easily the best “non-Superman” Superman stories since the ’80s.

    Yes, I count Moore’s Supreme over Morrison’s All Star Superman.

    Also, not sure if Miracleman/Marvel Man counts. The essence of the character may have owed a lot to Superman (via Shazam), but few of the other classic Superman tropes were in play (as they were in Supreme and many of the others here).

  22. One thing I liked about Samaritan is he has blue hair, yes, actual blue hair.

    I’m certain this is a take off of the old Superman comics in which the highlights were colored in blue, and it’s reported that there were kids back then who actually thought Superman has blue hair because of the highlighting.

  23. How about Milestone Media’s Icon?

  24. I think I’m the only one who just flat-out loved Sentry, and it really bothers me that Marvel mishandled him the way that they did. Pretty much the way they mishandled Mar-Vell until they made him famous by killing him. Sentry had a weakness far more believable and grounded than kryptonite – his own mental stability. You think gay superheroes are edgy? How many outright mentally ill superheroes can you even count on one hand? Someone who struggles to do the right thing, even as his own grasp on reality is unraveling? Marvel had a great opportunity here – they could have shown a hero who actually struggled with mental illness and to some extent succeeded. What kind of inspiration could that have been? But they blew it – BIG TIME.

    • I liked him too. I was sad he died but he was written as a ticking time bomb, something had to happen and having him recover would have been anti-climatic to say the least.

  25. Loved the supreme inclusion. Everything about that book was top notch and I would be very happy with a continuation, especially if it was Moore doing it. The only thing else this list needed was a mention of Hugo Danner from the novel Gladiator by Phillip Wylie. I’d love to see Francis Manapul take a crack at that.