Superman has largely been the flagship character since his introduction in 1938 and remains one of the most iconic superheroes worldwide 85 years after his creation. However, for as much of a standout as Superman may be, the Man of Tomorrow is by no means a singular entity, even within the current continuity of the DC Universe. There are plenty of heroes and villains running around the DCU with powers and abilities on par with the Last Son of Krypton, either in support of Superman or looking to take the top dog in the DCU position for themselves.
As WildC.A.T.s continues to forge a new legacy in the DCU, the WildStorm ensemble introduces a new Superman-level figure into the public spotlight in WildC.A.T.s #4 by Matthew Rosenberg and Stephen Segovia. And as a new, high-flying metahuman makes a name for themself, the Superman Family continues to grow bigger as the Man of Steel’s line of titles grows and relaunches its primary title this February. Here’s all the Superman-level characters currently active in the DCU, how they stack up to Superman himself, and how this growing number of supremely powerful characters has shaped the Man of Tomorrow’s relevance today.
A new WildStorm Superman
The WildC.A.T.s DCU relaunch has centered around the shadowy Halo Corporation creating a new iteration of the Seven Soldiers of Victory to serve as the public-serving face of the company. Populated by new and old WildStorm characters, this corporate-backed ensemble has been handpicked to appease public interests and to follow the orders of their white-collared overlords; ruling out wild cards in the mix like Grifter from joining the team. The most presumably powerful of the Halo-funded Seven Soldiers is Majestic.
Created by Jim Lee and H.K. Proger in 1994, Majestic is a Kheran champion who is trapped on Earth following a war between the Kherubim and Daemonites in the preceding WildStorm Universe continuity. Like Superman, Majestic draws his powers from the yellow solar radiation provided by Earth’s sun, giving him similar powers as a Kryptonian, with the addition of energy manipulation and telekinesis. In contrast to the more benevolent and compassionate Man of Steel, Majestic is a more coldly militant figure who openly employs lethal force and proactively attacks perceived threats before they can attack dangerously.
Flight of Apollo
Of course, Majestic isn’t the only Superman-level character to come out of the WildStorm Universe, with Apollo being one of the more prominent additions to the DCU ever since the two universes merged. Created by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch, Apollo gained his superpowers after undergoing extensive genetic experimentation and, similar to Superman, fueled by Earth’s yellow solar radiation. Many of Apollo’s powers mirror Superman’s at a comparable level, with the addition of photokinesis, the active manipulation of light energy.
Unlike Majestic, Apollo has worked closely with Superman, recruited alongside his husband Grifter to survive on the Man of Steel-headed incarnation of the Authority. Finally meeting his hero, Apollo professed that he greatly admired Superman and saw him as a personal inspiration for his own superhero activities. After coming together in Grant Morrison and Mikel Janin’s miniseries Superman and the Authority, Apollo and this iteration of the Authority would help Superman overthrow Mongul from his despotic control over Warworld during Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s acclaimed Action Comics run.
The Earth’s Mightiest Mortals
The earliest Superman analog in mainstream American comics is Fawcett Comics’ Captain Marvel Family, which has since been rebranded as the Shazam! Family following its acquisition by DC. After being granted the magical powers of the pantheon of Olympian gods and heroes, Billy Batson and his foster family can transform into the mighty Shazam after uttering the namesake wizard who gave them this mythical upgrade. These abilities are on par with Superman, with Shazam occasionally depicted as being more resilient due to the Man of Steel’s weakness to magic.
More than simply including Billy’s immediate family, the Shazam-branded superpowers have also benefited the hero’s longtime frenemy Black Adam. Adam was the Wizard Shazam’s first intended champion, with Teth-Adam drawing his powers primarily from the Ancient Egyptian pantheon rather than the Greco-Roman one. Though Adam has come to blows with both Shazam and Superman, he currently stands among the heroes of the DCU, going as far as to temporarily serve on the Justice League and even share his magic during the climactic battle of Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths.
The Superman Family
Not to be outdone by his Fawcett counterpart, the Last Son of Krypton isn’t a force unto himself but heads his own family, both biologically and thematically. Superman and Lois Lane’s son Jon Kent has followed in his father’s footsteps, both as the heir apparent to the Superman mantle and as an occasional member of the Legion of Super-Heroes during an extended visit to the 31st century. Among the Legion’s members is Mon-El, a Daxamite whose power resembles Kryptonians, with the key exception that they are vulnerable to lead rather than Kryptonite.
Beyond the Legion, Kal-El’s cousin Supergirl has similar powers to her famous cousin, as does Power Girl, the Kara Zor-L of an alternate universe. A number of Supergirls and Superboys have encountered Superman over the years, with the Superboy that currently holds the mantle being Conner Kent, the genetic clone of Superman and Lex Luthor, who boasts all the powers of Superman, only with tactile telekinesis.
The Superman Revenge Squad
There are a number of recurring Superman villains that resemble their nemesis’ powers, several from being Kryptonians themselves. The militaristic General Zod and his followers are Kryptonian criminals escaped from the Phantom Zone who periodically menace Earth. Superboy-Prime is the crazed Kal-El from Earth-Prime, who is both aware of the DCU as a comic book world and features Superman’s fully unleashed powers. By contrast, Ultraman is Superman’s analogue on the morally inverted Earth-3, possessing all Superman’s powers but fueled by Kryptonite rather than being weakened by it.
Bizarro is one of the most recognizable Superman villains of them all, Superman’s opposite in countenance except in brute force, with the flawed clone among the Man of Steel’s deadlier enemies. Along with the cybernetically enhanced Cyborg-Superman and Eradicator, Bizarro provides a portrait of how dangerous Superman could be unchecked, while vaguely resembling Superman himself.
The Superman factor
This all stands to illustrate how each of these characters enhance or diminish Superman’s place in the DCU itself. The WildStorm characters were created as a clear pastiche of Superman in the WildStorm Universe, leaning into that world’s edgier and more cynical overtones. Following their incorporation into the DCU, characters like Apollo and Majestic have since become reminders that might often does not make right when compared to Superman himself; a point underscored by Superman villains possessing similar powers, albeit in an appropriately much more antagonistic light.
Shazam and how he compares to Superman is a bit more complicated, especially as Superman has taken on a family of his own. At his core, Shazam is a wish fulfillment character – what if a kid could have all the powers of Superman with the utterance of a single word. That sort of escapism and innocence is more noticeable in Shazam stories whereas Superman is led by the importance of compassion and responsibility. This isn’t to say that Shazam doesn’t obviously possess compassion or empathy himself, but Superman places these qualities front and center from the perspective of a caring adult rather than children growing up as they save the day.
The tragedy of Superman isn’t that Superman is the nominal Last Son of Krypton but, as it’s last son, he never got to know the world or parents that he was sent away from as a baby. Even with this in mind, it’s a loss that doesn’t fully define the character as Superman has grown to become a figure who no longer completely squirrels himself away in a headquarters literally named for solitude. Like any champion, Superman needs to have clear counterparts that prove why he continues to stand out and endure after 85 years in the spotlight, and the easiest way to do that is contrasting him with other characters of comparable physical power. With a family of allies and enemies to bring this forward, now’s an incredibly rich time to define what the Superman mythos is all about.
Written by Matthew Rosenberg, illustrated by Stephen Segovia, colored by Elmer Santos, and lettered by Ferran Delgado, WildC.A.T.s #4 is on sale now. The story continues in WildC.A.T.s #5, on sale March 14.