Supreme Power was a dark, modern take on the Squadron Supreme, updating its themes and influencing other cynical takes on superhero stories.
The Squadron Supreme is a classic team of Marvel superheroes, though those unfamiliar with them still might recognize them. Based on DC’s classic Silver Age Justice League, the group is used to tell stories that DC Comics likely never would. Perhaps the best example of this came about in the early 2000s, with the wannabe Leaguers getting a radical reinvention.
Supreme Power turned the Squadron Supreme concept completely on its head, making the story more realistic and brutal than ever before. This made the group far more than just a cheesy band of DC ripoffs, giving gravitas to the heroes and extending them beyond their source material. Though it’s now somewhat forgotten, the book is definitely influential, with books and movies since then having clearly taken elements from it.
Supreme Power Was the Ultimate Fruition of Marvel’s Squadron Supreme
Though the original Squadron Supreme comics may have looked corny with their blatant callbacks to classic DC tales, the story underneath was a serious look at gods gone too far. Supreme Power explores the same idea but to an even greater extent. Hyperion was changed from a generally wholesome Superman expy to a dark reflection of the Last Son of Krypton. He wasn’t an “evil Superman,” but he was definitely a conflicted one who was removed from the usual moral moorings of the character. The same goes for the rest of the Squadron Supreme. That was especially the case with Nighthawk, who was turned from a mere Batman ripoff into a psychologically scarred Black man who had become as hateful as the racism he claimed to fight.
All the heroes’ actions bring to mind the question of how far superheroes should go when defending the world, especially when even the briefest of battles could result in death and destruction. This mirrored how, in the Mark Gruenwald Squadron Supreme, Hyperion sought to protect humanity by essentially controlling it, eventually causing more harm than good. The original version of the team from the Bronze Age had a feud concerning their tactics, but in Supreme Power, very few of the heroes get along whatsoever. The result was a book that took a somewhat overlooked classic and kicked its themes into overdrive, combining elements of the recent Ultimate Universe with the ultra-violent Marvel MAX titles into one daring deconstruction of “DC” heroes.
Supreme Powers May Have Influenced The Boys and Man of Steel
Today, Supreme Power from J. Michael Straczynski and Gary Frank is fairly forgotten, even though it was well-received. Ironically, the book would in many ways be the modern equivalent of books such as Alan Moore’s Watchmen and especially Miracleman. Reminding readers how dark superhero books could be after a brief period of reconstruction, and it potentially had a huge impact on certain properties going forward.
Garth Ennis’ The Boys was just as gruesome and dark in how it approached superheroes, similarly looking at them from a cynical viewpoint. Of course, that series was also much more comical in nature, and the horrific “supe” Homelander made Supreme Power‘s Hyperion look like the real Superman in comparison. Interestingly enough, the version of Superman in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel bore a far greater resemblance to this take on Hyperion than the traditional Superman, with its Clark Kent a moody and introspective individual. The massive destruction from superhero fights was also there, showcasing just how grievous things could get when gods clash.
Largely due to the series’ violent nature, Supreme Power and its version of the Squadron Supreme have gone unadapted in other media. With how family-friendly the Marvel Cinematic Universe is, that’s unlikely to change in the near future. Still, the book’s influence can’t be denied, especially for how it brought an old-school concept into a violently modern world. Given that realism and relatable characters are the hallmarks of the Marvel Universe, Supreme Power could arguably be seen as the “true” Squadron Supreme.