It should come as a surprise to no one in the know that the two big names in the comics - Marvel Comics and DC - have a tendency to imitate one another. In most cases it is the former that borrows inspiration from the latter. DC has Batman, Marvel has Daredevil. DC has Green Arrow, Marvel has Hawkeye. But out of all of DC's creations it is perhaps their most popular that Marvel seems to have the strongest affinity for copying: Superman.
Superman is arguably the most famous superhero ever, and a cultural icon all over the world. He has been the inspiration for many satires, parodies, and deconstructions within the comic book industry, and it would seem that no one loves to do this more than Marvel. With that in mind, here is my list of the five characters published by Marvel Comics that are clearly inspired by Superman.
5. Superior - Created by Mark Millar and published by Marvel Comics under their Icon imprint, Superior is meant to be an analogue for Superman, as he starts out as the fictional super hero a young boy with multiple sclerosis wishes to be. His wish is granted when he unwittingly makes a literal deal with the devil to be transformed into Superior, a hero with super strength and speed, invulnerability, super hearing and heat vision.
4. Blue Marvel - Created as an examination of how the American public of the 1960s would react to a hero like Superman if he were black, Adam Brashear attained his powers while attempting to create a machine that could harness the power of anti-matter as a source of clean energy. The machine exploded and the resulting radiation granted Brashear super strength and speed, nigh-invulnerability, superhuman senses, flight and energy generation. He became the hero Blue Marvel, and served his country until the citizenry discovered he was African-American. The negative backlash prompted the President of the United States to ask him to retire. He can now be seen as an active member of the Mighty Avengers.
3. Gladiator - Gladiator and his unit, the Imperial Guard, were created as an homage to DC's Legion of Superheroes. His hero name is directly taken from the Philip Wylie novel that partially inspired Superman, Gladiator. His alter ego, Kallark, is a portmanteau of Superman's Kryptonian and human names, Kal-El and Clark Kent. He serves the alien race of human-bird hybrids, the Shi'ar. He has super strength, nigh invulnerability, flight, super speed, heat vision and freeze breath. As an added ability, his power level increases or decreases depending on his confidence. In essence he is as strong as he believes he is.
2. Sentry - Robert Reynolds was one of Marvel's most confused creations. His origins have changed almost as frequently as the Joker's over at DC. As it stands now the character was a psychologically unstable man with the ability to manipulate his molecules as well as the molecules around him. Before he discovered this he subconsciously used his ability to grant himself the powers of "a million exploding suns," which included incredible strength, super speed, invulnerability, flight, energy generation, telepathy, and the ability to return from the dead (although somehow they found a way to kill him for good). He was basically the Marvel equivalent of Superman from the Silver Age of comics. Also he was his own super villain.
1. Hyperion - The number one character on this list has had numerous incarnations within the Marvel universe. He first appeared as the villainous leader of the alternate reality team Squadron Sinister, an evil take on DC's Justice League of America. He then appeared as the leader of the Squadron Supreme, another alternate reality team satirizing the JLA, except this time they were good. Another alternate reality version of him, King Hyperion, showed up and was an antihero. Finally there is the current version, who was sent to Earth via rocket from a dying world. He was raised by a kindly man to be a morally upright person, and grew up to use his powers to defend the innocent from evil, along with his team, the Squadron Supreme. Sound familiar?