SQUADRON SUPREME: Marvel’s Other Superhero Team to Rival Justice League
Marvel has another superhero team that explored the themes of Watchmen before Watchmen did.
When Marvel’s Squadron Supreme first appeared in Avengers # 85, they were meant to be an in-jokey pseudo-crossover with DC’s Justice League. They quickly grew in popularity, however, and became so much more than the pastiche of their counterparts they originally were. The Squadron Supreme would show up several more times over the years, but it wasn’t until their appearance in Defenders #’s 112-114 where they are the pawns of the evil Overmind that they began to really become a force to be reckoned with.
In those Defenders issues, the Squadron were the pawns of the Overmind and an otherdimensional entity named Null the Living Darkness. The Defenders helped free the Squadron and saved their world. That was just the beginning for the world of the Squadron Supreme, though. Mark Gruenwald took the Squadron Supreme in a direction that explored the themes that a few months later would also be explored by the critically acclaimed Watchmen.
The leader of the Squadron Supreme, Hyperion, who was originally the Superman analogue for the team, decided that the best thing to do to bring peace to their planet and prevent war was for them to take over, creating a utopian world ruled by superheroes. Nighthawk, the Batman analogue of the team, opposed this plan and left the team over it, forming his own rebellion out of other heroes who opposed Hyperion and criminals who were able to escape the Squadron’s mind-controlling behavior modification devices. If some of these themes sound familiar, it’s because they have since been used by both Marvel and DC, but Squadron Supreme did it first and better. In DC’s Infinite Crisis, DC also decided to explore the idea of mind-wiping villains, except that they used Zatanna’s magic as the way to do it rather than the technology created by Squadron Supreme’s resident scientist Tom Thumb, who, in the most emotional issue of the series, failed to find a cure for his terminal cancer.
The series is full of symbolism and if you’ve never read it, I would very much recommend it. I don’t want to spoil the ending of the series here in case you do decide to read it, but it was a 12 issue series, just like Watchmen, and has a definite ending, though it leaves the end open for further exploration into the world of the Squadron Supreme (which they did with a follow-up graphic novel).
When the writer of this groundbreaking series died, Marvel even mixed his ashes into the red ink of the first printing of the trade paperback release as a means of honoring one of the greatest writers and editors they had ever had.
Squadron Supreme would make an excellent movie that would show the downside of superheroics in the same way that Watchmen did but would also explore those themes with more super-powered heroes and villains. If I were Marvel, this is the movie I would do before DC got to Justice League. It would show them just how interesting their characters could actually be.
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