Comic Book / Supreme Power

Okay, stop us if you've heard this one before: On a quiet night, a Midwestern couple drives through a cornfield. Suddenly, from up in the sky, a rocket falls to earth and crashes. Inside is a lone child. The couple takes it home to raise him as their own. Shortly afterward a team of government operatives shows up to take the child, as they could tell that the object that fell to Earth was a ship and have quickly tracked down the couple in question. After some debate, it is decided to study the child and the technology from his ship, and turn both into weapons serving the United States.

Guess you haven't heard this one, after all. Siegel, Shuster, take a break, J. Michael Straczynski's calling the shots here.

So begins Supreme Power, Marvel's Ultimate Universe version of the Avengers foes, the Squadron Sinister and their later heroic counterparts the Squadron Supreme, themselves originally an Alternate Company Equivalent's of Justice League of America from the DC Universe. It's better than it sounds, as it's pretty much one giant What If? story, with the premise of "What if The Government raised Superman?"

Mark Milton (alias Hyperion) is sent to Earth by an unknown race and is taken into custody by the United States government. Mark is raised in a controlled environment, and every stimulus and lesson is fabricated to teach Mark to be the ultimate patriot. However, the conditioning is surface deep at best.

At the same time he is growing up, Kyle Richmond (Nighthawk), Stanley Stewart (The Blur), Joseph Ledger (Doc Spectrum), Princess Zarda and the Amphibian begin to enter the world stage as Superheroes all of which are less than ideal versions of their DC counterparts, and range from sellouts, to certifiably insane, to downright racist in their actions, if not worse.

The stories are printed on Marvel's MAX imprint (basically the R-rated segment of Marvel Comics) and do not shy away from gore, destruction, and violence. At the height of its publication, it was considered one of Marvel's better comic book lines (being released during the same era as the mainstream love affair with Crisis Crossovers and the infamous One More Day, many saw it as Marvel returning to its spiritual roots of being an answer to DC's use of comic book tropes.).

Executive Meddling would later have Straczynski off the book and forced a new creative team to relaunch the series with a new storyline and new characters that look a lot like properties already owned by Marvel. After this incarnation, the franchise appeared ruined. But a brief mini was released in 2011 that appeared to try to take a back-to-basics approach, harkening to the original run of Supreme Power (returning to the MAX imprint, a return to being Bloodier and Gorier and more realistic story) but with the initial story focusing mainly on Hyperion and Doc Spectrum.

During Jonathan Hickman's Avengers, the entire Supreme Power-Earth was destroyed by the villainous Cabal, but not before brutally slaughtering its entire population, including the Squadron.

This comic provides examples of:

  • Alliterative Name: Both invoked and lampshaded, as the government names the child that will become Hyperion Mark Milton due to the appeal of that particular name among focus groups.
  • Almost Lethal Weapons: Whiteface's poison has since killed everyone that's been exposed to it, and has no antidote. When exposed to it Nighthawk, despite being a Bad Ass Normal just gets sick and falls unconscious. Even Whiteface is surprised by him being still alive.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: In spades. Including Captains Ersatz of other Marvel characters.
  • Alternate Universe Reed Richards Is Awesome: As a "take" on DC heroes, has the resident genius use his Super Intelligence to bring about great change... until it's Double Subverted and Reed Richards Is Useless.
    • Inverted in the Crisis Crossover Ultimate Power, where Alternate Universe Reed Richards is Wanted for Crimes Against Humanity. The Supreme invade the Ultimate Marvel-verse to arrest Ultimate Reed Richards, because one of his inter-dimensional experiments ended up accidentally killing millions in the Supreme-verse. Turns out he was innocent.
  • Antagonistic Offspring: Emil Burbank was one of these. His backstory revealed that he killed his school bullies by trapping in their houses before lighting their homes ablaze, lost his virginity by drugging and raping his older sister which eventually drove her insane to the point she had to be permanently confined to an asylum, and engineered his parents' deaths by having their car drive off a cliff for the sake of cashing in on their life insurance policy. All this occurred before he even turned eighteen.
  • Ass Shove: Tom Thumb was placed in a capsule and inserted in the Shape's rectum during the Squad's mission in Africa. He needed counseling afterwards
  • Badass Normal: Nighthawk, of course. He's the only superhero without powers. The government doesn't consider him for Squadron Supreme, considering his talents "irrelevant", though. For his part, he's never shown even the slightest bit of envy towards those with powers.
  • Bad Future: The ultimate result of The Government's cruelty, explored furtively in the "Hyperion" mini-series.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy / Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: Zarda's muddled recount of her past implies that ancient mythical heroes with superhuman abilities were the result of her own landing pod giving rise to superhumans, just as Hyperion's does.
  • Beware the Superman: Hyperion is a very legitimate threat when he stops taking orders from the army. Yet they still prod him. Of course, after both Hyperion's meltdown and the discovery and detainment of Redstone, they've got ample reason to be afraid.
  • Angry Black Man: Nighthawk. Averted with Blur, who is the nicest guy in the series.
  • Cape Punk: Humans will react to superhumans with jealousy, envy, and attempts to control them to the point any such beings will go completely off the rails.
  • Captain Ethnic: Nighthawk only beats up people who are committing hate crimes and is portrayed as out-and-out prejudiced against whites. Blur averts this.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Supreme Power #8 shows the exact results of Hyperion going-all out against any other superhuman. He wins hands down, but their battlefield ends up looking like a nuclear test site. It's acknowledged in every super-battle afterwards, and Hyperion never goes that far again.
  • Clark Kenting: Averted: Mark attempts to try this with glasses. His bosses tell him its a bad idea. None of the heroes in the setting have secret identities except for Nighthawk, who wears a mask.
  • Confessional: "You have the strangest sun burn."
  • Does Not Like Men: Inertia. There are some men she's comfortable around or friendly with, like the Blur and Doc Spectrum, but she's largely disgusted by the male sex due to experiences in her adolescence and childhood. Unlike many examples, she has a permanent sour disposition, is very quick to violence, and is an open lesbian.
  • Dumb Muscle: Shape is strong, but has the mind of a child.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: Colonel Joe Ledger was already one of their best soldiers when The Government choose him to become their second superpowered operative.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Poor Spot. This later gets a Lampshade Hanging by some girls who explain an experiment where a monkey was made to look like a different species and released among that species, only to be avoided cause they know something is wrong; they say they get that feeling with Mark.
  • Eye Scream: To show you what this series is like: Nighthawk, the Batman equivalent uses this way more than this universe's version of the Joker.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Well, actually, that would be averted. Super crime is very violent and graphic as is normal crime. Where it comes into play is with Nighthawk, who, while only preying on white on black crimes, will stop black drug dealers.
  • Flying Brick: Hyperion and Zarda. And they don't hold back. Redstone is one of these except without flight.
  • Got the Whole World in My Hand: After flying into orbit as a boy, Hyperion holds his arm up to shield his eyes from the sun and in so doing inadvertently "grasps" the Earth in his hand. This proves to be one of the major formative experiences of his childhood.
  • Grasp the Sun: See above.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: At the end of the most recent mini, Hyperion (whose location has been revealed) is offered a chance at becoming the premier US superhero in order to stop a genocidal super villain in another country. He accepts, kills the villain, and tries to pick up where he left off. But the President rejects the deal, fires the general that made it, and has a restored Doctor Spectrum capture and detain Hyperion.
  • HeroicSociopath: Zarda.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: At the start of the latest series, after all the events of the previous one, Hyperion has settled deep out in the woods in a cabin with a random woman who does not recognize or know of him. This doesn't last.
  • Life-or-Limb Decision: The most recent mini deals with Ledger, having become the America's main Government-sponsored hero, slowly lose control of the Power Crystal which begins to act out in deadly outbursts and take over his body. He's eventually forced to cut off the hand fused with it. This had previously been mentioned as the only way to get the crystal off him.
  • Loyal Phlebotinum: The sentient Power Crystal that powered Hyperion's ship. Despite being bonded to Doctor Spectrum, it is loyal only to Hyperion and urges him to conquer the planet, as he was sent to do.
  • MacGuffin Delivery Service: Nighthawk calls Hyperion and the Blur to take down Redstone, a superhuman serial killer who rips the left arms off hookers For the Evulz. As soon as the smoke clears, there's an unscathed Doc Spectrum to take him into custody. And then they confiscate the security footage and blackmail the few living witnesses into shutting up, indirectly framing him for the murders.
  • Madden Into Misanthropy: The Bad Future is the direct result of The Government's efforts to dominate Hyperion.
  • Mad Scientist: Emil Burbank, though hardly ever do "mad" and "scientist" intersect with him — he's a smart man who enjoys murder and sometimes even rape, but goes about those crimes in fairly mundane ways.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Doc Spectrum in issue #6.
  • Meta Origin: The ship which launched Hyperion and Zarda's Escape Pods, which not only brought them to Earth, but an alien engineered retrovirus that transformed a number of the population into lesser superhumans. Doctor Spectrum made good use of the ship's Power Crystal, too. Zarda's arrived in Ancient Rome, resulting in Roman mythology. Zarda went to sleep Under A Mountain at the end of that era, waiting for Hyperion to arrive.
  • Monster Clown: Whiteface, aka Steven Binst. A Joker analogue who poisons the crack going into the city and later everyone in attendance at the birthday party of the mayor's 8 year old son. All while barely talking and wearing a perpetual scarred frown.
  • Morality Pet: Kingsley is this to Doc Spectrum. She's the only person he ever cared about, and he can't imagine what he'd do without her.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: Zarda gives three different pasts to the same person within the same scene.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Joseph Ledger aka Doctor Spectrum.
  • The Napoleon: Tom Thumb, an angry little man who stands about an inch tall. He'll kick your ass.
  • Nigh Invulnerable: Hyperion, Zarda, Redstone, Shape, and Inertia all have this power. Redstone in particular revels in it; he doesn't care about covering up his crimes, because since he can't be hurt, he figures there'd be nothing anybody could do about it even if he got found out. He eventually learns that he CAN be hurt or even killed in a number of different ways. Even superhumans have to breathe...
    • The Shape has malleable skin that can't be penetrated — bullets just fall out of him, knives bounce off, and even a punch from Hyperion simply sinks into his belly harmlessly.
  • N-Word Privileges: Averted. Blur is deeply offended when Nighthawk calls him a "House Negro". As Stanley puts it, he grew up in The Deep South... but Nighthawk is the only person to ever use that kind of language with him or identify him mainly by race.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Ultimate Marvel named it, but Supreme Power codified it.
    Doctor Steadman: You see, your problem is that you don't really understand how powerful these individuals are, or what they are capable of doing. I sent Joe out wearing a radio tuned to the National Geological Foundation's tectonic imaging laboratory in White Springs, Colorado. You see, when Hyperion finds his target, we will not have to wait to hear about it on CNN, General. We will hear about it on the Richter Scale.
  • Puberty Superpower: Averted. Spot lives up to his name because Hyperion gets his "Flash Vision" at an early age.
  • Race Lift: Nighthawk and Blur were both white in the source material, and Redstone was Native American. You can debatably count Nick Fury. Inertia was also white, but is here Ambiguously Brown with no reference made to her ethnicity. There's also the Black Archer, a black version of the formerly white Golden Archer.
  • Rape as Backstory: Inertia's backstory hinges on her being gang raped as a teenager.
  • Recruiting the Criminal: The US Military decides to recruit superhuman mass murderer Redstone in order to have him sent to other countries that are not cooperative with the US Government. While there, Redstone would murder large scores of people and destabilize their governments to make them more susceptible to American control and then move next down the list.
  • Scary Black Man: Who would you rather meet: Batman or Nighthawk?
  • Screw The Rules, I Have Supernatural Powers!: "Where does a five-hundred pound gorilla sit? Answer: Anywhere it wants to." This is everything the government is scared Hyperion will become, and everything Redstone already is.
  • Serial Killer: Michael Redstone, though note that he bucks most of the conventions. He doesn't care if he gets caught, because, realistically, what could they to do to him? As mentioned, he ends up regretting this attitude.
  • Shooting Superman: Hyperion was shot many times as he stormed the base that housed his ship. It would later come to light that he didn't actually directly cause any deaths or injuries in the attack — most of the casualties were the result of bullets ricocheting off his body. Later, Hyperion actually shoots himself, in the eye to prove a point about how much threat The Government has over him. In a crowded strip club in broad daylight.
  • Shout-Out: "When you wish upon a star, better hope it's not pon-farr."
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: One of the more cynical Superhero comics, the best example can be the flashback montage that accompanies Bill Clinton's introduction of Mark to the world. Every point Clinton gives of why Mark is a model citizen and human are subverted by a relevant flashback, including Mark's parents telling them that they love him.
  • Stepford Smiler: One of the guards actually compares Mark's surrogate family to The Stepford Wives.
  • Stout Strength: Shape is absolutely massive, but super-strong. His arms are visibly muscular despite his obesity.
  • The Deep South: Averted with the Blur who is himself from the south and comments that the first blatant racist he has ever encountered was Nighthawk, a fellow black man from Chicago. Granted, they're from different generations.
  • To the Pain: How General Alexander re-conscripts Hyperion in "The Deconstruction of Mark Milton".
  • Transplant: Zarda and Nick Fury switch places in the Ultimate Power crossover.
  • Ultimate Universe: Though not the Ultimate Universe. However both worlds do meet in Ultimate Power.
  • Upbringing Makes the Hero: What The Government attempts, and mostly succeeds at.
  • Walking Wasteland: Al "Nuke" Gaines, a man whose radioactivity is literally off the charts and who kills anyone or anything near him unless properly contained.
  • Wild Child: Amphibian AKA Kingsley Rice.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Pretty much the Trope Codifier. Children, you get superpowers, go work at the supermarket.
    General Casey: You're not human. You know that now. You look like us. But you're not one of us. So what difference does it make? You don't have any rights, we don't have any obligation to treat you one way or another.
    • Straczynski gets mega bonus points for having this speech be delivered by a black General Ripper.
  • With Us or Against Us: Nighthawk believes this;
    "A long time ago, my dad heard Malcolm X speak at a church in Memphis. He said that during slave days, you had the house Negro, and the field Negro.
    The house Negro lived in the master's house, ate the same food as the master, lived in a warm room, usually in the basement. If the master got a cold, he was right there to help out, all cheerful and friendly because he wanted his own life to be good, and that meant making the master happy.
    The field Negro ate whatever scraps the dogs didn't eat, lived out in a cold shack, was beaten and kicked — and when the master got sick, he prayed every day the master would die. Didn't matter if the master was technically a nice guy or not. The master represented the system, and it was the system he hated."
    • It's pretty much the core of his philosophy: In a world with masters and slaves - oppressors and oppressed - every slave that isn't looking for a way to defeat the masters serves the masters.