Reign of the Supermen #18: Samaritan

Source: Astro City #1 (1995)
Type: AnalogHey wait! That's not Superman! What the heck is an Analog? Siskoid, are you already out of Supermen?

Why no, Rhetorical Self, I'm not, but I wanted to show that Analogs are just as much a part of Reign as DC's Supermen. An Analog is a superhero, usually published at another company, that is quite clearly a Superman stand-in. In a very real sense, all superheroes are derivative of Superman, but to be a true Analog of the Man of Steel, some elements must be present. The Superman Analog is often a visitor from another world who uses his fantastic powers to help humanity. His powers are Superman-like: Super strength, invulnerability and flight. He may have enhanced senses or special features like heat vision as well. His costume is spandex and includes both a cape and a chest symbol, but no mask. Sometimes, it's not so obvious, but if he's been placed in a team full of Analogs, and you spot the Wonder Woman, the Aquaman and the Batman, the powerhouse is usually the Superman.

Analogs are often used to tell stories it would be impossible to do with the character itself. Perhaps it destroys the integrity of the character, perhaps it can't fit into any established continuity. Analogs can also be used as homage or (non-humorous) parody. And that's the case with the Samaritan. In Astro City, Kurt Busiek looks at how normal people might perceive a superheroic world, or alternately, how such characters would realistically function. He thus populates his city with Analogs of many recognizable heroes. How we react to an Amazon princess would be similar to how we deal with an Egyptian goddess. Our relationship to the First Family would inform how we feel about the Fantastic Four. A real Batman's problems would be those of the Confessor. And the Samaritan, the Samaritan stands in for Superman.

He's a visitor from another world (a doomed 35th century he's trying to prevent) and gifted with powers beyond those of mortal ken (thanks to the energies absorbed in the time stream). By setting right what once went wrong, he ironically destroyed his own timeline and can never return to his analog of Krypton. His crash into our century is taken right out of Action Comics #1, and his saving the space shuttle right out of Man of Steel #1, where Byrne had Superman save a "space plane". Though he can manipulate energy fields, he still has Superman-like powers such as flight, strength and super-senses. His secret identity works as a fact-checker for Current magazine, an obvious analog to Clark Kent's job as a reporter. In Astro City's very first story, we see how a such a powerful and altruistic hero would spend his days - and have no life. It's a story that might fit Superman, if writers were really ready to cast aside the character's entire supporting cast.

I've seen on Wiki that Busiek denies the Superman influence up to a point. Dude, you're dreamin'. As a fact-checker, Samaritan even wears glasses.


De said...

I want to say that Busiek explicitly made a reference in a letters column to Samaritan's hair being a parody of comic book coloring techniques for dark hair. Where did that start? Oh yeah, with Superman!

twistyarm said...

Speaking of analogs, have you seen Megamind yet? A fun little movie with some great (if occasionally predictable) uses of Superman (and Luthor) tropes.

Siskoid said...

I have not... Getting on the trail now.

Lazarus Lupin said...

The most famous/infamous analog to Superman is of course Captain Marvel. Though they have radically different origins and out looks they occupy the same niche. Always figured that Lex and Dr. Silvana would have a lot to talk about over some coffee (or something stronger)

Lazarus Lupin
art and review

Andrew Gilbertson said...

Oooh, any chance of Alan Moore's Supreme on this list? He's my favorite of all analogues- to the point of maybe topping Superman himself. And considering the metafictional commentary of the series (Story of the Year) and the absurd number of specific parallels, one could make the case that he's the closest analogue of all.

Siskoid said...

Yes, Supreme counts. He'll show up one day.

Austin Gorton said...

Ah, I love analogs. And Superman is the most, er, analogest character ever.

Most prone to being analoged?

Iconic. He's iconic. So he inspires lots of analogs.

Most definitely a worthy addition to Reign of the Superman.

Maricruz Villalobos Zamora said...

Will you include Omni-Man (or the Immortal, whichever is the Superman)?

Siskoid said...

From Invincible? Sure will.


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