[SPOILERS AHEAD FOR Squadron Supreme #1….although it's nothing that hadn't been advertised by Marvel for months]
Marvel recently introduced a brand new version of the Squadron Supreme to the Marvel comics universe with a bang, as the team killed off Namor the Sub-Mariner out of revenge for his actions during Jonathan Hickman's New Avengers run. The Squadron Supreme have been part of the Marvel Universe for decades, usually as allies (and occasionally as foes) of the Avengers. One version of the Squadron Supreme also starred as the main villains of the Avengers Assemble cartoon series, which takes many of its cues from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Since the Squadron Supreme is enjoying a resurgence of sorts, now's a good time to catch up on the team's history and find out just who the Squadron Supreme are:
A Team of Familiar Heroes
While the Squadron Supreme's roster has varied a bit over the years, there are a few characters that appear in almost every version. There's the invulnerable, super-strong Hyperion, the master strategist Nighthawk, the warrior goddess Power Princess, the super-fast Whizzer and the energy construct producing Doctor Spectrum. Other members include Amphibian (an Aquaman parallel), the Golden Archer (counterpart of Green Arrow), and Nuke (a pastiche of Firestorm).prevnext
Friend or Foe?
When the Avengers first encountered the Squadron Supreme way back in Avengers #85, they immediately mistook the Squadron for an identical team of villains they had fought a few years earlier. The Squadron Sinister were a group of supervillains working for the Grandmaster, a cosmic entity whose powers rivaled those of Thanos. Although the Avengers didn't know it at the time, the Grandmaster created the Squadron Sinister as a replica of the Squadron Supreme, who he previously encountered during his travels through the multiverse. The Squadron Sinister's Nighthawk and Whizzer would later become permanent members of the Marvel Universe, with Nighthawk becoming an occasional superhero while the Whizzer became the Spider-Man villain Speed Demon.
Since the Squadron Supreme and the Squadron Sinister look identical, it's very easy to confuse the two teams. In fact, Marvel has mixed up the Squadrons on several occasions, leading to covers that advertise the wrong versions of the team.prevnext
A Multiversal Origin
The original Squadron Supreme hailed from an alternate reality, which allowed Marvel writers like Mark Gruenwald to tell epic, world-altering stories with the characters. In one particularly well-known miniseries, the Squadron Supreme actually takes control over the United States and virtually eliminates crime via a special type of behavior technology. However, the perfect society created by the Squadron crumbles as several of the team members either abuse or become disillusioned with their power. Eventually, the Squadron abandons their plans after one of its former members, Nighthawk, dies while trying to lead a rebellion against his former teammates. Several other stories would deal with the fallout of the Squadron's actions, with even worse governments rising up after the superheroes relinquished their rule.prevnext
An All-New, All Different Squadron
Since the original Squadron came from a different reality, it's fitting that Marvel's newest Squadron is made up of characters from several different alternate realities. As shown in Jonathan Hickman's Avengers and New Avengers series, Marvel's entire multiverse quickly collapsed onto itself, leading countless worlds dying as they collided into one another. Doctor Doom, using the near limitless powers of the Beyonders, managed to collect the remnants of some of these worlds (along with several heroes from the main Marvel Universe) into his own Battleworld.
While we still don't know how or who rebuilt the Marvel Universe, we do know that several characters from alternate realities have somehow ended up in the main Marvel world. Each member of the new Squadron Supremes are the sole survivors from their respective universes, many of which we've seen in previous comics. We'll briefly run through each of the Squadron's members and the universes they originally came from:prevnext
The Squadron's Hyperion was one of the first survivors of the multiversial collapse effecting the Marvel Universe. As shown in Hickman's Avengers series, Hyperion was the sole survivor of his planet's destruction and existed in the void between realities until AIM found him and brought him to "our" world. After spending an unknown amount of time in captivity, the Avengers freed him and offered him a place on their team. While a member of the Avengers, Hyperion developed a friendship with Thor and mentored the Children of the Sun, a group of evolved humans created during one of their adventures.
Hyperion has many of the same powers of Superman, with superstrength, speed, flight, and invulnerability, as well as "atomic vision" (a version of Superman's heat vision).prevnext
In 2003, J. Michael Straczynski and Gary Frank created Supreme Power, a mature themed reboot of the Squadron Supreme set in the modern day. Supreme Power starred a Hyperion raised by the US government as a child and manipulated to fight for the US both in secret and later as a public superhero. Supreme Power's Nighthawk was a violent and ruthless vigilante, determined to clean up the streets of his native Chicago. An African-American, Nighthawk protected only black neighborhoods and largely ignored other superheroes, at least until their problems interfered with his own campaign to clean up crime. In recent issues of Hickman's Avengers, a team of supervillains led by Namor destroyed Nighthawk's universe after killing the rest of the world's heroes.
While Nighthawk has no actual powers, he is extremely intelligent and is usually the Squadron Supreme's strategist and leader. Like Batman, Nighthawk has a variety of gadgets and tools to help him fight crime. This Nighthawk prefers specialized razor disks that he uses to blind and maim his opponent.prevnext
The new Squadron Supreme's Power Princess is the same Power Princess from the "original" Squadron Supreme. Power Princess (or Zarda) comes from Utopia Island, a small island populated by Inhumans with superpowers. On her Earth, Zarda married Hyperion and became one of the core members of the Squadron Supreme. Much like Wonder Woman, Power Princess has superstrength, flight and is an expert warrior.prevnext
During Hickman's New Avengers series, the Illuminati (a team of heroes consisting of Reed Richards, Black Bolt, Beast, Namor, Dr. Strange and Black Panther) came into conflict with the Great Society, a team of superheroes living on an alternate Earth that was about to collide with "our" Earth. While the Illuminati defeated the Great Society, Namor independently set off a bomb that blew up the Great Society's planet, saving our Earth in the process. Doctor Spectrum was the Great Society's only survivor and understandably has a grudge against Namor and the other Illuminati matter.
Spectrum's powers come from an alien gem bonded to her hand, which grants her the abilities to create and manipulate various types of light.prevnext
Hickman's Avengers series incorporated several concepts and characters from Marvel's New Universe, a line of comics created in 1986 that featured a "more realistic" world with superpowers. While the regular Marvel Universe had mutants, mythological gods, magic and plenty of other kinds of weird superhuman origin stories, all of the New Universe's characters gained their powers from a mysterious White Event. While Marvel pushed the New Universe series heavily when first released, Marvel cancelled the line after only three years. Hickman used new versions of several New Universe characters, including Star Brand and Nightmask, during his Avengers run.
One of the original New Universe characters was Blur, a superhuman with the ability to run at speeds up to 300 miles per hours. Blur's powers come with some drawbacks, however, as he's never able to stop moving and has to constantly eat in order to feed his powers.prev