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The Squadron Sinister: Marvel’s cheap Justice League knock-offs

Marvel's Avengers verus DC's Justice League New 52

Marvel is flying pretty high these days. Their Marvel NOW! initiative has reinvigorated their comics line, and the runaway success of The Avengers and its individual hero movies has left DC Comics scrambling to get a Justice League movie out the door just to keep up.

But it wasn’t always like that.

There was a time when the Justice League – not the Avengers – was the gold standard in team-ups, and it was Marvel playing catch-up.

And by catch-up, I mean they gave a big one-finger salute to their rivals by making a villainous doppelgängers of DC’s most well-respected heroes.

Marvel Comics Squadron Sinister DC Knockoffs

Up yours, DC.

This is Marvel’s less-than-subtle response to the Justice League: a supervillain team with all the abilities of Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and the Flash, created in 1969 as a team of punching bags for Marvel’s Avengers.

The Squadron Sinister is comprised of dollar store versions of the DC Justice League, with Hyperion (Superman), Nighthawk (Batman), Doctor Spectrum (Green Lantern) and the ever so intimidating Whizzer (the Flash) rounding out the team.

But where this could have been a one-off for the Avengers to beat up on dopplegangers of their rivals, Marvel decided to transform these characters into legit heroes, albeit in a different dimension.

Marvel introduced good alternate dimension versions of the characters in 1971 as the Squadron Supreme, and even beefed up their ranks with a Wonder Woman knock-off called Power Princess. The Avengers have teamed up with the Squadron Supreme a number of times, and these characters have often crossed over with the traditional 616 Marvel universe to interact with Marvel’s more regular heroes.

The motives of the Squadron have changed with each alternate universe where they appear, but their powers have been largely the same.

Nighthawk Marvel Batman knock-offBatman Dark Knight DC Comics
Nighthawk and Batman: one guy’s got the “night” thing figured out a little more than the other.

Nighthawk, the Batman clone, had one extra edge over his insanely wealthy gadget-wielding analogue: Nighthawk was significantly more powerful at night, thanks to a potion he brewed up for himself.

Unfortunately for Nighthawk, there isn’t a potion to make him relevant; he’s been sitting on the shelf since 2008.

Marvel Doctor Spectrum Green Lantern knock-offHal Jordan Green Lantern DC Comics
Ladies and gentleman, the fabulous Doctor Spectrum and Green Lantern.

Rainbow-coloured Doctor Spectrum uses the sentient crystal on his glove to create constructs out of light. And not just green light – Marvel one-upped Green Lantern with the whole rainbow.

It didn’t do Doc Spec much good, though. He had a go at the hero game in the early 2000s, but hasn’t been used since 2006.
Zarda the Power Princess MarvelDC Comics Wonder Woman
Uh, they both look like Wonder Woman, don’t they?

Zarda the Power Princess is creepily similar the Wonder Woman. She, too, is from a magical Utopian island – aptly named Utopia Isle – and is committed to being an ambassador for her people to the rest of the world.

Zarda was an ambassador to the Hulk in the 2000s; she bedded the Ultimate version of the big green guy, but she hasn’t done much since then.

Marvel Comics Whizzer Flash knock-offDC Comics The Flash
Come on, Marvel, this is a little on the nose, isn’t it?

The poorly-named Whizzer was renamed Speed Demon in 1981 and made a suprisingly long career out of harrassing Spider-Man with his Flash-like whirlwind moves.

Speed Demon became a part of the Sinister Six with the recent Marvel NOW! relaunch.
Marvel Comics Hyperion Superman knock-offAlex Ross Superman DC Comics
Hyperion, looking for all the world like Superman’s hillbilly cousin.

Only Hyperion – with the powers of flight, invulnerability, super strength and atomic vision – has seen any recent success, as he’s become an important cog in Jonathan Hickman’s planned three-year Avengers arc.

Mercifully, the assembled Squadron Sinister hasn’t been seen for some time.

And make no mistake about it: DC has their share of knock-off Marvel characters, too.

But that’s an article for another day.

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