Better than the originalsThey started as a knock-off of one superteam and the whipping boys of another. But in the end, the Squadron Supreme had the last laugh.

Marvel Comics created the Squadron Supreme in the image of DC Comics’ Justice League of America. The Squadron includes a fake Superman named Hyperion, a faux Wonder Woman named Power Princess, yadda yadda. Marvel allowed its own superteam, the Avengers, to whoop up on them as a finger-in-the-eye to its publishing rival.

But then something interesting happened. After numerous guest appearances in different Marvel titles, The Squadron got its own limited series, which ran for 12 issues in 1985 and 1986. And it kicked ass. The series followed the Squadron’s efforts to create a utopia on Earth–an effort that leads them down a slippery slope toward world dictatorship. The series was an interesting mix: part a meditation on the nature of power (particularly superpower), and part good old-fashion action-adventure. For my money, it’s one of the best mainstream superteam stories ever told–certainly better than most of the Avenger or JLA stories that I’ve read. The series was gathered into a trade paperback in 1997–check it out.

Mark Gruenwald wrote the series, and passed away in 1996. He specified in his will that he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes mixed with the ink for the trade paperback. So, if you can find a copy from the first printing of the trade paperback, you can own a bit of the talented writer himself. But even if you have to settle for an ash-free subsequent printing, it’ll be worth it.

(Thanks to Professor Xtos for turning me onto the Squadron.)

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