There are too many Hyperions. The first Hyperion was introduced as an Avengers villain; an evil Superman as part of Marvel’s team of Justice League analogues, the Squadron Sinister. Marvel later introduced its first alternate universe version of Hyperion as a member of a the Squadron Supreme, heroic counterparts to their interdimensional doppelgangers. Exiles introduced King Hyperion, an evil more evil version of the character while Supreme Power was a grounded take on the Squadron Supreme concept with an early ‘00s flair. There are too many Hyperions to talk about who all of them are in one article, so I’ve decided to choose just one, and because I’m predictable, I’ll be talking about the Marvel Now incarnation of the character, introduced by Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opeña in Avengers (2013) #1.
All versions of Hyperion are basically the same guy in a broad sense; Hyperion is always Marcus Milton and he’s usually the last surviving Eternal of his world, but with a bit of a Last Son twist on the concept. The Marvel Now incarnation of Hyperion differs from most because not only is he the last survivor of his own kind, he’s the last survivor of his whole universe which was destroyed as part of the larger “incursions” threat running through Hickman’s two Avengers titles. This version of Hyperion was pulled out of the void by AIM and imprisoned but freed by the Avengers who then offered him a place as part of their new expanded roster.
The thing I find most interesting about Superman analogues is that creators usually choose one aspect of the archetype to really drill down into and make it the core of the character. Superman works so well because he encompasses the whole, but analogues allow creators to explore specific parts of that whole in ways that you never could with actual Superman. In Hyperion’s case, I believe this to be the guardian/protector aspect of Superman and I think that it’s explored in a really specific way that separates him from other heroic Superman analogues like Samaritan or Sentry who are more saviours than they are protectors.
I’ve talked before in this series about my Universal Theory of Superman, that all versions of Superman are defined by their versions of Jonathan and Martha Kent but instead of a kindly couple, Hyperion had the man known only as Father. The rosetta stone for this incarnation of Hyperion are the three precepts passed down to him by Father, which are kind of like his version of “Truth, Justice and the American Way.”
- Truth without compromise
- Thought without error
- All things for the betterment of the whole
These three ideals moulded the young hero into a paragon of virtue on his homeworld and alongside his brothers and sisters in the Squadron Supreme, he turned his world into a utopia by remaining true to what he was raised to believe. So, when I say that Hyperion is a guardian or a protector in a way that someone like Samaritan is not, it’s because Samaritan builds his whole life around saving individuals in immediate crisis and while Hyperion does do that, he sees the larger picture of Earth and humanity at the same time.
Hyperion refers to life on Earth as his children, but it’s not in an infantilising way. He believes his role on Earth is to keep humanity from collectively jamming a fork into a plug socket but he also recognises that there’s a special kind of knowledge and understanding that can only be passed on from a child to a guardian and he’s eager to learn what this world’s people have to teach him.
I think the fundamental aspect of Hyperion, or at least this version of Hyperion, is that he’s compassionate. If you’re going to read just one issue to understand the character, it has to be Avengers #34.1 by Al Ewing, Dale Keown, Norman Lee, Jason Keith and Cory Petit. The issue follows Hyperion’s search for a missing child in rural America while grappling with his own lack of purpose or direction and it’s an incredible one-shot issue that’s probably the closest anyone has ever got to writing a Superman story that works within the structure of the Marvel Universe. When the hero catches up with the villain he doesn’t rush in fists first, he stops and listens and then tells him how he’s going to help him, because that’s what he’s there for.
Following Secret Wars, this Hyperion joined a new version of the Squadron Supreme led which was made up of heroes who were all the last survivors of their respective universes, like Nighthawk from Supreme Power or the classic Power Princess from Mark Gruenwald’s Squadron Supreme. Among this new team, Hyperion lost his way a little bit and allowed himself to be put in situations where he compromised his three precepts. In the first issue of James Robinson and Leonard Kirk’s Squadron Supreme, Hyperion kills Namor for his role as a member in the Illuminati and the Cabal during the Incursions.
Struggling to find a place to fit in on Earth away from the Avengers and suffering from a crisis of conscience as a result of his role in Namor’s execution, he took a job as a long-haul truck driver to experience and better understand America and humanity in all of their complexities. This take on Hyperion struggled a bit to line-up with what was going on the main Squadron Supreme title and his own ongoing series only lasted six issues all-in-all. Despite his potential as a character, it does seem that Marvel fans aren’t particularly interested in a Superman analogue as a lead for more than maybe a miniseries every few years or so.
Unfortunately, the problem that affects all Hyperions eventually came calling for Marcus Milton of Earth-13034; he got replaced by another Hyperion. The last appearance of this version of Hyperion was in Secret Empire #9 and there’s no reason I can see as to why he isn’t still on Earth, but he’s not the current Hyperion. The current Hyperion is the leader of a new Squadron Supreme who have been popping up in Jason Aaron’s Avengers operating out of the U.S. capital as “DC’s greatest heroes” which I admit is very funny. This incarnation of the Squadron are simulacrums created by Mephisto but it seems odd to me that this new version of the Squadron have such a high-profile in the Marvel Universe but no-one in the Avengers — especially Thor — has thought to ask “Hey, that’s not my friend! Where’s my friend?”
I think it’s a real shame that this version of Hyperion has just disappeared because it’s probably the closest that Marvel has come into making a Superman analogue work within the structure of its universe without changing something fundamental about the archetype like with The Sentry or Gladiator. I’d be more than happy to see the Marvel Now incarnation of Hyperion make a return in some form and it seems like there’s a story opportunity right there when it comes to this new Mephisto controlled incarnation that’s strutting around Washington. Hopefully someone remembers this version, whether it’s in the near future or sometime down the line, because he’s too interesting and too unique within Marvel to be forgotten.