Marvel and DC have a long history of poking fun at each other in their comics, so when fans met Hyperion, an imitation of Superman as a villain in 1969, it appeared to be just another one of these passing jabs.
However, Hyperion became an enduring feature of the Marvel multiverse who has been present at some of its most important events, making him a significant character many have never heard of. But it’s time to put his relative obscurity to the mainstream to an end, and take a closer look at the clearest callout to DC’s Man of Steel fans will find in the Marvel Universe.
Hyperion was introduced by Roy Thomas and Sal Buscema in Avengers #69 as a member of the Squadron Sinister. This Hyperion was the interplanetary explorer Zhib-ran, invested with superpowers during the explosion of his homeworld. Not a completely shocking origin for characters of the era, but things took a turn when, after battling the Avengers several times, he was killed by… the real Hyperion?
As it turned out, Zhib-Ran is an artificial being created by the Grandmaster out of extra-dimensional energy and instilled false memories (not the last time this would happen to a version of Hyperion). The Grandmaster modeled Zhib-ran’s powers and appearance after the *real* Hyerion, Mark Milton. Mark Milton is from Earth-712, a location in the Marvel Multiverse that is a parody of DC comics (including one-the-nose city names and a “Squadron Supreme” that mimics the Justice League). On Earth-712, Mark is the last surviving member of the space-faring Eternals. He was raised by Earth parents with strong moral values and desire to protect the weak. (Sound familiar?) This version of Hyperion died along with the rest of the Earth-712 reality in 2016.
Yet a third version of Hyperion was introduced in 2013 during Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers run. Marcus Milton is nearly identical to his silver-age counterpart with a few exceptions, such as being raised by a single father and preferring a navy blue costume. He is the sole survivor of the Earth-13034 reality, which was destroyed when it collided during another dimension. He was pulled into Earth-616 by A.I.M and became an integral part of the multiverse Avengers. This version of Hyperion died fighting the Beyonders alongside Thor, but was brought back during the recreation of the Earth-616 universe. He is most noted for decapitating Namor the Submariner in punishment for Namor getting a bit too realpolitik for the other Avengers’ taste.
Most versions of Hyperion (whether the real deal or artificial duplicates) have the physiology of an Eternal (in at least two of his versions he is the last of the Eternals). The Eternals are an immortal superhero team created when the Celestials tampered with the genes of proto-humans on Earth. (This genetic tampering is also the reason Earth has so many super beings.) The Eternals will be getting their own MCU movie in Phase Four, but Hyperion doesn’t appear to be listed among the cast.
As an Eternal, Hyperion absorbs cosmic radiation. This grants Hyperion a variety of powers, all of which are a beat-by-beat copy of Superman’s including: super-strength, super-speed, regenerative healing, nigh-invulnerability, flight, and “atomic vision”–similar to Superman’s head vision. He also has super senses— allowing him to see someone’s DNA from space—and super-intelligence, allowing him to out-think supercomputers. As Superman can survive entirely on yellow sunlight, Hyperion can survive on cosmic radiation, allowing him to go without food, air, or sleep.
He is widely considered one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe, often compared to Sentry, Blue Marvel, and Gladiator. His most famous feat of strength is trying to hold two universes apart to stop them from colliding, and he succeeded… well, for a few minutes. He also destroyed the city of Atlantis by picking it up and dropping it from the sky. Hyperion does have two major weaknesses though: magic and “Argonite Radiation.” Considering Argon is right above Krypton on the periodic table, this is rather clever satire.
There is a current version of Hyperion who first appeared in 2019’s Avengers Volume 8 #10, written by Jason Aaron. When the Avengers remind General Thunderbolt Ross that they are Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (i.e. they served humanity, not the interests of the United States) Phil Coulson presented a new version of the Squadron Supreme to him as America’s personal superhero team. Their membership in appearance is nearly identical to their Earth-712 counterparts including Marvel’s version of Wonder Woman (Power Girl), Batman (Nighthawk), Green Lantern (Doctor Spectrum), the Flash (Blur), and, of course, Hyperion.
It was revealed that this version of the Squadron Supreme were not real people at all, but simulacrums created by the demon Mephisto. They were then programmed by an offshoot of Hydra called the Power Elite. Hyperion, for instance, was given memories very similar to Mark Miller of Earth-712, including believing he is an eternal raised on Earth. All of them were also given the desire to protect America, quite violently if necessary. They defended the nations capital against the frost giants of Jottenheim, prompting them to be named “D.C.’s Mightiest Heroes.” (Get it?).
Mephisto’s motives in doing this are unknown, and with Marvel canceling the Squadron Supreme’s Empyre story line, we may not learn it anytime soon. Also, the Earth-13034 Hyperion is still out there somewhere. It will be interesting to see if he has a clash with his counterpart. Hyperion was a villainous Superman pastiche retconned into a heroic Silver Age tribute multiversed into Thor’s cosmic BFF cloned into a violent defender of America for uncertain reasons.
So there you have it: the complete history of Hyperion. Well, expect for microverse versions like King Hyperion who took over Earth (a la DC’s Injustice)… or Battleworld Hyperion…. or Zombie Hyperion. The most DC-esque thing about this DC parody may be that he has undergone a DC level of retcons.