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Supurbia #1 and the over-analogued superhero industry

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen—specifically Alan Moore’s side of it—was Topic A in comics circle for a few weeks after DC announced Before Watchmen a while back (10 years, in blog time). During that time, one of the many “arguments” anonymous online commenters were making against Moore’s expression that he wishes DC wasn’t doing Before Watchmen was that since the work featured characters somewhat inspired by the DC-owned Charlton characters, he should therefore be cool with DC continuing to exploit them.

Moore and Watchmen and that argument were all quite present in my mind while reading Supurbia #1, or Grace Randolph’s Supurbia, as it appears on the cover of the issue. The premise is “superhero Desperate Housewives,” and that premise is so strong in the first issue you can practically hear that very pitch ringing in your ears as you read.

The super-people are all obvious and, in the first issue at least, barely-extrapolated-from analogues of DC (and two Marvel) superheroes: Sovereign, the caped demigod in constant Superman Is A Dick-mode; Night Fox, billionaire playboy with an underground cave lair; Batu, warrior woman from an ancient culture of warrior women; Cosmic Champion, current member of the Cosmic Corps who inherited his mantle; and patriotic super-soldier Marine Omega and his grown-up sidekick, Bulldog.

It may simply be symptomatic of my having been reading superhero comic books for too long now, but when by the time writer Grace Randolph and her artist partner Russell Dauterman introduced the third obvious analogue, I started sighing. Moore didn’t invent the use of analogues, of course—Marvel and DC were using thinly veiled versions of one another’s characters to comment on them for fans’ sakes at least as far back as the last Silver Age—but Watchmen sure made the strategy more present for the generation of comics creators and readers that followed that work.

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