Heroes Reborn gives Marvel its own Superboy and Legion of Super-Heroes

Cover of Hyperion and the Imperial Guard #1
(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Marvel's 25th anniversary revival of its 1996 Heroes Reborn branding includes some mashed-up Marvel concepts – and at least one Marvel character will lean even more into his roots as a pastiche of DC's Superman in writer Ryan Cady and artist Michele Bandini's Hyperion and the Imperial Guard one-shot.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)
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Marvel's Hyperion of the Squadron Supreme, the last survivor of a dying universe with incredible solar-powered strength, will get some new history in the 2021 Heroes Reborn universe – a world in which the Avengers never formed and the Squadron Supreme of America are Earth's Mightiest Heroes. 

In keeping with the Squadron Supreme's '60s origins as a way for Marvel to bring in a team with powers and concepts resembling DC's Justice League before an actual inter-company crossover was possible, Hyperion and the Imperial Guard will flashback to Hyperion's youth in the Heroes Reborn 2021, training as a hero alongside the Shi'Ar Imperial Guard.

Oddly enough, the Imperial Guard were originally another group of loose pastiche/homage characters of a different DC team, the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Created in the '70s as adversaries for the X-Men, the Imperial Guard were co-created by legendary Uncanny X-Men artist Dave Cockrum, who had originally designed several '70s X-Men characters such as Nightcrawler and Storm (in slightly different forms) to debut in his run on DC's Legion, prior to joining Marvel's X-Men title. As such, each member of the original guard pays specific homage to a DC Legionaire, with the Imperial Guard's leader Gladiator meant as a pastiche of Superboy, who was part of the Silver Age Legion of Super-Heroes.

So what that means is, in the Heroes Reborn 2021 universe, one of Marvel's versions of 'Superman' spent time alongside a group of alien heroes who are kinda Marvel's versions of DC's Legion of Super-Heroes, kinda like Superboy, who himself has his own separate Marvel homage character in the mix.

Wheels within wheels…and according to writer Ryan Cady, it's all totally on purpose.

"We're fully embracing that metafiction in our oneshot - diving head first into this new world that [Heroes Reborn 2021 creators Jason Aaron and Ed McGuiness] have constructed," Cady tells CBR, who announced the one-shot (opens in new tab).

"That's what thrills me the most about this event. These aren't just stories of a different world; they're stories from a different world," Cady continues.

"It'll feel as retrospective and full as if you'd been reading issues of Hyperion and the Imperial Guard your entire life. And if you check the surprise sneak preview of Starjammers at the end of the book, you're gonna wish you could hop timelines just to preorder the rest of that series, too."

Oh yeah – that's the other thing. Hyperion and the Imperial Guard will spin-off into a separate title based on the Starjammers, a group of X-Men allies/adversaries who make their living as pirates in Shi'Ar space – and who are led by Corsair, the father of the X-Men's Cyclops.

It's unclear if the Starjammers spin-off will be set in the new Heroes Reborn world, or if it's something coming down the road, perhaps as part of Marvel's "New Age of Space," which kicks off officially in Al Ewing's Guardians of the Galaxy #13 this April, just before Heroes Reborn's May launch.

Back in August, 2019, Marvel editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski told Newsarama he'd like to see the Starjammers and Imperial Guard get a spotlight in the publisher's then burgeoning 'Dawn of X' X-Men line.

"I'll say Starjammers, even though Corsair is on the cover to October's X-Men #1 with Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Yu," Cebulski told Newsarama at the time. "He's a part of that book, but there's some things out there that will be very cool for the cosmic side of the X-Men, as well as the Imperial Guard. We haven't touched on those two groups yet, but someday..."

Cebulski was unclear whether the publisher had specific plans for the Starjammers or the Imperial Guard, though it's possible the seeds for spotlighting them in this way were already being sowed by Marvel.

Marvel Heroes Reborn #1 kicks off in May, with issues running weekly through the month. The publisher has already announced a variety of tie-ins.

Watch for Marvel's full May 2021 solicitations later this month on Newsarama.

The original Heroes Reborn was one of Marvel's biggest experiments with "the illusion of change." Here's how Marvel turned "the illusion of change" into an artform.

George Marston

I've been Newsarama's resident Marvel Comics expert and general comic book historian since 2011. I've also been the on-site reporter at most major comic conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I am the artist of many weird pictures, and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (They/Them)