I'm going to open this thread by stating that I am a Marvelite. I follow DC reasonably well (reboots and retcons are hard to keep up with... How many Robins has Batman had in the new 52? Jason was never Robin? WAH?!), but I hold no animosity toward them. I'm simply not attracted to how the JLA are a bunch of evenly matched god characters. I like the diversity the Avengers brings. You've got your Thors and Black Widows, and then your Captain Marvels and Iron Men who fit in between. Batman universe is a different story, but that's offtopic. I totally understand that others feel differently, and I appreciate diverse opinions.
Superman, however, is timeless.
He is the end all, be all Superhero. And because of this, Marvel has time and time again attempted to bring him to their universe. They'll change the hair color or give him a variation of powers so they don't get sued, but it's usually pretty obvious what they're trying to do. Copycatting... nobody loves to do it more than Marvel and DC. I've always felt the single biggest ripoff character has always been Aquaman. And no, I'm not saying this because I prefer Marvel, but this is actually a compliment to DC. Because as far as I can tell, he's the single most successful character who was blatantly copied from the other company. And you could even argue that he is more important to DC than Namor is to Marvel. Namor isn't a regular Avenger. Atlantis doesn't regularly factor into major crossover events. Namor isn't even amicable half the time. He may have a more diverse personality, but he's not on the big stage. Is there any way a DC JLA Alliance game could get to 64 characters without introducing Aquaman?
For awhile I've been thinking about all the characters Marvel has created who have been 'inspired' by Superman (some more distastefully than others). Wundarr is the most obvious, and that's probably why he didn't last very long. Hyperion is great, same backstory, near-identical powers... but they're only now trying to really give him the spotlight. We'll see where that goes in a few years. Gladiator is an interesting one, as he has the same powers, and the writer admitted he was an ode to Superman. He even went as far as to give him a name inspired by conjoining Superman's Krypton and Earth names (Kallark). As for Sentry, you really can't take a phenomenally strong flyer with energy projection powers, put him in a suit that features a flowing cape and a giant S, and then say, "What an improbable coincidence!" But even he was killed off after he didn't go over well. So is that it? Is that the best Marvel can do? None of these guys can touch the Aquaman success.
So what does it take to be a Superman 'inspired' novelty?
Let's run through the powers really quick, ranking them by most recognizable:
1. Enhanced Physical Skills.
When you think Superman, what immediately comes to mind? Super Strength. Durability. Speed. Agility. All that stuff. Even mental agility and intelligence (which is woefully underappeciated by the comic book community). He can comprehend and recreate Kryptonian technology after only learning it existed a few years prior. He may not be the world's greatest detective, but he builds impossible machines from off the top of his head.
It's a bird, plane, yeah yeah. If Superman isn't picking up a car, then he's flying around the world. Definitely number 2.
3. Laser Vision.
Superman's long range weapon.
4. Freezing Breath.
Putting out fires, turning people into ice, stopping tidal waves. Don't see this one as often, but it's a classic Superman trait.
5. X-ray Vision.
The subtle, abstract power. This is gonna be a hard one to reproduce. If a character's got super strength, flight, and X-Ray vision, then it's a straight up knockoff. Like Spider-man's webs and Wolverine's claws, I feel this is his most unique move. This is the tricky one.
So. What if Marvel had successfully manufactured Superman into their Universe? What if he's been under our noses all along, and we just didn't realize it? It may not be as easy to spot as Aquaman, but I think it's there. The original X-Men. Xavier and the setup reek of the Doom Patrol, but the powers are mysteriously Kryptonian... 1. Beast 2. Angel 3. Cyclops 4. Iceman... and 5. Jean Grey, the abstract power. Yeah, she makes this flaky, but like I said earlier, if she could see through walls, it would have brought the army of DC advocates. Maybe if you press Stan Lee about it, he'd reply, "What an improbable coincidence!" But I feel this is Marvel's best and most successful attempt at Superman.