Gladiator/Supreme #1, “False Gods,” Original Cover Date: March, 1997
Written by Keith Giffen, Penciled by Ed Benes, Inked by Wellington Dias, Rene Michelletti
Why does a comic like this exist? The Image Exodus took place in 1991, six years before this comic, with Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld and others burning bridges out the door as they left high-profile jobs to create their own versions of popular characters. Six years later, in the wake of the speculator bubble collapse, Marvel was declaring bankruptcy and made deals with Jim Lee and Liefeld’s studios to play with high-profile but poorly selling titles like Fantastic Four and Iron Man. It also led to truly bizarre crossovers like this, a crossover of ersatz Superman “Supreme,” a Rob Liefeld creation best known for being completely re-invented by Alan Moore, and Gladiator, an ersatz Superman created by Claremont and Dave Cockrum as part of the Imperial Guard, an ersatz Legion of Super Heroes. While Gladiator was presently starring in a mini-series featuring the Guard, he was a minor X-Men character, while Supreme was not exactly a huge hit, which is why Liefeld essentially gave the character away to Moore, who rebuilt him from the ground up as something between Silver-Age Superman and Promethea. So it’s the team-up we’ve all been demanding! Battle of the 3rd rate Superman knockoffs!