People often say that there’s nothing new under the sun, and it’s pretty hard to argue otherwise, especially in the world of comics. Super-speed, healing powers, flight, elasticity, mind control; it seems that someone’s always done it first… and usually in a fetching but rather impractical outfit. That’s not to say one is better than the other, of course — imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all — just that one came first.
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We know that in a sea of imitators, it can be hard to identify the original; now more than ever, what with all of the many franchises, characters and concepts roaming around the increasingly wider world of comics. That’s why CBR is calling out 20 of the most blatant copycats in order to set the record straight once and for all.
20. Deadpool (via DC’s Deathstroke)
Although artist Rob Liefeld argues that Deadpool and Deathstroke are nothing alike, anyone with a shrewd eye can see the similarities. They’re both mercenary assassins who wield firearms and blades, have accelerated healing abilities and wear head-to-toe suits with similar colour schemes (red/black versus black/orange). Oh, and their names (Slade/Wade Wilson) are practically identical!
Nor do the comparisons end there. Deadpool and Deathstroke both started out as villains, with Deathstroke agreeing to kill the Teen Titans in his 1980 debut in “The New Teen Titans” #2, and Deadpool first appearing in “New Mutants” #98 in 1991 as an assassin hired to take out X-Men‘s Cable. Not only that, but they both end up working alongside the very teams they once tried to take down.
However, in the years since this blatant forgery, Marvel redeemed themselves by reimagining Deadpool as everyone’s favourite smart-mouthed, crotch-punching, chimichanga-loving fourth wall obliterator. He may have started out as a poor copy, but now he’s one of a kind.
19. Aquaman (via Marvel’s Namor)
It’s hard to find two characters more alike than DC’s Aquaman and Marvel’s Namor the Submariner. Not only are they both half-human, half-Atlantean mutant Sea Kings with the same basic range of abilities (superhuman strength, stamina and speed, great reflexes and the ability to communicate using telepathy) and the same weakness (a reduction in powers when out of the water for too long), but their origin stories are almost identical. In summary, their mermaid-princess mothers got a bit too friendly with a human and ended up giving birth to a muscle-bound underwater Adonis.
Although both can be considered amongst the oldest of their franchise’s characters, Namor predates Aquaman by a couple of years, with Namor first appearing in “Motion Picture Funnies Weekly” in April 1939 and Aquaman not showing up until 1941. However, Aquaman has had the last laugh, having been brought to life in the DCU (if only for a few seconds thus far) by everyone’s favourite Khal, Jason Momoa.
18. Vision (via DC’s Red Tornado)
Similarities between Marvel’s Vision and DC’s Red Tornado are not difficult to find, given that they’re basically the same character. Case in point: they’re both bald, super-powered androids with bright red skin and ridiculously high collars who were created by villains (T.O. Morrow and Ultron, respectively) using advanced technology to bring out the destruction of their franchise’s greatest superhero collectives, The Justice League and The Avengers. They both then rebelled and joined the team they were supposed to eliminate, before taking over responsibility for teaching the younger versions of said teams.
Although Red Tornado’s appearance in “Justice League of America” #64 in 1968 only predates that of Vision in “The Avengers” #57 by a few months — making it seem possible the two characters were created independently — the concept of Tornado’s character was technically formed eight years prior, under the alternative and rather badass name, Ulthoon the Tornado Tyrant of Rann, which settles the dispute of which came first once and for all.
17. Rocket Red (via Marvel’s Iron Man)
You’d be forgiven for never having heard of Rocket Red, one of DC’s most generic C-List superheroes. Like Iron Man, Rocket Red fights in an armored red battle suit and uses rocket power to fly. He’s not afraid to wade into global conflicts with his super-team either, although Iron Man plays a far more assertive role in the Avengers than the three Rocket Reds (Dmitri Pushkin, Gavril Ivanovich and the crazy Manhunter android) ever do in Justice League International. In short, he’s a squeaky-clean Iron Man with a Russian accent tacked on in a half-hearted attempt at originality.
Despite having tons of superpowers, courtesy of the USSR (including super-strength, invulnerability and “mecha-empathy”), Red Rocket can’t compete with everyone’s second favorite sociopathic billionaire: his fixation on minor family squabbles and his inability to evolve beyond the one-suit setup doesn’t help his popularity. Since debuting in 1987, 24 years after Iron Man appeared in “Tales of Suspense” #39, Rocket Red has sunk into semi-obscurity.
16. Hawkeye (via DC’s Green Arrow)
Hawkeye and Green Arrow are both master marksmen who, rather than joining their super-powered friends in the 21st century, have opted for bows and arrows to take on the bad guys… but that’s not all they’ve got in common. They both rely on high-tech upgrades to their equipment, funded by billionaires to get the job done; although, Green Arrow’s alias Oliver Queen is a wealthy industrialist and can therefore fund himself, whereas Hawkeye is reliant on gadgets created and funded by Stark Industries. Oh, and they both have been married to blonde female, bird-themed superheroes (Mockingbird and Black Canary), who arguably kick more ass than they do!
Both green Arrow and Hawkeye have gained wider recognition due to their appearances in film and on TV, Green Arrow was first on the scene, appearing in “More Fun Comics” #73 back in 1941, thus predating Hawkeye’s debut in “Tales of Suspense” #57 by more than two decades.
15. Thanos (via DC’s Darkseid)
Marvel’s Thanos is one of the most interesting rip-offs in the comic book universe. Although the character is like Jack Kirby’s Darkseid in many ways, this was not creator Jim Starlin’s original intention — in fact, in an interview with Jon B. Cooke for “Comic Book Artist” #2, Starlin claims his initial ideas for the character aligned more closely with that of Metron (another of Kirby’s creations), but he was told to “beef him up” and to “rip off Darkseid, the really good one… if you’re going to steal one of the New Gods.”
They were already alike during conception, both being evil god-like beings trying to conquer the universe and abolish all life (y’know, like you do), but when Thanos made his first appearance in “Iron Man” #55 in 1973, two years after Darkseid’s debut. The physical resemblance between them was striking, even though Thanos has a codpiece and Darkseid wears a sort of miniskirt; but apart from that, they’re basically the same cosmic muscle-ridden beefcake!
14. Black Cat (via DC’s Catwoman)
You might have thought one Catwoman was enough, but Marvel clearly doesn’t agree. The publisher tried to come up with a younger, sexier version of the character almost four decades after DC’s cat-based character debuted in “Batman” #1 in 1940. Thus entered Felicia Hardy, aka the Black Cat, in the 1979 issue of “The Amazing Spider-Man” #194.
As well as having weapons (grappling hooks and retractable claws) and a costume that’s practically identical to Catwoman’s (although Black Cat’s is more like a generic “sexy cat” Halloween outfit than traditional superhero garb, thanks to all the extra cleavage), Black Cat shares Catwoman’s range of abilities, such as enhanced speed, agility and acrobatic skill to leap to/from rooftops without getting hurt.
On top of that, given that they’re both master thieves with expensive tastes and questionable morality, neither one qualifies as a traditional hero. They do, however, fight on the side of the good guys occasionally… as well as sharing the odd kiss with their franchise hero.
13. Mister Fantastic (via DC’s Elongated Man)
Stan Lee could be accused of not even trying when he came up with the concept of Mister Fantastic. Although he claims his original inspiration was Quality Comics’ Plastic Man, one of the Golden Age heroes absorbed into the DC franchise back in 1956, DC had already beaten him to the punch by rebooting the character in the form of Elongated Man in 1960. Still, only a year after the Elongated Man first expanded across the pages of the “The Flash” #112, Marvel Comics debuted Mister Fantastic as part of a new team, the Fantastic Four.
Not only do the two characters share the same superpower (elasticity) and career (scientist), they also have very similar taste in women. Basically, if your name’s Sue and you like fighting alongside superheroes, you’re set! However, Marvel did at least go to the trouble of thinking up a better backstory for their lookalike: instead of drinking super-concentrated Ginold soda to improve his contortionist abilities like the Elongated Man, Mister Fantastic got his abilities after being bombarded by cosmic rays during a dangerous space mission (which we can probably all agree is much cooler).
12. Guardian (via Marvel’s Captain America)
If you’re not familiar with DC’s Guardian, don’t worry: just picture Captain America and you’re pretty much there. Indestructible shield? Check. Overwhelming sense of patriotism? Check. Desire to become a one-man army? Check. Snazzy blue suit? Well, it’s got nothing on Captain America’s stars and stripes, but yeah, Guardian’s got one too.
Nor is the likeness between them a coincidence. Although Cap technically threw his indestructible shield first, appearing in “Captain America Comics” #1 a full year before DC launched Guardian in “Star-Spangled Comics” #7 in 1942, both characters were based on the same early sketches by Jack Kirby and Joel Simon, meaning they are literally two versions of the same character.
But wait! Marvel’s Captain America wasn’t the first patriot who donned the ol’ red, white and blue to fight bad guys. Several months before Cap’s first publication, MLJ (now Archie Comics) debuted The Shield in “Pep Comics” #1, a superhero who relied on a shield and was granted powers thanks to a wonder serum created by doctors that were later killed by Nazis… sound familiar? Yep, it turns out DC might actually have ripped off a rip-off.
11. Ultron (via DC’s Brainiac)
When it comes to DC’s Brainiac and Marvel’s Ultron, accusations of a base imitation are a little harder to make, given that Brainiac has had numerous incarnations over the years and they’re all pretty different. In his original form, for instance, Brainiac is a green-skinned android that travels from planet to planet capturing the universe’s greatest cities in bottles, with the hopes of restoring his home planet, Colu. However, that doesn’t mean that Marvel is off the hook.
DC reimagined Brainiac as a sentient AI back in 1964 — four years before Ultron first arrived on the scene in “The Avengers” #54 — meaning Ultron’s creators, Roy Thomas and John Buscema, can’t really claim ignorance of the precedent set by DC.
The characters share some pretty outlandish traits that not only make them alike, but also make them basically unstoppable! For example, they have vastly superior intelligence when compared to humans and can self-repair, replicate themselves into controllable clones and transfer their consciousness into nearby tech if their “bodies” are destroyed. Well, that’s just convenient!
10. Killer Croc (via Marvel’s Lizard)
You don’t need to look very hard to see that DC’s Killer Croc closely resembles Marvel’s Lizard. They’re both large, muscular reptiles who like to rock a trenchcoat and whose skillsets are directly comparable. Both have regenerative powers, superhuman strength and excellent reflexes, and are highly resistant to injury due to their hardened skin.
However, Lizard can transform into human form at will (an ability Killer Croc probably wishes he had, given the abuse he suffers). This difference is explained via their origin stories; whereas Killer Croc was born with a form of atavism that leads to his development of reptilian traits, Lizard mutates after attempting to regrow his missing arm using lizard DNA. In this respect, Lizard has lots in common with fellow DC villain Manbat, whose misguided attempts to cure his deafness by experimenting with bats have similarly horrific results.
9. Hulk (via DC’s Solomon Grundy)
I know what you’re thinking… isn’t Hulk one of the good guys? How can he be on par with DC’s zombie bad-boy, Solomon Grundy? Well, apart from the clear visual similarities between them, they’re both basically in the same boat in terms of the challenges they face: despite battling to retain a sense of their real identities (as Cyrus Gold and Bruce Banner, respectively), both characters are frequently overwhelmed by rage and become highly destructive when they lose control. In fact, they’re both basically unstoppable once they get going… or “smashing” as the case may be!
Solomon Grundy (who, as we all know, was “born on a Monday”) first appeared in “All-American Comics” #61 back in 1944. In the ultimate punchline, the Hulk made his debut in “The Incredible Hulk” #1, which was released on May 1, 1962 — meaning the Hulk was quite literally born on a Tuesday!
8. Bullseye (via DC’s Deadshot)
Marvel’s Bullseye and DC’s Deadshot are like chalk and… er, well, chalk. Neither character has any superpowers per se, but they are both gifted with pinpoint precision when shooting (or, in Bullseye’s case, throwing pretty much anything he can get his hands on) at their target; they’re also experts in hand-to-hand combat. However, although both make the claim that they “never miss,” this is proven false. Often.
In addition, they both grew up in abusive homes and subsequently have some pretty extreme daddy issues: in “Elektra” #2, Bullseye fakes his father’s suicide, and Deadshot accidentally kills his brother when the bullet meant for his father goes off-target. Although both cannot be deemed forces for good, Bullseye has always been a straight-up villain, whereas Deadshot has dabbled a little in anti-heroism.
7. Doctor Strange (via DC’s Doctor Fate)
Marvel’s Doctor Strange and DC’s Doctor Fate play the same exact role in their franchises’ respective universes: that of the all-powerful magician. Thanks to the intervention of another supreme sorcerer (Nabu the Wise in Fate’s case, and the Ancient One in the Marvel version), both characters can fly and wield incredibly powerful magic. The form these magics take does differ — for instance, Doctor Strange has the power of clairvoyance and Doctor Fate can manipulate lightning — but it comes from the same essential source. If you’re not already convinced, take note that they also both appear to have a fondness for blue bodysuits, gold bling and extravagant capes.
Doctor Fate first appeared in “More Fun Comics” #55 back in 1940; it took Doctor Strange more than 20 years to catch up, as he did not debut in “Strange Tales” #110 until 1963. For all of you who have been hiding under a rock for the last six months, Doctor Strange is set to make his debut in the MCU on November 4, 2016.
6. Quicksilver (via DC’s The Flash)
Given that they move so quickly, it might be hard to tell which one came first, so let’s set the record straight once and for all: the original was everyone’s favourite reddish blur, DC’s Flash, who first appeared in “Flash Comics” #1 in 1940. After trying and failing to launch a viable copycat with the Whizzer in “USA Comics” #1 in 1941 (who was later reimagined as a villain in “The Avengers” #69), Marvel later incorporated a super-fast superhero into their X-Men franchise in the form of Quicksilver.
Although all three heroes are gifted with super-speed and lightning-fast reflexes, the Flash is the only one capable of “quantum tunnelling” through solid objects. Interestingly, both the Flash and Quicksilver are also able to travel through time — Quicksilver gains the ability after being exposed to the Inhumans’ Terrigen Mist, and the Flash frequently travels forwards and backwards in time as part of his adventures
5. Bumblebee (via Marvel’s Wasp)
DC’s rip-off of Marvel’s Wasp could hardly be more blatant. Both characters are miniature-sized (although Wasp can manipulate her size at will, whereas Bumblebee is now stuck being 6 inches in height), dress exclusively in black and yellow and have the same basic range of powers: they can obviously fly (the names are a dead giveaway) and produce powerful electrical blasts from their stingers.
On top of that, both characters obtained their powers from advanced science: Wasp gains her abilities thanks to the expertise of Dr. Hank Pym, aka Ant-Man, and Bumblebee relies on a super-powered body suit she invented herself for additional strength and the power of flight.
Despite the dubiousness of her origins, Bumblebee does deserve some extra kudos given that she became DC’s first African-American female superhero on her debut in “Teen Titans #45” in 1976 — something which would have been pretty unlikely back in 1963, when the Wasp first appeared in “Tales to Astonish” #44.
4. Leonard the Duck (via Marvel’s Howard the Duck)
There’s no ifs and buts about it: Howard and Leonard are officially the same duck. After the creator of Howard the Duck, Steve Gerber, lost the rights to his creation to Marvel, he came up with a clever way to reclaim his character. In “Destroyer Duck” #1, produced by Eclipse Comics in 1982, it is revealed that Howard is little more than a soulless clone and the real deal is held captive by the evil organization, Godcorp. The comic ends in such a way that the duck returning to Marvel comics with Spiderman (Howard) in effect becomes the copy, and the duck rescued by Destroyer Duck and Officer Dragon claims the title of true original. To complete his transformation, he dyes his feathers green, enters witness protection and assumes the new name Leonard the Duck. Brilliant, eh?
Gerber has certainly been enjoying the joke: his Image Comics debut of Leonard the Duck paid a tongue-in-cheek homage to Howard the Duck’s very first issue, and since then, he’s transformed Howard into a mouse to settle a resemblance dispute with Disney whilst guest-writing for Marvel.
3. Sandman (via DC’s Clayface)
Although there have been numerous versions of both Sandman and Clayface over the years, their defining powers have largely remained the same. Still, in this case, we will be talking about the second version of Clayface, Matt Hagen, rather than the (originally) non-shapeshifting murderer first known as Clayface, Basil Karlo. That being said, Hagen and Flint MarkO (Sandman) can both change their size, shape and density at will (which includes being able to harden their skin and transform their limbs into weapons) and are able to manipulate the particles in land masses in close proximity. These powers are granted in both characters’ cases after contact with a radioactive substance.
Clayface first gained his abilities in his second reincarnation (as Matt Hagen) in the 1961 issue of “Detective Comics” #298, whereas Sandman has had his powers from the very start. Marvel still loses out in terms of originality though, as Sandman didn’t debut in “The Amazing Spider-Man” #4 until 1963.
2. Wolverine (via DC’s Timber Wolf)
You can’t go far in the Marvel comics universe without bumping into Wolverine (even though he’s technically dead). Although he’s most commonly associated with the X-Men, he’s also fought alongside Alpha Flight and the Avengers, in addition to his solo efforts. You might be surprised to learn, then, that Wolverine wasn’t the first comic book hero to work the wolf angle.
In 1964, a full decade before Wolverine debuted in the last panel of “The Incredible Hulk” #180, DC launched a character in “Adventure Comics” #327 whose superhuman reflexes, enhanced senses, extreme strength and accelerated healing abilities are pretty much identical to Wolverine’s — that character’s name was Lone Wolf. He has since been rebranded as Timber Wolf, but retains the same skillset (and, of course, the fur).
The only real difference between them is that Wolverine’s claws are made of adamantium, whereas Timber Wolf’s are biologically grown and can therefore regenerate. Apart from that, they’re basically the same furry, deadly balls of angst in different franchises.
1. Gladiator (via DC’s Superman)
Superman is pretty much the original comic book superhero (first appearing in “Superman” #1 back in 1939), so it’s not surprising that numerous lookalikes have showed up over the years. Whereas most characters bear only a passing resemblance, in the case of Gladiator, who debuted in “Uncanny X-Men” #107 in 1977, it’s outright plagiarism.
Not only does Gladiator share the same range of superpowers as everyone’s favourite Kryptonian — from flight and super speed right down to more obscure abilities like enhanced hearing, heat vision and ice breath — they’re both aliens whose planets were ruled by tyranny (remember Zod?) and whose weakness is a rare form of radiation.
To put the cherry on the proverbial cake, Gladiator’s creators Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum decided to give Gladiator a cool super-alien name… and what did they choose? Kallark, a combination of Superman’s human and Kryptonian names (taking the “Kal-” from Kal-El and the “-lark” from Clark Kent). If that’s not a sign that Gladiator’s a total rip-off, we don’t know what is.
Do you know of any other comic book doppelgangers who didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments!