Ah, the '90s. What a time to be a comic fan. Comics were suddenly en vogue, and every man, woman, and child was looking to get a piece of the action. As a result, new comic companies, and new characters, begun to spring up over night. Companies such as Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Slave Labor Graphics, and Malibu Comics suddenly entered into the comic book fray and found great success along the way. These new companies gave birth to beloved characters, while stalwart companies such as Marvel and DC worked to introduce brand new '90s characters of their own. But that's not to say that every character to be created during this time were original and unique; in fact, a lot of popular '90s superheroes were grade-A rip-offs.
Whether it was due to a desire to follow in the footsteps of beloved characters or whether it was due to lack of originality, copycat characters sprung up all over the place in the '90s. You could barely throw a rock in a comic shop without hitting a dozen titles starring cookie cutter knock-offs of Batman or Wolverine. While many of these rip-offs have faded into obscurity, we're willing to bet that you remember more than one rip-off '90s superhero. So join us as we take a look back at the decade that gave us Nirvana, Dunk-a-roos, and FUBU, as CBR brings you 15 Rip-Off Superheroes From The '90s!
You might remember Malibu Comics as that one comic company that was inexplicably popular in the '90s, spawned a cartoon and then was swallowed up by Marvel, all within the span of a couple years. Before the House Of Ideas sealed Malibu's cavalcade of heroes away in a massive warehouse never to be seen again, Raiders Of The Lost Arc style, the publisher's Ultraverse line spawned a popular hero named Prototype. Unfortunately, the character was a blatant rip-off of Iron Man.
Malibu definitely borrowed liberally from Marvel's popular armored Avenger when creating Prototype.
Like Iron Man, Prototype was an intelligent hero that used a suit of cybernetic armor to fight crime and, much like Iron Man, Prototype pretended to be the bodyguard of the man using the suit in an attempt to conceal his secret identity. Prototype has remained M.I.A. since Marvel gobbled up Malibu, which is probably for the best: Marvel has enough armored heroes running around without adding this half-baked knock-off to the mix.
We return to Malibu's Ultraverse for the filthy Sludge. You may not remember this character, but you've definitely heard his origin story before: a regular joe is murdered and doused in chemicals, causing the regular joe to combine with the substance he is disposed in, leading to the creation of a superhero.
No, we're not talking about Swamp Thing or Man-Thing. We're talking about Sludge!
Debuting in 1993, this living pile of muck pilfered liberally from the creation stories of more popular swamp-themed heroes, which makes sense, as Sludge was dreamed up by writer Steve Gerber, who was a notable writer for Man-Thing. But it wasn't just the origin story that Sludge ripped off; this horrific hero also possessed the ability to melt human skin with a touch, akin to Man-Thing's burning touch. Still, for a blatant rip-off, Sludge showed promise, but the character went M.I.A. when Marvel bought up Malibu Comics.
Listen, similar characters happen. It's not like creators always set out to rip-off a popular character; often times, elements of other properties can subconsciously leak into a new creation, leading to a new, distinct character that just happens to share similarities with another character. But this was not the case with Deadlock. Deadlock is a certified, grade-A rip-off.
No, we didn't accidentally use a picture of Wolverine as the picture for this entry.
This Rob Liefeld creation served as a member of the Image team Bloodstrike, but was mostly known for looking like a red-and-black Wolverine wannabe. Much like Wolvie, Deadlock was a animalistic loner who fought with his claws and rocked a mask featuring prominent points. Unlike Wolvie, Deadlock was a vampire. Sure, that sorta sets Deadlock apart from everyone's favorite bub-spouting X-Man, but fans knew a Wolverine knock-off when they saw one and Deadlock's costume was later redesigned to set the character apart.
Remember when we discussed how Rob Liefeld created a blatant Wolverine rip-off for the Image Comics universe? Good times. We're willing to mark that down as a rookie mistake, as Liefeld created Deadlock in 1992, the first year of the comic companies existence. But as time went on, Liefeld learned how to make unique characters all of his own. Well, mostly. Case in point: Warwolf.
Created by Liefeld in 1994, Warwolf was a knock-off Sabertooth.
This mutant baddie fought with, you guessed it, claws, and was able to, you guessed it, heal from just about any injury. As if these similarities weren't enough, Warwolf sported an outfit remarkably similar to Sabertooth's, complete with prominent fuzz on the boots and shoulders. Warwolf would go on to do his own thing, becoming a member of the heroic freedom fighting team the Order of the Knights, but Warwolf's origins as a blatant rip-off didn't do the character any favors.
Who says being a knock-off is always a bad thing? In fact sometimes, ripping off another character can lead to the creation of an entirely separate, mega-popular character. Case in point: Deadpool.
Partially created by writer Fabian Nicieza and, you guessed it, Rob Liefeld, Deadpool began life as a knock-off/tongue-in-cheek parody of DC's popular marksman hitman, Deathstroke.
Although Liefeld today argues that Deadpool is not Deathstroke, Deadpool, like his predecessor, was a merc-for-hire renowned for his skill with swords and guns. To further assert the inspiration, Deadpool was given the real name of Wade Wilson, a parody of Deathstroke's real name, Slade Wilson. Obviously, Deadpool would outgrow his parody roots and become one of Marvel's most popular characters, but never forget that this beloved Merc With A Mouth started as a '90s rip-off.
When Milestone Media launched in 1993, the comic industry was ablaze was excitement. As the first African-American owned and staffed comic company, fans were excited to see what the company would bring with it.
While Milestone would birth the popular electricity-slinging teen hero Static Shock, it also managed to give readers Icon, a forgettable Superman rip-off.
Much like the Man of Steel, Icon was the lone survivor of an alien race rocketed to Earth in a life-pod, although Icon was a shapeshifter who happened to be rescued by an enslaved woman in the 1800's. Icon's similarities to Superman were apparent, but there were elements that helped set the character apart, including a day job as a lawyer and a sidekick named Rocket. While Milestone Media would be swallowed up by DC, allowing Static Shock to join the main DCU, Icon has been M.I.A. since the launch of the New 52, and we can't imagine too many fans are clamoring for the return of this super-copycat.
Picture this: it's 1993. Todd McFarlane's Spawn is red hot. Feeling the sting of the departure of the mega-popular McFarlane, Marvel is eager to get a piece of that Spawn action. What's a major comic company to do? Easy: allow a shameless Spawn knock-off to be created and dub this shameless knock-off "Nightwatch."
Debuting in the pages of Web Of Spider-Man, Nightwatch was Spawn in everything but name.
This brooding vigilante of the night featured white mask accents, a prominent collar, and spikes a-plenty, much like Image Comic's favorite son. Nightwatch even had a cape that could be shaped and changed by responding to his thoughts, aping Spawn's popular "living cape." Unfortunately, Nightwatch proved far less popular than Spawn and this '90s rip-off would be killed off, allowing Marvel to forget all about this Spawn wannabe.
8 FIGHTING AMERICAN
Captain America might be the most ripped-off comic superhero of all time. Although, technically Fighting American isn't a '90s character; in actuality, Fighter American was created by the legendary Joe Simon and Jack Kirby all the way back in 1954! But after just two measly issues, ol' FA would begin his descent into obscurity. Rob Liefeld's Awesome Studios got their grubby mitts on the character after in 1997 Liefeld reached an agreement with Joe Simon to have the character licensed to him. We'd like to think that Simon wouldn't have been so eager to sign over the character if he had realized Liefeld's intentions: repackage the character into a shameless Captain America rip-off.
The story goes like this: Liefeld was sitting on a Captain America story he had thrown together while at Marvel, he wanted to use it, and thus used Fighting American as his stand-in for Cap.
Fighting American was such a blatant Captain America knock-off that Marvel took Liefeld to court and only agreed to let Liefeld use the character on the agreement that Fighting American could not throw his shield like a weapon. When the law has to intervene to allow you to use your character, you know that you've got yourself one truly blatant rip-off.
7 NEW MEN
During the '90s, the X-Men were the gold standard for cool. Comic companies were keen to emulate the popularity of the X-Men, which lead to plenty of "teams that protects a world that hates and fears them" springing up throughout the '90s.
However, no X-Men knock-off was more blatant than the New Man.
Spawning from Image Comic's Maximum Comics line, headed by, you guessed it, Rob Liefeld, the New Men liberally borrowed from Marvel's Merry Mutants. The New Men were extreme teens cursed with the "Nu-Gene," which granted them powers but made them outcasts to society. As if this wasn't obvious enough, the team had a telepathic leader, a member that had wings, a member that could teleport, and a member that was animalistic. The team was later re-tooled to distance the New Men from the X-Men, but the damage was done: the New Men became synonymous with the term "rip-off."
Ah, the '90s. New comic companies were springing up left and right, becoming sensations seemingly overnight. Such was the case with Malibu Comics, who emerged in the '90s with the popular Ultraverse, bringing with it a glut of new superheroes.
Malibu's star hero was the musclebound Prime, leader of Ultraforce. Too bad the character was a blatant rip-off of DC's Captain Marvel.
The similarities between Prime and Captain Marvel were numerous; both were children that possessed the ability to turn into a super-powered adult. Much like Captain Marvel, Prime retained the mind of a child while in his adult form, leading to hijinks and wacky misunderstandings. But while Captain Marvel relied upon a magic word to transform, Prime used a "liquid flesh" to achieve his super-powered form, which allowed Prime to take on alternate, certifiably toy-friendly forms such as "Space Prime" and "Rogue Prime." Despite his popularity at the time, there was no ignoring the fact that Prime was an obvious knock-off.
Listen, there is no denying that Wolverine is awesome. With that gruff, take-no-prisoners attitude and those sweet claws, it's easy to understand how Wolverine has achieved the popularity he has. So we don't blame creators for wanting to recreate that kind of design in hopes of obtaining the same level of popularity of Wolverine. But if you're going to copy a character, you should at least try to not make it so obvious that the character is a copy. Apparently, Marc Silvestri wasn't so concerned about that last part, which would explain Ripclaw.
A member of the Cyber Force team, Ripclaw's similarities to Wolverine were pretty apparent.
Like Wolvie, Ripclaw was a mutant that was experimented on by a shadowy agency, granting him metal claws and a healing factor. Ripclaw remains a cult favorite character among comic fans, but there's just no sugar coating it: Ripclaw is one very obvious rip-off of a character.
No, that isn't the Infraggable Krunk in that picture there; it's Smash! What's that? You don't remember Smash? Well, we don't blame you, as you would be hard pressed to find anything memorable about this Hulk rip-off. Well that's not entirely true.
Smash is memorable solely for how blatant of a knock-off he is.
Smash was created by, you guessed it, Rob Liefeld, and made a scant two appearances in the pages of Fighting American before disappearing. Much like the Green Goliath, Smash loved to, well, smash. Also like Hulk, Smash was fond of declaring himself the strongest one there is. Unlike Hulk, Smash didn't simply get stronger as he got angrier; rather, Smash would physically grow as his rage increased. There's a thin line between homage and rip-off, and while Smash may have started as an homage, this character definitely ended up being a bargain bin rip-off.
An Amazonian warrior that travelled to the world of man to fight the Nazis in World War II? Now who does that remind us of?
Yes, this Image Comics heroine was a rip-off of Wonder Woman and we'll give you two guesses on how created this character.
This Rob Liefeld creation borrowed heavily from DC's most beloved heroine, while also introducing '90s X-TREME elements such as having the character's father be a demon lord in Hell. This half-demon, half-Amazonian warrior even rocked a costume similar to Wondie's, with the addition of ridiculous fishnet stockings and ample cleavage. Glory would be redeemed in 2011 thanks to a stellar reboot courtesy of writer Joe Keatinge that reimagined Glory as a musclebound albino extraterrestrial warrior, but Glory's days as a Wonder Woman copycat aren't so easily forgotten.
You would be hard pressed to find a character more '90s than Bloodwulf. He's got it all: a groan inducing X-TREME name, a stupid costume with way too many pockets, an inclination for X-TREME violence, and, most importantly, a creation spawned from ripping off a bigger, more popular character. Bloodwulf is like the perfect storm of eye-rolling '90s terrible.
Bloodwulf is essentially a bargain bin version of DC's mega-popular Lobo character.
Created by, you guessed it, Rob Liefeld, Bloodwulf was an intergalactic bounty hunter with a face tattoo, who traveled the galaxy beating up alien low-lifes, much like Lobo. Bloodwulf was such a blatant knock-off of Lobo that the first issue of the character's mini-series prominently featured Lobo hanging dead from a chain in the background, signifying that Bloodwulf was replacing DC's Main Man. Problem is, Lobo remains a popular character, while this six piece chicken McNobody is doomed to live out his days as a forgotten rip-off.
There are blatant rip-offs and then there is Roman. Roman is such an obvious rip-off that it borders on parody. Roman is such a bargain bin knock-off that pictures of the character should be sold in the Dollar General toy aisle. Roman is such a copy that he could be employed at Kinko's. If we haven't made it apparent, Roman is a big, big rip-off.
If the name hasn't clued you in, Roman is a knock-off of Marvel's Atlantean hero, Namor.
Yes, Roman is such a blatant copy of Namor that his name is literally just Namor's name spelled backwards. Created by, you guessed it, Rob Liefeld, Roman debuted in Image Comic's Brigade #3 as the headstrong mutant super-powered ruler of Atlantis. You would be hard pressed to find a more low-effort '90s knock-off than Roman.