Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Comic artists and authors, like every other creative professional, take inspiration from the works that got them into their profession in the first place. They take the best parts of the heroes and villains that inspired them and work those nuances into characters of their own. When it comes to imitation, there is still the option for originality. For example, Deadpool and Deathstroke are similar in the sense that they are sword wielding, masked mercenaries for hire. Deadpool may have borrowed some concepts from Deathstroke, but they are in no way the same character.
Enter Image Comics, who have a long track record of not imitating, but copying characters from Marvel. Whereas imitation can be a compliment, copying other artists’ work is just plain lazy. There’s nothing worse than seeing one of your favourite comic book characters besmirched by a copy with naught for changes other than some slightly different armor and a tweak to the color palette. Publishers are always looking to capitalize on the latest and greatest superhero, as seen in the Golden Age of comics when Superman wannabes infiltrated the strips. After reading this, we hope you’ll agree that when it comes to comics, original is infinitely better.
20 DEADLOCK / WOLVERINE
When it comes to Wolverine, he’s the best he is at what he does. This has been made clear time and time again in comic and movie iterations of our favourite Canadian berserker. So why, for the sweet love of Apocalypse, would anyone try to remake him? A question, presumably, posited to Image Comics after the debut of Deadlock in Youngblood #1. Let us know if you’ve heard this one before:
There’s a mutant, who has deadly claws, is a master of hand to hand combat and fights with the primal rage of a wild animal.
Even Deadlock’s costume is unapologetically similar to Wolverine’s iconic spandex suit. It literally looks like someone went inside of photoshop and just changed the colour values of blue and yellow (or brown and yellow) to red and white. From the skin-tight suit, to the devil horned mask, to the overly exaggerated canines; this is about as non-conspicuous you can be when it comes to ripping off another character. Supposedly, the sharp fangs of Deadlock are due to his uncontrollable vampiric nature, which is clearly just an attempt to create some sort of separation from Wolverine. Even without being a vampire (although he does become one in the “Curse of the Mutants” storyline), Wolverine could slice and dice his way through this imposter like hot butter.
19 WARWOLF / SABRETOOTH
The logic here must have been, “Well we’ve already copied Wolverine, we may as well copy his primary antagonist as well”. This rip-off is just as unapologetic as the last one. Sabretooth matches, if not exceeds, Wolverine's primal savageness and as such, is one of his most iconic adversaries. Whenever we see those razor-sharp claws, fanged snarl and flowing blonde hair enter a panel with Wolverine, we know there’s about to be a throw down full of slicing, stabbing and super powered regeneration. So once again, Image Comics decided to pull out the colour correction, boosted the contrast, added in some extra muscles and BAM! We’re treated to Warwolf.
This isn’t just a simple image copy, it’s a cut and paste of the powers as well. Claws, super smell, super sight, super hearing, regeneration; it’s all there, pick and placed from the Sabretooth character entry. Debuting in Youngblood #10, Warwolf was destined to play second banana to Sabretooth from the second he appeared on the page -- classics are classics for a reason. We suppose that the name Warwolf was supposed to misdirect us into thinking that he’s inspired by a wolf as opposed to a sabretooth tiger. Consider the misdirect failed. We’ll always like the original better.
18 SMASH / HULK
The Hulk from the, “World War Hulk” saga is regarded as one of the strongest of all time. Rightfully so, as he is fueled by an intense anger due to the Marvel Illuminati blowing up the planet where he was living, killing his wife. But it’s very possible that the strongest Hulk would come from showing the image of Smash, who debuted in Fighting American #2, to puny Banner. The sight of such a blatant rip-off would send him into gamma ray induced rampage. Seriously, Image Comics? You named him Smash?
Not only is this a carbon copy of The Hulk that’s been stained purple, they also named him after Hulk’s signature line.
Calling this thing Smash would be like calling Wolverine ‘Stab’, calling Quicksilver ‘Run’ or calling Professor X ‘Brain’. Naming a character after the primary verb they exhibit is a sure way to develop some underwhelming aliases. Apparently, the madder Smash gets, the bigger he gets. A savage, and most likely intentional butchery of the iconic line. Even Smash’s ripped pants, which magically stay on despite him inflating like a balloon, are a gut punch for Hulk fans. Inflating to 10 times your original size and remaining clothed is Hulk's trick. Get your own!
17 PITT / HULK + SABRETOOTH
While a little less egregious in terms of what they copied than the previous entries, we can clearly see that Pitt was riding on the back of the wild success of the Hulk and the X-Men. People loved the overwhelming strength of the Hulk and the savage wildness of mutants like Sabretooth. So how better to garner a wide audience than to mix these two powers together. Pitt was one of the many big, muscled, Hulk-esque heroes who got claws, spikes etc. added to give them a little bit of a darker look. He first appeared in Youngblood #4, and has been one of Image Comics most successful franchises.
While having more unique elements than some of the entries in terms of physical appearance, his powers are essentially a mixing bowl comprised of Hulk and Wolverine. He has insane super strength and speed, nearly indestructible claws and can regenerate from near fatal wounds very quickly. In a classic Image Comics move, they altered one of his powers to make him different from the characters who he was inspired by. Instead of anger augmenting his strength, it’s pain that makes him stronger. However, we’ll take the originals over this masochistic hybrid any day.
16 ROMAN / NAMOR
Namor is one of the earliest superheroes, appearing for the first time in the unreleased Motion Picture Funnies Weekly in April of 1939 and being released to the public in Marvel Comics #1. Also known as Namor the Sub-Mariner, we all thought we were pretty cool when we figured out that Namor was Roman backwards. The mutant son of a human ship captain and the princess of the underwater world of Atlantis, Namor has super strength, flight and a host of aquatic powers. He is often heralded as Marvel’s first mutant.
So, when we got a glimpse of the Image Comics character Roman in Brigade #3, we were all a little miffed.
At least Namor was a clever reworking of the word Roman through a painstaking process of original author and artist, Bill Everett, reversing noble-sounding names. Image Comics just decided to flip it back and create a straight rip-off of the original character. Roman is still the ruler of the Atlantean race, is outfitted in the same scaly green material, and has the pointed ears and the sculpted jawline of a ruler. The ocean is host to some of the most diverse life on the planet, so why couldn’t we get sea based hero from Image that was more than a cheap knock off.
15 BADROCK / THE THING
The Thing didn’t need a name to advertise that he was made out of rock. Within the first pages of the 1961 release of The Fantastic Four #1 we could tell from his cracked and bulbous appearance that he was a mass of boulders who we would inevitably see clobber things with his giant fists. Enter Badrock, debuting in Youngblood #1, who is a massive hunk of organic rock-like substance. His signature move? Pummelling things with his fists. Their similarities extend past appearance as well. Both came into possession of their powers through some sort of science experiment gone bad.
The Thing was the pilot for Reed Richards’s unauthorized rocket mission to the upper atmosphere. During the flight, they encounter a cosmic ray storm which bombards them with radiation, giving rise to their powers. Ben Grimm just had the unfortunate luck of being the only one who didn’t remain human in appearance. Badrock, assumes more of the blame for his transformation though. He was a classic, 16-year old underachiever until he drank a vial of top secret genetic material from his father’s lab that turned him into the hulking mass of rock he is today. Side note: do not ingest top secret genetic material because it will turn you into a shameless rip off.
14 CABBOT / DEADPOOL
The iconic red mask with black eyes says it all: this is a Deadpool rip-off. It’s not hard to understand why, as both were in part created by Rob Liefeld. Prior to his creation of numerous rip- off characters for Image Comics, Liefeld was an artist for Marvel, drawing such series such as X-Force and The New Mutants. It appears that even after his departure, Liefeld wasn’t quite done with Marvel.
He must have really enjoyed creating Deadpool, the Merc with a Mouth, because Cabbot is basically a beefed up version of Deadpool with bigger guns.
The mask style may be a little different, but not different enough. We can recognize instantly that the inspiration for creating Cabbot was Deadpool. Cabbot is a mercenary who showed up for the first time in Bloodstrike #1, and just like Deadpool, is a mutant with enhanced strength, reflexes, slower aging and the ability to heal from mortal wounds in a matter of seconds or minutes. He’s Deadpool on steroids, but still infinitely less interesting. What makes Deadpool so intriguing is his personality. His fourth wall breaks and witty humor make all the bloodshed that much more interesting. The powers are cool, but they’re nothing without the personality. Luckily for us, no one can properly copy the insanity that we’ve come to love from Deadpool.
13 BYRD / ANGEL
So many X-Men have the ability to fly. Magneto levitates using magnetism, Banshee uses supersonic screams to stay afloat and Storm can summon the elements and ride the wind. So, it’s baffling that Image Comics copied the character with the least inventive method of flight. Angel was one of the original X-Men, debuting in X-Men #1 in 1963, who could fly thanks to his, you guessed it, angel wings. Those beautifully plumed wings were ripped right off the page of M-Men and pasted onto Byrd, who first appeared in the New Men #1.
In the classic Image Comics fashion, they added in a couple changes for insurance, but it’s all too obvious where Byrd got his wings from. Angel’s grow from his back, but Byrd’s wings started as small wings that protruded from his arms. Eventually his power evolved to grow bright white feathers and he started to take on other bird like features such as talons. Regardless of these changes, the bright white plumage tells us that this was a rip-off. The human imagination is limitless, so it begs to question: why didn’t the creators take a couple minutes to develop a new way to grant flight? Clearly, that was too difficult a task. So once again, Image Comics delved into the pages of X-Men to find another hero to steal.
12 TROLL / BEAST
Oh look! Another sacrilegious, unapologetic rip-off from the original X-Men team. This time, it’s a copy of everyone’s favorite blue beast, aptly named Beast. Debuting in X-Men #1, Beast is a pleasant change from the typical hulking brute. He retains a genius level intellect while still being able to duke it out with powerhouses like Juggernaut. Then there’s Troll, who like his name implies, is literally a troll, also known as a kobold. Troll is over 1,000 years old, and in his base form is covered in a thick blue fur. Sound familiar? His first appearance in Image Zero #0, showed him in a more human appearance (apparently he shaves now).
He bulges with muscles, but we can’t pull our eyes away from his hairdo.
Those iconic spikes work on two people: Wolverine and Beast. They are a sign of primal strength and savageness in the ranks of the X-Men and only the Canadian berserker and Hank McCoy deserve them. Really, Image? A character with two different forms and somehow both of them manage to look like Beast? He’s a troll in two ways: He’s literally from a race of trolls, but he’s also taken on the form of the dreaded internet troll. His existence spits on the image of one of our favorite X-Men. All we can say is, “Get a haircut!”
11 RIPCLAW / WOLVERINE + WARPATH
Racial representation in comics has been a cornerstone issue since they began publication. In recent years, Native American artists have been creating indie graphic novels that focus on Native American protagonists and crafting a narrative around issues that are relevant in Native American culture. The sad truth is, for a long time, Native American heroes and villains were anchored to prevailing stereotypes: they were either a savage hand to hand combatant or communed with and had control of nature and spirits. A perfect example is Warpath, debuting in New Mutants vol.1 #16, who savagely beat down opponents with enhanced strength, speed and a pair of vibranium hunting knives. As cool as he is, the stereotype is very evident.
So, when Image Comics decided to introduce Ripclaw to their ranks, they took the tropes of Warpath, added in Wolverine’s brutality and claws, and sprinkled on some Native American stereotypes that made it even worse. Not only is hersuper strong, fast and heals a la Warpath and Wolverine, he can also transform into a bear, communicate with spirits and travel into the spirit realm. He looks just like Warpath too with his muscular frame, darker skin and flowing black hair. Our advice to Image is to stay away from Marvel -- especially Marvel characters who already face controversy.
10 SENTINEL / IRON MAN
Who was the genius inventor contracted to create a suit of powered armour capable of greatly enhancing strength, granting flight, and the ability to fire a variety of energy-based blasts? We’ll take Tony Stark please. Yes, that’s right, but the answer is also Marcus Langston, superhero alias Sentinel, who debuted in Youngblood #1. We love a superpowered suit as much as the next person, but the originality in this story is severely lacking -- at least they took the time to change one of the colors on the suit from yellow to gray. Image is not one for trying to hide their copies from the public.
So, the color change, design tweaks, along with this hero flying around without a helmet is a welcome breath of fresh air.
However, the desire to not completely copy Iron Man left a very glaring design flaw. Let’s assume, that conservatively, Iron Man can fly at speeds of Mach 1, which is 343 meters per second. Without a helmet, anything that hits Sentinel’s face mid-flight, like a pebble or a bird, will surely lodge itself firmly into his skull traveling at those speeds. That’s what you get for ripping off a classic like Iron Man.
9 WILDSTAR / VENOM
This entry is another case of the power/origin, not the physical design, being stolen. We LOVE Venom. He’s creepy, sadistic and sporadic. Everything we want from a proper comic book villain. His origin story is also one for the books, as the symbiote that gave him his powers, originally part of an alien race of parasites known as Klyntars, has been a reoccurring source of stress for the webbed vigilante Spider-Man. So, when we saw that an alien parasite had granted powers to an Image Comic character, we were hesitant to accept him.
Micky Gabriel, alias WildStar, debuted in Wildstar: Sky Zero #1, and his origin story is a familiar one. Micky Gabriel was a human, until he came into contact with the WildStar, a member of a parasitic alien species called the K’l Vann that bonds with a host to become a part of their being. Sound familiar? Well there’s more. The symbiote is directly connected to the host’s bodily functions to chemically influence behavior. The symbiote then feeds of the chemicals that result from negative emotions. In turn, the symbiote provides the host with an array of powers such as superhuman strength, speed and near invulnerability due to the exo-membrane that grows on the host’s skin. Yes, just like Eddie Brock, the symbiote becomes his clothing, which is convenient, but completely unsettling.
8 SARAH RAINMAKER / STORM
Another Native American superhero that fell into the pit of ‘90s stereotypes. Not sure what came first, the stereotype or the copy, but regardless, Sarah Rainmaker is just wrong. Storm is the iconic dark skinned, skin-tight costumed weather manipulator in the X-Men, and Sarah Rainmaker is just a dud. A skewed, mirror image of Storm, made worse by the fact that once again, Image Comics decided that control over the weather would be a great power to give a Native American hero. For such a big company, they seem to fall into a lot of tropes. It’s also very convenient that her last name is Rainmaker.
Most superheroes have to come up with an alias to suit their powers, but Sarah’s last name and heritage seemed to doom her for a life of stereotyped powers.
With some of the copies, Image Comics tries to throw a twist into the powers so they’re not a complete rip off. No such effort was made here: Sarah Rainmaker’s powers are a carbon copy of Storm’s. Control over the weather, with the ability to summon rain, lightning and wind. They could have given Rainmaker control over more earthbound elements like sand, rock and dirt, but no. In the typical fashion of Image Comics, they unapologetically took what they wanted.
7 CYBLADE / PSYLOCKE
Elizabeth Braddock first appeared as the heroine Psylocke in Uncanny X-Men #213. She was instantly recognizable due to her signature purple outfit and the purple telekinetic energy that emanates from her body when she uses her powers. She has a version of telekinetic power where she can channel telekinesis to form weapons like katanas or surround her fists with energy to grant her superhuman strength. When the mutant Cyblade, appearing for the first time in Cyber Force Ashcan Edition #1, popped up in the pages of Image Comics, we were like, “We’ve seen this before. We’ve seen exactly this before.”
Cyblade is another one of the pick and place heroes that Image made almost no attempt to differentiate from the source material. They make it clear that instead of telekinetic energy, Cyblade generates and manipulates electromagnetic energy. That’s where the differences end. The purple garb and dark flowing hair aren’t even the worst of it. Psylocke is best known for the bright purple katanas she can form out of telekinetic energy. And Cyblade’s weapon of choice? A sword, also bright purple, composed completely of electromagnetic energy. A note for Image comics: just changing the name isn’t enough to fool us, especially when the power looks and functions almost exactly the same as the original.
6 FIGHTING AMERICAN / CAPTAIN AMERICA
When talking about Image ripping off Marvel, the most well-known case is probably when it comes to Fighting American. He was at the center of a lawsuit when Image Comics creator Rob Liefeld announced a resurgence of Fighting American in a mini-series that was allegedly incredibly similar to the work had previously done for Marvel’s Captain America, before leaving the company. However, the dispute was settled, and three Fighting American series were released to the public. Poor public, we say.
Image was at it once again, adding a few more muscles and some armor to the star-spangled Avenger, before giving him a new -- and wholly uninspired -- name.
It could have been the Pugilist Patriot or the Defender of Democracy. But no, they opted for a name that we could give to any number of drunkards on the Vegas strip: the Fighting American. Having a patriotic skull smasher leap and fight his way through the pages was a great move during World War II. But this was the ‘90s -- people didn’t want another Captain America. One America themed hero, juiced up through a Super Soldier serum, is more than enough. Image even kept the red, white and blue costume and star insignia on the chest. A strong sense of patriotism and metal shield just cut it nowadays in terms of being a hero.
5 SHAFT / HAWKEYE
It’s always refreshing to see a non-meta human be able to throw down with superpowered baddies. Like Hawkeye, who first appeared in Tales of Suspense #57 and since then has been using nothing but his bow and arrow to fend off alien invasions. He’s also an incredible athlete, proven when a villain tries to use his bow and fails, unable to pull back the string with a 250-pound draw-weight. For reference, the strongest professional archers max out their draw-weight at around 70 pounds. So yeah, Hawkeye can pack a punch.
Being such a unique hero, Image just couldn’t resist getting their thieving paws on him. They added in some armor, a different color palette, renamed him as Shaft and just like that, another Image hero was born. Debuting in Youngblood #1, Shaft is the field leader of the superhero team Youngblood, who like Hawkeye, is just a normal human, surrounded by a team of superpowered members. They both rely on their marksmanship and strategy to make it out of battles. However, they failed in one major aspect of Shaft’s design. The signature piece of equipment for Hawkeye is a bow, and Shaft looks like he is carrying around a piece of polished metal from a construction yard. If you’re going to copy a character, at least get their signature weapon right.
4 DEATHBLOW / PUNISHER
Fictional militaries in comic book worlds are a spawning ground for superheroes and villains alike. Captain America, Juggernaut, Bucky Barnes, Deadpool and Flash Thompson were all in the military at some point and look at them now. The Punisher is an ex-Marine Corps sniper, skilled in guerilla style warfare and marksmanship. In terms of heroes, he’s one of the most brutal. His military background allows him to employ murder, kidnapping, extortion and extreme violence to get his revenge on the criminal underworld.
Appearing for the first time in The Amazing Spider-Man #129, The Punisher takes on a campaign against crime after his wife and two children were gunned down by the mob.
Enter Deathblow, born Michael Cray, who debuted in Darker Image #1. He becomes a Navy SEAL in order to avenge the death of his parents who were murdered by terrorists. The premise is the same: family murdered by evil people, soldier turns vigilante to get revenge on evil people. Deathblow’s origin more accurately reflects modern day fears such as terrorism, but the character really is just a more modern Punisher, with some supernatural abilities layered in to try and separate him from the source material. Unfortunately, even Deathblow’s immortality and advanced healing factor are no match for the unhindered brutality of the Punisher that we’ve come to love
3 BOOTLEG / MIMIC
When we talk about rip-offs, there are two different types: The ones we notice most often are the physical rip-offs like Smash and Deadlock -- characters that look almost identical to the originals. But another way that Image has ripped off Marvel is through the copying of superpowers. A perfect example is Bootleg, who debuted in New Men #9, and has the exact same powers as Mimic, who appeared almost 30 years earlier as a member of the X-Men in X-Men #19. There are lots of similar powers across the super powered universes, but authors usually try to add in differences to separate their characters from others.
Bootleg is not one those. It is the exact same as Mimic, who has the power to copy the abilities of those within a certain vicinity to him. Mimic is incredibly unique in the X-Men universe, as he can fight with the combined powers of iconic members like Cyclops, Wolverine, Angel and Iceman all at once. Bootleg’s power is a weaker, bootleg version of the Marvel one. Although both Bootleg and Mimic have to be initially close to the individual with the power they copy, Mimic can then use it within the range of a few kilometers from the individual. Bootleg must stay right next to them. Point: Mimic!
2 DART / BULLSEYE
This is another case of the power, not the character, being copied. There are a whole host of supervillains who get their rep as assassins or mercenaries. Deadpool, Crossbones and Taskmaster all got their notoriety from the evil deeds they are hired to perform. One of the most popular of these assassins is Bullseye, appearing for the first time in Daredevil #131. A psychopathic assassin, he has an almost supernatural level of accuracy and throwing ability, able to turn ordinary objects like playing cards into lethal projectiles. This means that where ever he is, he’ll have an arsenal at his disposal.
Dart, who first appears in The Savage Dragon #2, was attacked in a bar and discovered -- due to her proximity to a dartboard during the attack -- that she’s ridiculously good at throwing darts at people.
She and Bullseye share the ability to throw with superhuman accuracy and hit targets that normal people can’t dream of. The problem is, Bullseye can throw anything he gets his hands on with precision. Dart’s power is completely dependant on her having just that… darts. Of course, she has trick darts that explode or release toxic gas, but the fact that she needs to constantly buy darts means there is a significant financial factor involved in her remaining a superhero.
1 MAUL / HULK
To finish off this list, we have another ridiculous Hulk rip-off, who would find himself in trouble if he ever came into contact with the original. Maul debuted in WildC.A.T.s: Covert Action Teams #1, and shows signs of both the Hulk and his smaller counterpart, Bruce Banner. Maul is the hybrid offspring of a human and a Kherubim, a race of aliens with the ability to manipulate their size. The bigger Maul grows, the stronger he gets. But the trade off is that his intelligence drops proportionately to his size. It also has the inverse effect. He can shrink and become much smarter, but this puts a huge strain on his body.
Like Bruce Banner, he is a scientist with genius level intellect, but unlike Banner, his powerful form is not a separate identity from him. Bruce Banner and Hulk are two different people, brought about by exposure to massive levels of gamma radiation. Maul is just very lucky to be incredibly smart and born with the ability to manipulate his size and strength. Although not completely the same, Image opted for a colour palette of green and purple. This can only lead us to believe that the green skin and purple pants of Hulk were the inspiration for this super strong copy.