Comic books are rife with suspiciously similar characters. Some of them debuted in such quick succession that it's difficult to tell which is the knock-off or if the parallels are just a funny coincidence. Heck, depending on how loosely you define the term "rip-off," you can argue that the entire comic book industry is one long, extremely successful Superman rip-off -- and that Superman himself is a rip-off of various literary heroes, including John Carter of Mars and Hugo Danner. In this article, we'll be following a somewhat narrower definition of the word. The characters featured here aren't comparable only because they have superpowers, or because they share a desire for world conquest. In order to qualify for this list, the parallels must go deeper than that.
We're talking about characters with traits so similar that, if we described them without mentioning a name, you wouldn't be able to tell who the description was about. Enough of these characters exist to show that, despite their longtime rivalry, Marvel and DC are often more similar than they are different. But just because they're hilariously obvious copies doesn't mean the characters mentioned here are bad or boring. In most cases, of course, the original stands superior, but just because a character starts out as a knockoff doesn't mean they stay that way. Subsequent writers and artists often provide fresh takes on less-than-original characters. Besides, we love them all, even if they aren't the most unique characters to come out of the Big Two.
19 MARVEL: BUCKY (RIP-OFF OF ROBIN)
Robin the Boy Wonder debuted in 1940 in Detective Comics #38. and he was an instant hit with readers. Naturally, almost every other superhero in the business suddenly acquired a kid sidekick of their own. That was equally as true of heroes published by Timely, Marvel's forerunner, as anyone else.
Marvel's most famous sidekick is probably Bucky Barnes, an orphan turned army mascot. He befriended Steve Rogers but didn't initially realize that Steve was Captain America. Then one day, Bucky walked in on Steve changing into costume. Bucky basically blackmailed Steve into making him his partner and we all know how well that turned out.
18 DC: LILITH CLAY (RIP-OFF OF JEAN GREY)
When the X-Men debuted in 1963, their sole female member was the redheaded Jean Grey, aka Marvel Girl. Jean was a gifted, but inexperienced telepath and telekinetic. Seven years later, DC introduced a brand new member of the Teen Titans: Lilith Clay, who was also a redheaded telepath. Heck, her name even rhymes with Jean Grey's.
Both girls would later change their name and costume, though Jean's transformation into the star-consuming Phoenix was far more dramatic than Lilith acquiring a cloak and calling herself Omen. That's probably a big part of the reason why Jean remains far better known than her copycat.
17 MARVEL: HAWKEYE (RIP-OFF OF GREEN ARROW)
Both Marvel and DC have an archer with a fondness for a particular color. Oliver Queen, however, debuted over twenty years before Clint Barton ever picked up a bow. Ollie himself is often accused of starting out as a shameless Batman knockoff, which would make Hawkeye a copycat of a copycat. Still, each of these men has gone down separate paths and remain quite popular in their own right.
Marvel and DC acknowledged the link between Green Arrow and Hawkeye in the JLA/Avengers crossover. There, the two archers bickered constantly about everything, from facial hair to which of them Black Canary likes best.
16 DC: SWAMP THING (RIP-OFF OF MAN-THING)
This is a contentious one, as DC's Swamp Thing and Marvel's Man-Thing debuted within months of each other. Their debuts came so close together that it's hard to see how DC could have intentionally "borrowed" from Marvel. Then again, Man-Thing and Swamp Thing are so similar that the odds of their being created completely independent of each other are boggling.
Both creatures began their existence as human scientists and both scientists passed in a swamp after developing a serum designed to restore either humans or plants to the peak of health. The serums enabled their creators to survive in the radically altered form of a plant-based swamp and/or man thing.
15 MARVEL: X-MEN (RIP-OFF OF THE DOOM PATROL)
In the DC Universe, most superheroes are beloved public figures who love having and using their powers. And then there's the Doom Patrol, a group of misfit heroes led by a smart but vaguely creepy man in a wheelchair. They are heroes, but the people they save are often less than gracious about it.
Not long after the Doom Patrol debuted, Marvel came out with the X-Men, a totally different group of misfit heroes led by a completely original smart but vaguely creepy man in a wheelchair. The obvious similarities between the two teams often cause fans to point accusatory fingers at Marvel. However, whether or not the X-Men were an intentional rip-off or just coincidentally alike is still a mystery.
14 DC: CYBORG-SUPERMAN (RIP-OFF OF MISTER FANTASTIC)
The story of Hank Henshaw would fit very nicely into the Marvel universe as a "what if" story. Specifically, what if the space trip that turned Reed Richards and company into the Fantastic Four went terribly, horribly wrong? The Fantastic Four, of course, gained powers and got to become superheroes. Poor Hank was way less lucky, though he got his powers in the exact same way as Mister Fantastic.
While on a space adventure with his wife, Terri, and two others, Hank's ship was hit with cosmic rays. The two others went insane and took their lives, while Terri started phasing uncontrollably into a different universe. Hank rescued her, but not before having to relocate his consciousness to a robot body. The shock of seeing her husband in such a state ultimately ended Terri.
13 MARVEL: THANOS (RIP-OFF OF DARKSEID)
Darkseid is one of DC's scariest and most powerful villains. Created by the inimitable Jack Kirby in 1970, Darkseid has ruled the planet Apokolips with an iron fist ever since. Actually, Darkseid was never supposed to be ruler, but he wanted the throne so badly that he ruthlessly stole it from his brother.
A couple of years later, Marvel debuted their own oddly complexioned despot. Thanos, like Darkseid, didn't get along well with his family and committed terrible acts against them to cement his authority. Plus, in his first appearance, Thanos' main enemy was revealed to be a man named Drax. Drax is also the name of the brother that Darkseid deposed.
12 DC: TERRA (RIP-OFF OF KITTY PRYDE)
In the mid-1980s, the X-Men gained their youngest member to date: Kitty Pryde, a precocious teen capable of walking through walls. Soon after, the Teen Titans also recruited an adorable youngster. Her name was Tara Markov and she could manipulate the earth itself. Cue eye rolls and accusations of plagiarism from Marvel fans.
But Teen Titans writer Marv Wolfman has said this was intentional. He figured that, since so many fans viewed the Titans as an X-Men knockoff anyway, he could fool them into thinking Terra was a hero by virtue of her physical similarities to Kitty Pryde. No matter how many rotten things Terra did, fans would assume she'd turn out to be good in the end, just like Kitty and the ploy worked.
11 MARVEL: IMPERIAL GUARD (RIP-OFF OF THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES)
Comic book creators rarely stick with the same publisher for their entire careers. And when creators jump from one company to another, they often bring their ideas and creative quirks along with them. That's how we end up with such amusingly obvious knockoffs as the Imperial Guard.
The Imperials debuted in X-Men #107 as lackeys of D'Ken, an alien dictator bent on stealing the power of the M'Kraan Crystal. More importantly, they look and act suspiciously like DC's Legion of Super-Heroes. And it's all thanks to the fact that then-current X-Men artist Dave Cockrum previously spent a lot of time drawing the Legion for DC.
10 DC: TOBIAS WHALE (RIP-OFF OF KINGPIN)
When it comes to criminal kingpins with a personal vendetta against one particular hero, Wilson "Kingpin" Fisk is the undoubted champion. He's been making Daredevil's life miserable for decades. Although he lacks official superpowers, Fisk is several hundred pounds of pure muscle.
In the DC universe, Tobias Whale is another seemingly large, but incredibly strong leader of a crime gang. He inadvertently created his most tenacious opponent, Black Lightning, by taking out a student from the school where Black Lightning worked. Both villains have featured prominently in popular TV shows: Vincent D'Onofrio plays Fisk on Daredevil, while Marvin "Krondon" Jones III plays Whale on Black Lightning.
9 MARVEL: SUPER-ADAPTOID (RIP-OFF OF AMAZO)
Creating a robot capable of absorbing your enemy's powers and turning those powers against them seems like a great idea. It's so great, in fact, that two different supervillains from two different universes both came up with that idea a mere six years apart.
First came Amazo. Built by Dr. T.O. Morrow in 1960, Amazo's purpose was to steal the Justice League's superpowers. Needless to say, despite some short-term success, Amazo was unsuccessful. In 1966, over at Marvel, Advanced Idea Mechanics built the Super-Adaptoid to steal the Avengers' powers. He also failed, though both the Super-Adaptoid and Amazo have never gone away for good.
8 DC: COMMANDER STEEL (RIP-OFF OF CAPTAIN AMERICA)
Patriotic superheroes were a dime a dozen during World War II. After the war, most of them, with the notable exception of Captain America, faded into obscurity, and even fewer new ones were created. Commander Steel is a special case. Created in the late 1970s, Hank Heywood started out as an ordinary soldier during the Second World War.
After dealing with serious injuries, Hank received experimental new treatments from his mentor. These treatments gave Hank superpowers and he soon took on the name Commander Steel. Obviously, this story borrows quite a bit from Captain America's origin, but given that Cap himself is a blatant rip-off of the Shield, created by MLJ Comics in 1939, he doesn't have much right to complain.
7 MARVEL: VISION (RIP-OFF OF RED TORNADO)
The Vision is an amalgam of rip-offs. His name and costume were lifted wholesale from another character, Aarkus, created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for Marvel in 1940. His origin story was cribbed from the Red Tornado, who had made his debut at DC mere months earlier.
Both characters are artificial humans built for the express purpose of infiltrating a super-team -- for Red Tornado, it was the Justice League; for the Vision, the Avengers -- to defeat them from the inside out. And both turned on their evil creators, preferring to join the groups that they were tasked with destroying.
6 DC: MARK DESMOND (RIP-OFF OF THE HULK)
At first blush, Mark Desmond, aka the original Blockbuster, looks more like the Marvel villain Mr. Hyde than the Hulk. Both were originally normal scientists who turned themselves into super-strong behemoths through self-experimentation. However, while Hyde remained smart and articulate, Blockbuster, like the Hulk, essentially became an angry child.
He even had the same weakness as the early Hulk did. In the Hulk's origin story, Bruce Banner was mutated while saving the life of Rick Jones. Afterwards, Rick was the only person that the Hulk showed any consideration for. Similarly, Bruce Wayne once saved Blockbuster's life, so Blockbuster would only calm down if Bruce was nearby.
5 MARVEL: DEADPOOL (RIP-OFF OF DEATHSTROKE)
Unlike most of the rip-offs on this list, Deadpool has far surpassed the character whose popularity he was supposed to be siphoning. This is mainly because Deadpool has since developed his own distinctive and unique personality. However, in the very early days, Wade Wilson was just another mercenary in the style of DC's Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke the Terminator.
Deathstroke had been taking out people and fighting the Teen Titans for over a decade by the time the almost identically named Deadpool appeared on the scene. Deadpool, being Deadpool, has gleefully acknowledged that he is a copycat -- even to Deathstroke's face.
4 DC: ROLAND DESMOND (RIP-OFF OF KINGPIN)
After the demise of his brother Mark, Roland Desmond tweaked the formula that turned Mark into Blockbuster. With this new improved formula, Roland was able to give himself superstrength without also sacrificing his intellect. He used his superhuman abilities to become the large-and-in-charge criminal overlord of Bludhaven.
If that sounds a whole lot like Kingpin to you, just wait until you hear about his most famous evil scheme: he discovered the secret identity of Bludhaven's hero, Nightwing, and tried to wear him down by systematically hurting all of his loved ones. Apparently Blockbuster read "Born Again" and really liked it.
3 MARVEL: NOVA CORPS (RIP-OFF OF GREEN LANTERN CORPS)
For most superheroes, protecting a specific planet or even a specific city is enough. So what happens if you're out in the far reaches of the galaxy and run into trouble? If you're in the DC Universe, then starting in 1959, you could call upon the Green Lantern Corps. They are a diverse group of aliens dedicated to preserving peace and order on an intergalactic scale.
Meanwhile, if you're in the Marvel Universe and don't mind waiting until 1979, you can call the Nova Corps. Novas also protect the universe and also boast members from dozens of different planets. However, instead of power rings, Novas get spiffy helmets. So which team is better? Depends on your fashion sense.
2 DC: AQUAMAN (RIP-OFF OF NAMOR)
Both are rulers of Atlantis. Both have a human father and an Atlantean mother. And both have way too much scale-mail in their wardrobes. What more proof do you need that Aquaman, created in 1941, was intended to be a blond, fully clothed knockoff of Namor the Submariner, created in 1939?
In Aquaman's defense, he and Namor are quite different personality-wise. Namor tends to toe the line of being an anti-hero, as his intrinsic dislike of humans often causes him to throw in his lot with the wrong crowd, though he generally repents. Aquaman, meanwhile, keeps himself firmly on the heroes' side.
1 MARVEL: RICK JONES (RIP-OFF OF SNAPPER CARR)
Young Rick Jones started out as a friend of the Hulk and then befriended Captain America. He graduated to almost-sidekick status and even became the new Bucky for about fifteen minutes. After that, Rick got passed from hero to hero and eventually gained powers of his own.
However, Rick was not the first brown-haired white kid to find himself embroiled in the world of superheroes. In their very first adventure in The Brave and the Bold#28, the Justice League got help from a teen named Snapper Carr to defeat Starro. Snapper went on to become a DC mainstay, serving with multiple teams. He, too, would get powers, specifically teleportation.