Charles Caleb Colton, an English cleric, writer and collector born in the 18th century, is often credited with first coining the phrase 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery'. It's an aphorism commonly used when people are describing a book, movie, song or any other creative work that very obviously wears its inspiration on its sleeve. It's a polite way of acknowledging that the work in question mightn't be entirely original in its conception. A not-so-nice way of expressing this very same sentiment would be to describe something as a 'rip-off' of something else, or an idea that has been 'stolen' from an existing thing. And in the history of American comic books, the two biggest companies have regularly ripped each other off left, right and centre!
Throughout the years, it's easy to point to multiple Marvel and DC characters, stories and events that have obvious parallels in the opposing universe. For example, Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool, was created as a parody of Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke, DC's premier assassin and antagonizer of the Teen Titans. Similarly, DC's Swamp Thing bore more than a passing resemblance to Man-Thing when he was created, although the character went on to become much deeper and more celebrated. Even certain storylines are similar, such as when both Captain America and Batman were 'assassinated' with bullets that actually sent them travelling through time. This article will look at another aspect of comics that has seen a huge amount of idea pilfering: weapons. We'll look at 10 weapons Marvel ripped off from DC, as well as 10 DC stole from Marvel!
20 MARVEL FROM DC: HAWKEYE'S BOW AND ARROW
It would be easy to call Hawkeye a rip-off of Green Arrow, as DC's Emerald Archer debuted a full 23 years before Clint Barton, and they are both heroes who prefer a bow and arrow over more modern weaponry. But, to be honest, the skill with a bow is really the only thing Marvel pilfered from DC in this instance; the backstories and nature of both characters are very different.
Hawkeye is an abused child who developed his mastery of archery in a traveling circus and briefly became a villain before choosing the heroic path. Oliver Queen is a spoiled rich kid whose time on a desert island honed his deadly skills and changed his outlook on life completely.
19 DC FROM MARVEL: METRON'S MOBIUS CHAIR
This instance of DC 'stealing' an idea from Marvel is an interesting one. If you classify Metron's Mobius Chair as a true rip-off of Kang the Conqueror's Time Chair, then this is a case of Jack 'King' Kirby, one of the architects of superhero comics as we know them, stealing from himself! Kirby and Stan Lee created Kang for 1964's The Avengers #8 and introduced his invisible time chair, which allowed its user to travel through time and space.
The chair didn't go on to become a big part of the Marvel mythos. But, seven years later in 1971, Kirby wrote and drew New Gods #1 for DC and introduced Metron, an immortal who traversed time, space and other dimensions in his Mobius Chair!
18 MARVEL FROM DC: QUASAR'S QUANTUM BANDS
Several heroes throughout Marvel history have gone by Quasar and used the Quantum Bands, which are permanently fused to the wearer's wrists and connected to their central nervous system. They bestow several superpowers, including the ability to tap into and channel any form of energy; access to the 'quantum zone' (which can be used to travel great distances across space), the ability to fire quantum energy blasts and form quantum energy constructs; and the capability of analyzing and processing data like an advanced supercomputer.
The most well-known Quasar, Wendell Vaughn, debuted in 1979, a full 39 years after DC debuted Green Lantern, whose trademark Power Ring Marvel clearly ripped off when creating the Quantum Bands!
17 DC FROM MARVEL: AQUAMAN'S TRIDENT OF NEPTUNE
With Aquaman currently conquering the box office in the form of Jason Momoa, it's a safe bet to say that DC's King Of Atlantis is no longer the laughing stock he once was. It's one thing DC can lord over Marvel, especially considering Aquaman initially debuted as a thinly veiled rip-off of Marvel's Namor.
Namor's weapon of choice was always his Trident of Neptune and Aquaman wielded a trident too, but his was the Trident of Poseidon. That is, until DC decided to pilfer from Marvel again and in 1980 introduced their own version of the Trident of Neptune! It then became an integral part of the Aquaman revamp of Aquaman and was included as a major plot point in James Wan's blockbuster movie.
16 MARVEL FROM DC: MURAMASA BLADE
1983's Brave and the Bold #200 featured the first appearance of the Outsiders, a member of whom was Katana. She wielded the Soultaker Sword, a deadly samurai weapon that extracted the souls from those it killed, trapping them within the sword forever. Katana can communicate with the souls within her sword, one of which is her beloved husband Maseo.
The sword was forged by legendary (real-life) swordsmith Muramasa in the 14th century. Five years later, in 1988's Wolverine #2, the Muramasa Blade made its first Marvel appearance. The key difference is this blade was infused with a portion of Muramasa's evil soul, which affects the personality of the bearer over time. It also grants them superhuman strength and resistance to injury.
15 DC FROM MARVEL: DEATHSTROKE'S GOD KILLER SWORD
Another mystical blade here, and this time it's DC doing the stealing from Marvel. In 2015's Deathstroke #7, Slade Wilson take on a unique contract... he was hired by Greek deity Hephaestus to assassinate Lapetus, a Greek Titan and enemy of Olympus! Slade was granted the used of the God Killer sword, which is used specifically to slay immortals.
As cool as this sounds, the God Killer sword is very similar in conception to All-Black the Necrosword, which debuted in Thor: God Of Thunder #2 in late 2012 and was wielded by Gorr the God Butcher. He used it to slay Gods across the cosmos for a thousand years. A later Venom storyline revealed the sword was manifested from the shadow of symbiote deity Knull!
14 MARVEL FROM DC: STAFF OF ONE
In the DC Universe, the Cosmic Staff was invented by Ted Knight, the original Starman, and has primarily been wielded by his son Jack Knight and the teenage superhero Stargirl. It is a powerful device that absorbed stellar energy and converted it into powers such as rapid flight and levitation, as well as the creation of force fields and concussive energy blasts.
While this device is firmly based in sci-fi science, Marvel's Staff of One, which debuted in 2003's Runaways #4, is rooted in the world of magic. It was a magical object so powerful that it even scared Dormammu. The staff can perform complicated magic with just one word or simple phrase spoken, but each spell can only be cast once.
13 DC FROM MARVEL: BATMAN'S JUSTICE BUSTER ARMOR
Batman #35 was the first issue of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's epic 'Endgame' storyarc. The Justice League is infected with a new strain of Joker venom and, knowing they are compromised, the non-superpowered Batman dons the Justice Buster: a massive suit of armor equipped with offensive weapons targeted specifically at his teammates.
The armor only appeared in two issues and hasn't been seen since. It's pretty obvious to most fans what its main inspiration is: Iron Man's Hulkbuster armor, which first appeared in Marvel Comics in 1994 and made its big screen debut in 2015's Avengers: Age Of Ultron. The distinctly non-superpowered Tony Stark designed it to battle his teammate, should the Green Goliath ever lose control for any reason.
12 MARVEL FROM DC: THE DARKHOLD
Justice League Of America #10 featured the first appearance of sorcerer Felix Faust and the Necronomicon, a legendary mythical grimoire and textbook of magic. Writer Gardner Fox was inspired by horror writer HP Lovecraft, who first mentioned the (fictional) book in a 1922 short story entitled 'The Hound'. The ancient book would later also become an important part of the Evil Dead film franchise.
Marvel created the Darkhold in Marvel Spotlight #4, another ancient tome that held the knowledge of all the Elder God Chthon's dark magic spells on indestructible parchment. It was obviously the Necronomicon by another name, but Marvel later retconned things by indicating that the Darkhold was an even older book that inspired the Necronomicon.
11 DC FROM MARVEL: SCARECROW'S FEAR TOXIN
We know what you're thinking: how can DC have stolen the fear toxin from Marvel whenever Scarecrow debuted in 1941, a full 24 years before Mister Fear first menaced Daredevil with his fear gas in 1965? Well, it's because none of the Scarecrow's appearances before Batman #189 feature him using his now trademark fear toxin... and #189 was published in 1967, a few years after Mister Fear debuted!
Scarecrow would, of course, go on to become one of the most enduring members of Batman's rogues gallery and a household name thanks to appearances in The Dark Knight Trilogy and Gotham, whereas Mister Fear would stay resolutely C-list in the Marvel Universe. This is a case of DC pilfering an idea but executing it much more successfully than Marvel.
10 MARVEL FROM DC: EYE OF AGAMOTTO
This is a case of Marvel taking inspiration from a forgotten DC hero and doing it so successfully that it prompted DC to re-introduce said hero into their universe! Doctor Fate (1940) was one of the first superheroes created in the wake of Superman and Batman. He was shelved in 1944 but when Marvel debuted Doctor Strange, another magic-based hero, in 1963, DC brought Doctor Fate back a few months later.
Both characters wield ancient magical artifacts, and Strange's Eye Of Agamotto was undoubtedly inspired by the Helmet of Fate. The Helmet grants its wearer telekinesis, flight, enhanced sorcery skills, astral projection and the ability to see into the past. The Eye accompanies its wearer's astral form, can play back recent events and facilitates some level of telepathy.
9 DC FROM MARVEL: MIRACLE MACHINE
This device first appeared in Adventure Comics #367 in 1968. It was mostly associated with the Legion Of Superheroes but was a forgotten piece of DC lore until writer Grant Morrison plucked it from obscurity for use in his 2008 event "Final Crisis". The Miracle Machine could turn any user's thoughts into reality but it was considered dangerous, as it could have unintentionally devastating effects on existence if in the wrong hands.
Marvel's Cosmic Cube, another object of almost unimaginable power with the ability to alter reality based on the thoughts of its user, was actually introduced two years earlier in Tales Of Suspense #79. In this case it looks like DC copied Marvel somewhat, but the Miracle Machine hasn't had the lasting impact of the Cosmic Cube.
8 MARVEL FROM DC: ANT-MAN'S PYM PARTICLES
Ray Palmer, aka the Atom, debuted in 1961's Showcase #34 and was the second character to go by that name. Ray, however, was the first to use shrinking technology in the DC Universe, which he developed after exploring the nature of a white dwarf star. Ray was a brilliant scientist, physicist and professor, and he went on to become a member of the Justice League.
Marvel must have liked the idea of a shrinking superhero, as they introduced Hank Pym, aka Ant-Man, the following year. The secret to his size manipulation came from Pym Particles, a molecular material of his own creation. Marvel were certainly inspired by DC's Atom, and their character wound up becoming much more well-known due to his appearances in the MCU movies.
7 DC FROM MARVEL: ROCKET RED ARMOR
In terms of superhero comic books, Iron Man has pretty much cornered the market in terms of heroes who wear highly advanced suits of armor. The character is a true icon these days thanks to Robert Downey Jr's portrayal, but even back in 1987, DC saw fit to rip off Marvel's shellhead with a pale imitation: Rocket Red.
The armor looks very similar to Iron Man's, just with a different paint job. Even though the backstory of the character is very different (involving Green Lantern Kilowog creating the Red Rocket Brigade to protect the Soviet Union), it still strikes very much of DC taking an existing thing and adapting it, rather than creating something new.
6 MARVEL FROM DC: VISION'S ANDROID BODY
Vision debuted in Avengers #57 in October 1968, a full two months after Red Tornado first appeared in Justice League Of America #64. Case closed, right? Marvel ripped off DC in this case. Well, this one isn't quite so cut and dry, given the lead time it requires to produce a comic book. There's just no way Roy Thomas, Stan Lee and John Buscema would've had the time to read the DC issue and create a similar character in response.
Therefore, it looks like the almost simultaneous creation of these two iconic red androids, created by supervillains with the purpose of attacking a superhero team, was purely a coincidence. Still, this article is about rip-offs and considering Vision did come later, it's got to be labelled as such.
5 DC FROM MARVEL: GUARDIAN'S SHIELD
Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created Captain America in 1941 and were published by Timely Comics (who would later go on to become Marvel). Only 13 months later, the very same writer and artist created Guardian for DC Comics, and the similarities the character's share are too obvious to ignore. Jim Harpe, aka Guardian, didn't have superpowers and he wasn't a soldier, but his main weapon was an indestructible shield that functions in very much the same way as Cap's vibranium shield.
He had exceptional combat and tactical skills and excelled at gymnastics, much like Cap. It certainly seemed as if Simon and Kirby experienced a hit with Cap and wanted to use some familiar basic elements with Guardian, but then took his story in a different direction.
4 MARVEL FROM DC: BOOMERANG'S BOOMERANGS
The fact that in the DC Universe there is a supervillain named Captain Boomerang, who is Australian and uses that nation's trademark boomerang as his weapon of choice, is pretty silly. However, it's even sillier if you consider the fact that, a mere six years after Digger Harkness first menaced The Flash, Marvel introduced their own Australian supervillain who used boomerangs in his crimes. His name? The deeply unimaginative Boomerang.
In all seriousness, it's clear Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were having a lazy day when they created Boomerang, as his whole M.O. is almost identical to DC's character. In the end, the DC version has stood the test of time better; Digger even made it to the big screen in 2016's Suicide Squad, played by Jai Courtney.
3 DC FROM MARVEL: BLACK RACER'S SKI'S
The comic book idea factory that is Jack 'King' Kirby created the Silver Surfer in 1966's The Fantastic Four #48. A humanoid alien with metallic skin who travels through space on his personal craft, which looks very much like a surfboard, the Surfer would go on to become a mainstay of Marvel Comics.
Kirby left Marvel acrimoniously in 1970 and moved over to the Distinguished Competition, where he created his Fourth World opus. One of the new characters he created was Black Racer, an armored deity and avatar of death who travels through the air on two cosmically powered skis. While the character's story is vastly different from the Surfer's, we're gonna say Jack re-used a familiar element and simply substituted a surfboard for some skis.
2 MARVEL FROM DC: DOCTOR DOOM'S TIME PLATFORMS
Marvel introduced Doctor Doom's time platform in July 1962's Fantastic Four #5. He created it as a method of time traveling to the past. Over the years he used it to travel to the early 18th century to steal Blackbeard's treasure and 6th century England to learn the mystic arts from Morgan Le Fay and Merlin.
The time platform could not send its user forward in time, however, which is the main difference that separates it from DC's premier time travel device, which debuted a mere eight months earlier in The Flash #125. The cosmic treadmill was created by Barry Allen and it enabled him to travel both backwards and forwards in time when he used his superspeed.
1 DC FROM MARVEL: IMPERIEX
In arguably the most blatant example of DC ripping off an established Marvel character, Imperiex was the focus of the 2001 crossover event 'Our Worlds At War' and was a pretty shameless remix of Galactus, Marvel's devourer of worlds. And considering both characters are impossibly giant entities, clad in implausible armor, whose sole purpose is destroying life in the cosmos, we're going to count them as living weapons.
All DC did to differentiate him was to vainly attempt to up the ante; he destroyed entire universes in order to craft new ones himself, as opposed to Galactus, who only ate planets and all the life forms living there. Unsurprisingly, Imperiex wasn't overly well-received and hasn't appeared again since his debut story.