For a lot of reasons in superhero comics, it's not strange to see "mirrored" characters. For one thing, some of the most popular superheroes are based off popular archetypes that are necessary to fill out massive universes: archers, undersea kings, cat burglars, people in armor, or magicians. These are so broad that they can be done dozens of times and still only have basic elements in common with other versions.
But then there are more specific characters that still manage to get "repeated" in other worlds, and that can still come down to a couple of different factors. In some cases, creatives working for DC or Marvel on a "work for hire" basis will switch to the "other side" and make a new version of a character they created so they can keep telling stories with a character they liked. Other times, creators will note a popular character or team and create an ersatz version so they can have them interact with a popular character or team from the other side. Both DC and Marvel have been guilty of this, and we here at CBR have compiled some of the most interesting versions. Here are 10 Characters Marvel ripped-off from DC (and 10 DC ripped-off from Marvel)!
20 MARVEL: DEADPOOL (RIPPED-OFF: DEATHSTROKE)
Deadpool’s creator might want you to think the Merc with a Mouth didn’t start out as a rip-off of the mega-popular assassin Deathstroke that was introduced in 1980, but let’s be honest. He’s a mercenary whose first appearance is trying to kill a teenaged super-team, he’s got a healing factor, and uses lots of weapons but his signature one is a sword.
The only thing that separated them early on was Slade’s family ties. Since then though, Deadpool has developed a ton: completely insane, Wade Wilson has become aware that he’s a comic book character. This results in him breaking the fourth wall constantly, and his overall zany attitude has made him just as much a staple of the superhero world as Deathstroke. Plus, Deadpool has a movie. Deathstroke doesn’t have that credit to his name…yet.
19 DC: BUMBLEBEE (RIPPED-OFF: THE WASP)
A lot of examples on this list involve two characters that are roughly equally popular. This isn’t one of those cases. Like many inclusions, Bumblebee is a pretty blatant rip-off, with a similar name, power set, and costume to Marvel’s Wasp. But Janet Van Dyne is a founding member of the Avengers, has led the team for longer than nearly everyone else, and is responsible for working towards bringing gender-parity to the Avengers during her tenure as chairwoman.
Karen Beecher, though? Well, she joined the Teen Titans long before the Wolfman/Perez run that turned the team into a famous franchise that spawned two massively successful cartoons and an upcoming live-action series. She dropped off the map for decades and since then has been relegated to the occasional guest appearances, even playing the sidelines in the current ongoing that had an entire arc about her.
18 MARVEL: NOVA CORPS (RIPPED-OFF: GREEN LANTERN CORPS)
The Nova Corps feels like a particularly egregious version of this trait. Created by Marv Wolfman, the team was initially just background information to help introduce Marvel’s newest character Richard Rider, a new, teenaged hero that was actually meant to take after Spider-Man. The group serves as an interstellar peacekeeping force that works on the planet Xandar, guided by the living computer known as the Worldmind. Imbued with the power of the Nova Force, each Nova is granted a section of that unlimited power to help protect the universe. Sounding familiar yet?
It runs deeper than that, though. In the late '00s, the Nova Corps was destroyed after being hit by the Annihilation Wave. While destroyed, one lone Earthling kept the legacy of the Nova Corps alive until he was finally in a position to bring the Nova Corps back to its former prominence.
17 DC: AQUAMAN (RIPPED-OFF: NAMOR)
First appearing in April 1939, Namor is one of the earliest Marvel characters, dating all the way back to the company’s “Timely Comics” era. Two years later, DC decided they needed their own King of the Seven Seas and created Arthur Curry, also known as Aquaman.
The funniest part about Namor and Aquaman is that Aquaman is firmly seated as the more popular character, while Namor is cemented as the cooler hero. When’s the last time anyone told a fish joke about Namor? He’s the guy that’s gone toe to toe with the Hulk, and has dubious relationships with Sue Storm…and Emma Frost. But despite that, no one but the biggest comic geeks even know who he is (at least until Marvel gives him a film). Meanwhile, everyone knows about Aquaman…it’s mostly for stupid jokes about him talking to fish, so it’s a bit of a trade off.
16 MARVEL: BLACK CAT (RIPPED-OFF: CATWOMAN)
Felicia Hardy and Selina Kyle couldn’t be more alike, yet they couldn’t be more different. They’re both sultry takes on the classic cat burglar idea, they both have a taste for stealing the finer things in life, and they definitely both have a nasty habit of falling in love with heroic men with rigid moral codes on the “right” side of law.
However, while Felicia Hardy grew up as a member of the upper crust of society, Selina Kyle had to work her way to the top brick by brick. And while Catwoman only uses pure ingenuity to complete most of her cases, the Black Cat has special “bad luck” powers to help her get out of a jam. Oh, and at one point both were mob bosses and “Queenpins” of their respective cities, but people tend to overlook that.
15 DC: GUARDIAN (RIPPED-OFF: CAPTAIN AMERICA)
Jack Kirby was unquestionably, The King. But The King was not afraid of taking an idea he liked and doing a twist on it at another company. That’s what happened in the case of The Guardian where the creators of Marvel’s Captain America, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, would take the same idea and make a version of it for DC Comics. It wasn’t that much later, either; Captain America debuted in March 1941, while The Guardian popped up in April of 1942.
The Guardian is simultaneously a more boring, yet slightly more logical, version of America’s most patriotic hero. After all, a superhero clad in the flag and named after the country he’s from is a bit on the nose. They do still share a shield as a primary weapon, though.
14 MARVEL: THANOS (RIPPED-OFF: DARKSEID)
Jim Starlin and Mike Friedrich introduced one of Marvel’s most iconic cosmic villains in Iron Man #55, two years after DC’s planet-ruling monarch Darkseid arrived on the scene. The fact that they look so much alike isn’t a coincidence. Starlin had always planned for the villain to resemble one of Jack Kirby’s infamous New Gods….but at first, he was aiming to make him resemble Metron.
It wasn’t until Marvel’s then Editor-in-Chief, Roy Thomas, got a look at the design that things started to change. Thomas outright explained to Starlin that if he was going to rip off the New Gods, then it might as well be “the really good one”. Since then the two characters have managed to differentiate themselves through the stories told about them, but the visually inspiration is still just as obvious as it was day one.
13 DC: SWAMP THING (RIPPED-OFF: MAN-THING)
This is one of those cases where the characters are similar, but unless the creators involved specifically had a discussion about what they were doing, there’s no way one could be a rip-off of the other. Still, there just aren’t that many “sentient plant monster” characters, so it’s hard to claim something weird didn’t happen.
The two characters were introduced to their universes only a scant two months apart, Man-Thing in May 1971’s Savage Tales #1 by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, and Gray Morrow, while Swamp Thing appeared that July House of Secrets #92, created by Len Wein. Both characters involve scientists that suffered awful accidents in swamps that turned them into the creatures they are today, and both characters get decidedly more mystical over time. Despite all this, Swamp Thing cements himself as the most popular character thanks to several films and the iconic Alan Moore run.
12 MARVEL: SENTRY (RIPPED-OFF: SUPERMAN)
Being fair to Sentry, this rip-off came with quite the twist. Sentry is more like Superman if he had a second personality that was shockingly reminiscent of a sentient Doomsday. Created by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee, Sentry is a dude with the “power of one million exploding suns”, whatever that means. His true identity is Bob Reynolds, a hero that was retconned to have been a part of the Marvel Universe from the moment it was born, but was forced to make everyone forget about him.
Why? Well as it turned out, within Sentry dwelled an evil entity of equal power known as the Void. To keep the world safe, Robert’s memory of his powers were locked away and the entire world was forced to forget who he was.
11 DC: ROCKET RED (RIPPED-OFF: IRON MAN)
Rocket Red played a major part of the premiere super-team the Justice League in the late '80s, when the character became one of several members added to the International incarnation of the League. Also known as Dmitri Pushkin, the character was one part of the Rocket Red Brigade, a league of highly trained, armor wearing patriots loyal to the communist cause.
They were intended to be Russia’s way of combating the growing presence of superheroes in America, and they gladly jumped at the opportunity to send one of their own to join the league and display “superior Russian engineering”. The ironic thing about DC inventing a Russian version of Iron Man is that several versions of that idea had already been done over at Marvel. Both the Titanium Man and Crimson Dynamo were huge opponents to Iron Man early in his career.
10 MARVEL: HAWKEYE (RIPPED-OFF: GREEN ARROW)
This is one of those cases where Hawkeye is technically a rip-off, as Green Arrow predates Hawkeye by nearly half a century, but it’s in such broad strokes they’re only barely similar. Clint Barton is an abused kid from a series of broken homes who developed a skill with archery in a traveling circus, and briefly became a villain due to his mentor, Swordsman. Oliver Queen was a spoiled rich kid who got stuck on an island and honed the one skill he had there until he was talented enough to use archery as a method of fighting crime.
They both share some talent with the bow, and tend to use trick arrows…but that’s about all they have in common. Green Arrow took his gimmick a lot further, initially being Batman with a Robin Hood bent, right down to having an Arrowmobile and an Arrowcave.
9 DC: BLACK RACER (RIPPED-OFF: SILVER SURFER)
Jack Kirby was never afraid to create new characters -- DC and Marvel alike are littered with his original ideas and creations. But he was also never afraid to reuse ideas or a certain aesthetic that already worked once before. So it was with Black Racer, a character introduced five years after Silver Surfer in New Gods #3 back in 1971. Much like Norrin Radd, Silver Surfer began as a relatively normal mortal --though he was an Earthling, a man named Willie Walker.
A Vietnam War veteran, he was chosen by the Source itself to be the sign of death for New Gods, and uses a pair of skis that help him soar through the stars. Specifically a method to guide the New Gods to the land beyond, the Black Racer is an inevitable fact of life for the gods, visiting them only at the end of their lives.
8 MARVEL: BULLSEYE (RIPPED-OFF: DEADSHOT)
This one’s more of a stretch than most of the other entries. Bullseye and Deadshot are both assassins, and they’re both exceptionally talented with what they do. Introduced in the 1950 Batman #59, Deadshot’s often billed as someone who never misses his target. He’s all business, and will even occasionally serve as a “good guy” in order to protect his kid or to save his own skin.
Meanwhile, Bullseye was introduced much later as one of Daredevil’s primary villains, created by Marv Wolfman and John Romita, Sr., Bullseye’s gift is being able to transform any object into a projectile capable of killing someone. Best known for killing Elektra and giving his archnemesis Daredevil as much grief as possible, he’s considerably more psychopathic than his DC counterpart ever was.
7 DC: RED LION (RIPPED-OFF: BLACK PANTHER)
The latest rip-off to join the list, Red Lion is clearly inspired by the Black Panther. Created by noted Black Panther writer Christopher Priest, Matthew Bland is an African dictator and “President for Life” running the African nation of Buredunia. First appearing in Deathstroke, after convincing Slade to upgrade into the more powerful Ikon suit, Bland takes the old Promethium armor and reshapes it to create his own costume. Unlike Black Panther though, Bland’s powers come entirely from his own training and his pilfered Deathstroke suit.
The character feels like a more cynical take on the king of Wakanda, but simultaneously more realistic. Awesome as T’Challa is, it’s not often that sovereign rulers from a long line of royalty care as much about their populace like the Black Panther.
6 MARVEL: X-MEN (RIPPED-OFF: DOOM PATROL)
This one’s tricky. Doom Patrol is a creation of Arnold Drake, Bob Haney, and Bruno Premiani, and first appeared in My Greatest Adventure #80 in June 1963. X-Men was, of course, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and first appeared in X-Men #1 in…September 1963. A three month difference between the two teams is almost impossible to capitalize on, and yet…some things don’t add up. For one, it feels highly unlikely that both teams would initially market themselves as the “world’s strangest heroes”. Also, both teams featured a group of strange heroes led by an older man who was incredibly intelligent.
It’s fishy, but the close publishing dates throws doubt on the whole thing. But though both started relatively unknown, X-Men grew into one of the most popular teams in comics…so perhaps it doesn’t matter which came first?
5 DC: IMPERIEX (RIPPED-OFF: GALACTUS)
It’s actually somewhat shocking that Marvel’s most popular purple guy isn’t ripped-off more often. Introduced way back in Fantastic Four #48 in 1966, DC’s most noteworthy rip-off of the Eater of Worlds wouldn’t make his first appearance until the turn of the century, in 2000’s Superman vol. 2 #153.
The living embodiment of entropy, Imperiex is sentient energy that has chosen to encase itself inside a massive humanoid armor. He’s Galactus on a more absurd scale; where Galactus is simply the leftover remnant from the prior universe and only eats single planets, Imperiex destroys entire universes in order to form new ones he’s crafted himself. In the 2001 event mini-series, Our Worlds at War, the combined forces of good and evil just barely managed to stop Imperiex from destroying the Earth, and in doing so restarting the entire universe.
4 MARVEL: SQUADRON SUPREME (RIPPED-OFF: JUSTICE LEAGUE)
The Squadron Supreme is one of the most direct rip-offs that we’re going to have on this list. While other characters found their way here as a take on a popular archetype -- archers, undersea kings, and cat burglars -- the Squadron literally exists to be a pastiche of DC’s World’s Greatest Heroes.
Created by Roy Thomas in 1971’s Avengers vol. 1 #85”, the team existed on an alternate Earth from the Avengers for years, before a battle with a powerful villain left the team’s most well-known members trapped on Marvel’s Earth Prime. An alternate Earth team, the Squadron have had multiple incarnations of themselves, including the evil Squadron Sinister, and a hyper realistic version of the team brought to life by J. Michael Straczynski in the Marvel MAX comic, Supreme Power.
3 DC: ZATANNA (RIPPED-OFF: SCARLET WITCH)
There’s just enough different about Zatanna from the Avengers’ teammate Scarlet Witch that it’s almost a stretch to call her a rip-off. They were introduced in the same year, with Wanda Maximoff arriving on scene in March of 1964 in an issue of X-Men, while Zatanna appeared that November in Hawkman #4.
They’re both the de-facto magic controlling members of their respective super-teams, though Wanda’s also got the ability to control probability through hexes thanks to her mutant powers, while Zatanna learned all her skills training under her father Zatara. They’re also both somewhat responsible for massive changes inside their respective universes, with Wanda having nearly wiped out the mutant race after the events of House of M, while Zatanna’s Silver Age mind-wiping shenanigans eventually lead to some of the events of "Identity" and "Infinite Crisis".
2 MARVEL: THUNDERBOLTS (RIPPED-OFF: SUICIDE SQUAD)
One of the most unique twists in the last 20-plus years of superhero comics comes still comes from Kurt Busiek’s first Thunderbolts issue. The Thunderbolts pop on the scene as the Marvel Universe’s latest superteam, desperately needed after the villain Onslaught wiped out both the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. But Busiek and Bagley had a major shock for readers at the end, when they revealed the team was actually a new version of the Masters of Evil, intend on using their status as heroes to bring the superhero community down from the inside.
But using supervillains as heroes had been done before. Almost 40 years prior in fact, with an equally high concept idea in the Suicide Squad. The Squad were a bunch of convicted villains sent on dangerous missions in the hopes they could one day get their freedom back.
1 DC: COMMANDER STEEL (RIPPED-OFF: CAPTAIN AMERICA)
Long after the era of World War II, writer Gerry Conway and artist Don Heck introduced Hank Heywood in 1978’s Steel, the Indestructible Man. Soon to become the next star-spangled hero, Heywood begins a member of the Marine Corps until he was injured via saboteurs and left unable to still wage war. Fortunately, as a former biology student of genius Doctor Gilbert Giles, Heywood’s body was augmented. In an extensive surgery, his body was enhanced with steel devices. This granted him a number of super powers that gave him the option to return to the frontlines as the superhero Commander Steel.
Commander Steel’s real legacy continues on in his children, though. The second Commander Steel was a wealthy industrialist that joined the Justice League, while the third became a crucial member of the Justice Society. There’s even a version of him in popular CW series Legends of Tomorrow.