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The Art Of The Steal: 10 Rip-Off Characters That Are Better Than The Original (And 10 That Are Worse)

A phrase that is often attributed incorrectly to Pablo Picasso is "good artists copy, great artists steal." Even if the famous artist never said those words, they've held fast in the artistic community as a standard of creative thinking. While it may not exactly be "stealing," artists will often lightly plagiarize other artists precisely because they enjoy their work and want to make something similar. Does it always work out in the copier's favor? Definitely not. However, on the occasions when it does work, you end up with something that is imitative and yet original in its own way. Sometimes that new creation is a commentary on what it stole from. Sometimes it's an improvement on the original. Either way, there's no denying the truth: artists steal.

Plagiarism has become a huge part of almost every medium, but it's especially prevalent in the world of comics. After all, artists will jump from one publication to another, and will often take their best ideas with them. Those ideas are then retooled and turned into something different, but the similarities are there, and more often than not, they are fairly obvious. Some of those ripped off ideas and characters ended up working out in their creators' favor, becoming bigger and more beloved than the originals. However, some of the just pale in comparison, reminding readers that there is a superior version of something they are reading. These are 10 rip-off characters that ended up better than the original and 10 that just couldn't cut it on their own.

20 BETTER: DEADPOOL (RIPPED OFF DEATHSTROKE)

It is well-known by now that everyone's favorite Merc with a Mouth, Deadpool, is a complete and total rip-off of DC's Deathstroke. Deadpool was created by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza and made his debut in 1991. Nicieza immediately recognized the similarity between Deadpool and Deathstroke, giving him the name Wade Wilson as a play on Slade Wilson.

Of the two characters, however, Deadpool has become much more endearing to a wider audience. This may be due to the characters self-reflective nature and tendency to comment on comic book and film cliches. A violent mercenary is a lot easier to handle when he's making jokes about chimichangas. Overall, Deadpool is just more fun to spend time with than the super serious Slade Wilson.

19 WORSE: HAWKEYE (RIPPED OFF GREEN ARROW)

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Green Arrow may be a rip-off of Robin Hood, but there's no question that Hawkeye is a rip-off of Green Arrow. Green Arrow was created by Mort Weisinger and George Papp, and first premiered in 1941. Hawkeye, on the other hand, was created by Stan Lee and Don Heck. He first appeared in 1964.

While both bow and arrow-based heroes fight for justice and are often teamed up with more popular and powerful superheroes, there is an extra layer to Green Arrow that makes him more compelling: his world views. Oliver Queen chose to find against the plagues of inequality, racism, and other societal ills in the '80s when those particular political views would have made him rather unpopular.

18 BETTER: THANOS (RIPPED OFF DARKSEID)

Both Marvel and DC Universes feature a big, bad alien nemesis who challenges the heroes and forces them to use all their power to defeat them. In the DC Universe, this is Darkseid and in Marvel, it is Thanos. Thanos was famously ripped off of Darkseid, right down to his appearance, by Jim Starlin. However, does that make Thanos a worse character?

Not necessarily. Thanos, unlike Darkseid, has a life and origin story that is much more in line with a Greek tragedy. While Darkseid had always plotted to take over a throne, Thanos was fighting for his life the moment he was born. His entire existence has been spent seeking approval from a woman he worships. His name is even derived from the Greek God, Thanatos. Overall, Thanos has a lot more depth of character than Darkseid.

17 WORSE: IMPERIEX (RIPPED OFF GALACTUS)

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The biggest problem with Imperiex, created by Jeph Loeb and Ian Churchill and first appearing in 2000, is how imitative he is of Galactus (created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and first appearing in 1966) without any real defining features of his own. Imperiex is like listening to a really good modern band that sounds exactly like Led Zeppelin -- they may be good musicians, but they sound exactly like someone else.

Imperiex even seemed to try and be a step up from Galactus, who famously devoured planets. Imperiex, on the other hand, destroyed entire universes and recreated them. It's almost like these two characters are the embodiment of the "my dad can beat up your dad" argument.

16 BETTER: VISION (RIPPED OFF RED TORNADO)

Marvel may have created the character of Vision first (back when it was known as Timely Comics), but the modern look of Vision that everyone recognizes is actually completely ripped off from DC's Red Tornado. What's really interesting is that the character's debuts were only a few months apart, with Red Tornado first appearing in August 1968 and Vision in October 1968.

Even though he came after, Vision has consistently been a more recognizable and memorable character than Red Tornado. Despite the fact that Vision is not entirely human, he falls in love, is introspective, and eventually is able to overcome his programming (what you might think of as his "nature") to do good.

15 WORSE: BUMBLEBEE (RIPPED OFF WASP)

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DC was barely even trying when they created Bumblebee, a clear rip-off of one of the original Avengers, Janet Van Dyne, aka the Wasp. Not only are their namesake insects incredible similar, but they are also both female scientists who eventually end up working with a team of superheroes (Bumblebee with the Teen Titans and Wasp with the Avengers).

Both characters share the same set of powers, including flight (via wings), shrinking, and the ability to fire bursts from their hands via their suits. However, Janet Van Dyne came way before Bumblebee, and was a founding member of the Avengers, making her integral to the team -- Bumblebee never reached that status.

14 BETTER: MR. FANTASTIC (RIPPED OFF ELONGATED MAN)

There are far too many things wrong with the name "Elongated Man" to list them all here, but the fact of the matter is he can never really live up to the legacy of the character who ripped him off the most, Reed Richards, aka Mr. Fantastic (Elongated Man debuted in 1960, while the Fantastic Four first appeared in 1961).

Mr. Fantastic may be a rip-off of Elongated Man when it comes to the two heroes' powers, there is so much more to make Reed Richards an interesting character. First of all, his role within his super team is that of a wise father figure and leader. Elongated Man has always just sort of been a B-list DC hero -- their legacies speak for themselves.

13 WORSE: KILLER CROC (RIPPED OFF THE LIZARD)

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The Lizard is one of the most classic Spider-Man villains of all time (having first appeared in 1963), and like many great villains, he has a tragic backstory: Dr. Kurt Connors, in an attempt to regrow his lost arm (which he lost in combat as an army medic), used reptile DNA which turned him into a monster. He is essentially Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but far more powerful and scary.

Killer Croc, on the other hand, was simply born the way he is. On top of that, his move into a life of crime was relatively quick. Killer Croc first debuted in 1983, meaning audiences had 20 years of the Lizard and his richer and more developed backstory.

12 BETTER: AQUAMAN (RIPPED OFF NAMOR)

Namor is one of the very first Marvel heroes ever created, having first appeared in Motion Picture Funnies Weekly back in 1939 before being used in Marvel Mystery Comics #4. However, with the rise of the MCU, and more focus on heroes appearing in other media, Namor has taken somewhat of a backseat to other heroes.

Aquaman debuted in More Fun Comics two years later, but his legacy has permeated the public consciousness far more than Namor's. Even though he was often the butt of jokes for his perceived uselessness among other Justice League members, Aquaman has since been reinvented as being fully integral to the team and possessing much more power than before.

11 WORSE: NOVA CORPS (RIPPED OFF GREEN LANTERN CORPS)

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Both Marvel and DC have their own cosmic police forces, with DC's Green Lantern Corps and Marvel's Nova Corps. The Nova Corps first debuted in 1979, but the Green Lantern Corps was already well established by then, having debuted 20 years earlier in 1959. Aside from coming late to the party, the Nova Corps is a pale imitation of the Green Lantern Corps.

For one thing, the Green Lantern Corps produced one of the most famous superheroes in the DC canon, whereas Nova, the hero who came from the Nova Corps (in a suspiciously similar fashion as Hal Jordan), is typically only a supporting player in Marvel stories. You need only watch Guardians of the Galaxy to see how ineffective the Nova Corps are at stopping a threat, too.

10 BETTER: SWAMP-THING (RIPPED OFF MAN-THING)

Swamp-Thing and Man-Thing have a complicated backstory in terms of their creations. While Swamp-Thing technically was published after Man-Thing, they were both being created around the same time by DC and Marvel, respectively. However, Man-Thing was the first into publication, so he gets credit as the original.

Being first doesn't mean being the best, though -- Swamp-Thing may have come after Man-Thing, but his stories have gone much farther in solidifying his place in DC history. That includes a now-famous storyline written by Alan Moore that radically changed Swamp-Thing's backstory. Man-Thing may have had his run-ins with other Marvel heroes, but he is not as popular nor as memorable as Swamp-Thing.

9 WORSE: GUARDIAN (RIPPED OFF CAPTAIN AMERICA)

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The story of Guardian and Captain America is an odd one. Rather than different artists ripping a character off, this rip-off was actually carried out by the same guys. Jack Kirby and Joe Simon had created Captain America in 1939, but after moving to Timely Comics (which would later become DC) they essentially sold the same superhero again, this time under the name Guardian.

The biggest problem with Guardian is that he is stripped of all historical context. While some people might be turned off by the patriotism of Captain America, the fact is that he exists because of a specific time in history when the world needed a hero. Guardian, on the other hand, is just a guy with a shield.

8 BETTER: HULK (RIPPED OFF SOLOMON GRUNDY)

When it comes to big, muscly monster men smashing through walls and throwing people around, there's only one name that comes to mind: The Incredible Hulk. However, the Hulk is actually a rip-off of the DC villain Solomon Grundy. While Hulk first debuted in 1962, he was 18 years behind Grundy, who made his first appearance in 1944.

It's hard to deny that part of the inspiration for Hulk must have come from Solomon Grundy, both of them being normal people who turn into uncontrollable monsters. Hulk even started out the same color as Grundy. However, the similarities really end there, as Grundy is a villain and Hulk is a superhero. Grundy may still be kicking around, but he's nowhere near as famous or loveable as the Hulk.

7 WORSE: SENTRY (RIPPED OFF SUPERMAN)

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What is Sentry but just a B-list Superman, really? The character, who first properly debuted in 2000 (having been retconned into all of Marvel's story continuity by his creators,  Paul Jenkins, Jae Lee, and Rick Veitch) has all the hallmarks of Superman: the ability to fly, way too many other superpowers, and even a big 'S' on his super suit.

However, Sentry could clearly never gain the same kind of adoration and name recognition as Superman. It seemed like the character was created more for the idea of having an interesting storyline about a hero everyone forgot about but had been there the entire time. It's a funny sort of play on the ubiquity of Superman, but Sentry just doesn't hold a candle to the Man of Steel.

6 BETTER: BULLSEYE (RIPPED OFF DEADSHOT)

Sometimes the best villains are the ones who are purely evil. Bullseye definitely falls under that category, despite being somewhat of a rip-off of Deadshot (who debuted a full 26 years before Bullseye). Rather than having a tragic backstory like Deadshot, who accidentally ended the life of his revered brother, Bullseye seems to do bad things for personal gain and just because he finds them entertaining.

On top of his aggressive personality and complete disregard for human life, Bullseye is far more dangerous than Deadshot. Deadshot may be handy with a gun, but Bullseye can take someone out with literally any object he can get his hands on. That makes him unpredictable and a liability in any situation he is in.

5 WORSE: BLACK RACER (RIPPED OFF SILVER SURFER)

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The Silver Surfer, created by Jack Kirby, is one of the sillier characters Marvel has ever produced. When you really break down the character, he's a silver man who flies around space on a surfboard. That fits in with the period of his creation, though. At the time, Marvel was moving toward its more cosmic characters, and the Silver Surfer became a staple of the cosmic stories.

However, Kirby had a tendency to plagiarize himself in the past (see Captain America and Guardian), and he did it again when he created the character Black Racer for DC. Black Racer is another intergalactic herald who works for a cosmic entity, but rather than a surfboard, he appears to fly around on skis. This was a pretty transparent rip-off of Silver Surfer and is not nearly as fondly remembered.

4 BETTER: DOCTOR STRANGE (RIPPED OFF DOCTOR FATE)

It's not just the fact that both Doctors Strange and Fate both have advanced degrees that makes them similar to each other. Both characters have magic abilities and a connection to a higher cosmic power. However, Doctor Fate was the original of the two, having made his first appearance in 1940, a full 23 years before Doctor Strange.

However, even for a rip-off, Doctor Strange is a far more compelling character. Like Tony Stark, Strange has his own fall from grace when the cocky surgeon is no longer able to perform surgery due to an accident that damaged his hands. He eventually redeems himself, creating a much more compelling origin than Doctor Fate's.

3 WORSE: QUICKSILVER (RIPPED OFF THE FLASH)

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There may not be another Marvel character who is as blatantly ripped off from a DC character as Quicksilver is from the Flash. Both characters can run very, very fast, but the Flash was doing it in comic books all the way back in 1940. Quicksilver, on the other hand, didn't make his first appearance until 1964.

In fact, there had been two incarnations of the Flash before Quicksilver was featured in any comic book stories, and both of them proved to be more interesting and well-rounded characters. Whereas Quicksilver started life as a secondary member of the Brotherhood of Mutants, Flash was his own man. Not to mention the fact that Flash's abilities appear to be more advanced than Quicksilver's.

2 BETTER: SUPERMAN (RIPPED OFF GLADIATOR)

Superman is a rip-off? Yes, it's true. The idea for a man who has superhuman strength, agility, and is able to leap tall buildings in a single bound was not original at all. Superman may have debuted in Action Comics all the way back in 1938, but the pulp novel Gladiator was written by author Philip Wylie in 1930.

So what is Gladiator about? It's the story of a man who is given a secret serum by his father and during his childhood develops superhuman abilities such as super strength, speed, and bulletproof skin. While it has never been confirmed if Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were directly influenced by the book, it's hard to deny the similarities. Superman's story worked out way better, anyway.

1 WORSE: ULTRON (RIPPED OFF BRAINIAC)

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Ultron and Brainiac differ in some big ways, but ultimately the two characters have more in common than you might imagine. Both of them are robotic in nature and have massive superiority complexes. However, their motives remain different, with Ultron wishing to destroy humanity, and Brainiac wanting to shrink cities and preserve them in a quest for knowledge.

Ultron copied many of Brainiac's abilities, such as the power to create and build copies of himself, and inhabit different bodies at will. However, even though he hasn't appeared in any major films like Ultron, Brainiac remains an endearing and fearsome villain if only for his ability to fight against Superman, a formidable foe if there ever was one.

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