Marvel and DC have been competitors for quite some time, and with that competition, there was some, shall we say, “borrowed ideas” that floated between the two publishers. We are of course talking about the fact that Marvel has copied DC characters and vice versa, leading to quite a few clones between the big two, 24 in fact. Characters like The Atom and Ant-Man are too similar for it to be a coincidence, the same goes for characters like Darkseid and Thanos or The Winter Soldier and The Red Hood. There are definitive points in superhero comics history where one publisher copied the other after their new character or series gained massive success. Some superheroes are obviously carbon copies of others, but with some it’s not so obvious, both types of rip-offs eventually go on to be their own, unique character.
In fact, over time and with the help of some great creators taking over, some copy-cat characters ended up being better than the original. With the right adjustments, the minor differences between the two characters could turn a rip-off into a developed, deep, interesting and overall better-written character than the original. That said, sometimes the original is still far-better than the carbon copy, the character’s depth, power or having more great stories under their belt trumping the rip-off in all facets. So, which Marvel heroes were better than the DC characters they copied? Which DC characters improved on Marvel’s? Which originals are still king? Check out the list below to find out.
24. BETTER: HAWKEYE (VS. GREEN ARROW)
Before Hawkeye, there was Green Arrow, the robin-hood-like archer superhero with crazy-good aim. Green Arrow was relatively successful in his early comic days and continues to be a fan-favorite, especially with Arrow still going strong.
All that said, we think Hawkeye is the superior comic book character, for a few key reasons; he’s had better costumes, his background as a carny is more interesting than being stuck on an island, and he has become much more developed thanks to creators like Matt Fraction taking the helm of the character’s comic series. Plus, when you look at their skills, strength and speed, Hawkeye comes out on top as the better archer.
23. WORSE: NOVA CORPS (VS. GREEN LANTERNS)
The Nova Corps aren’t exactly a carbon copy of the Green Lantern Corps, but the basic concept of both is essentially the same; they are space cops given ancient power to protect the universe. The tether to their respective power is also passed down to different guardians over time. In this case, however, the original comes out on top in almost every category.
The Green Lantern Corps not only have cooler, more original powers, there’s also a stronger thematic core to their guardians. The rings are powered by the will of their users, providing the groundwork for some great storytelling. Furthermore, even in the age where comics are a big, well-known part of pop culture, the Green Lanterns are far more well-known than the Nova Corps.
22. BETTER: BATMAN BEYOND (VS. SPIDER-MAN 2099)
The basic concept of Batman Beyond essentially boils down to “What if Spider-Man was Batman?” Terry brings a sense of youth and spirit to the Batman mantle, dropping some of the usual grimace that Bruce was known for. On top of taking elements from Peter Parker, Batman Beyond also took from another version of Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099.
Looking at their powers, their setting, their suits and heck, even their surnames, Terry McGinnis’ Batman looks a lot like Miguel O’Hara’s Spider-Man. But, despite coming first, Spider-Man 2099 doesn’t quite beat Batman Beyond, since the latter is much cooler and is perhaps more well-known in terms of future iterations of other superheroes.
21. WORSE: DR. STRANGE (VS. DR. FATE)
Dr. Fate debuted in 1940 as a super powerful lord of order and master of the mystic arts. Twenty-three years later, Marvel debuted its own magical doctor, Dr. Strange. In making a copy of the DC character, Marvel dropped the most interesting part of Dr. Fate, the helmet.
Actually it was not just the helmet, but the fact that Dr. Fate is an entity that takes over others, allowing the so-called Lord of Order an anchor on the Earthly plane. This power comes at the cost of taking most of the host’s free will, a powerful storytelling device that Dr. Strange’s character lacked.
20. BETTER: GAMORA (VS. BIG BARDA)
Big Barda and Gamora aren’t all that similar in terms of appearance, but their stories line up quite a bit. Both were raised to serve the agenda of an evil space conquerer, Darkseid and Thanos (two other characters that are incredibly similar), but eventually defected to fight for good.
The two also have similar powers (super strength, speed and durability) and skills (expert martial artists and acumen with various weapons) and are much stronger than the men they are often paired with — Mr. Miracle and Star-Lord, respectively. So who is the better space warrior? We’re going to have to go with Gamora, and not just because she is more well-known thanks to her previously obscure status being boosted by her role in the MCU.
19. WORSE: BUCKY BARNES (VS. ROBIN)
Robin premiered as the boy wonder in 1940, and not long after, Captain America came around in 1941 with his own young sidekick, Bucky Barnes. While Bucky went on to develop into his own unique identity as the Winter Soldier, he originally started out as a Robin clone, and a poor one at that.
Comparing Bucky to Robin is like trying to compare Crash Bandicoot to Mario, it’s no contest who the better, more popular character is. Weird comparisons aside, every single character that has taken up the mantle is twice as good as early-comics Bucky in both design and writing. Again, it’s no contest; Robin is a pop culture icon, while Bucky, in his early state, was not.
18. BETTER: SWAMP THING (VS. MAN-THING)
Man-Thing and Swamp-Thing are, on a lot of levels, very hard to differentiate. Both characters are big green plant monsters with the word “Thing” in their names and both sort of serve as spirits of nature. If that wasn’t crazy enough, both have also had film-adaptations and multiple characters take up the moniker (though Man-Thing’s are alternate versions).
Man-Thing was the first to debut in May of 1971 and Swamp-Thing came out just a few months later in July of the same year, which might be the fastest rip-off on this list. As for which is better, it seems that Swamp-Thing has stood the test of time, holding more comic titles and having more fans than the character he was ripped off from.
17. WORSE: BUMBLEBEE (VS. THE WASP)
What’s small, can fly, and stings? If you answered a Wasp, then you’d be correct. If you answered a Bumble Bee, you’d also be correct. Both these insects also have superheroes named after them, Marvel’s Wasp and DC’s Bumble Bee, the latter coming out after the former. Both heroes have the power to shrink, have wings for flight and can sting, all of which come from advanced technology.
As for how they stack up against each other, it’s not really a contest between a founding member of The Avengers and an often forgotten-about copy, is it? The Wasp is a way bigger player in comics, standing as one of Marvel’s most prominent female superheroes and starring in an MCU film while Bumblebee has only made animated appearances.
16. BETTER: BULLSEYE (VS. DEADSHOT)
There are two major sharp-shooting villains in comics, Deadshot and Bullseye. Well… perhaps sharp-shooting isn’t the right term, since Bullseye prefers to throw weapons with great precision rather than use any sort of firearm (though he does use those, too). Regardless, both villains share some similarities; they are both hired assassins, they both are said to “never miss,” and both were part of an anti-hero team, Suicide Squad and Thunderbolts.
As for who is better, we’ve gotta go with Bullseye for a few key reasons. First of all, Bullseye’s ability to turn anything into a weapon is way cooler than an arm-mounted gun; and second, the way in which Bullseye’s character has been explored in relation to Daredevil is far more interesting than Deadshot’s relation to Batman.
15. WORSE: QUICKSILVER (VS. FLASH)
Speedsters and lightning bolts go together so well, don’t they? But who wears the lightning better? The Flash or Quicksilver? Yeah, dumb question: The Flash is obviously better than Quicksilver, in every single way. Think about it; The Flash is a hero, while Quicksilver has dabbled a few times in villainy. The Flash’s origin is more interesting than being a mutant, and The Flash’s costume is way more iconic than Quicksilver’s constantly shifting look.
The Flash is a far better character, both because he is one of the most prominent superheroes of all time and because he is a legacy character, something that gives room for fresh, new takes on the moniker to come through. Furthermore, how many people had actually heard of Quicksilver before his two film universe appearances?
14. BETTER: RED HOOD (VS. WINTER SOLDIER)
In January of 2005, The Winter Soldier first appeared in Marvel Comics and was later revealed to be Bucky Barnes, Captain America’s long-forgotten sidekick from WWII. Just one month later, another presumed deceased sidekick made his return to comics, Jason Todd, who took up the Red Hood moniker to hide his identity as he enacted his plans to control crime in Gotham.
The sidekick coming back as a villain storyline is awesome, so if DC did rip-off Marvel, we can’t really blame them; it’s an interesting way to go. As for who did the back-from-the-grave sidekick better, Red Hood may have never officially taken over for his mentor (except that time he became a gun-toting vigilante for a minute), but he stands out as his own character much more because of it!
13. WORSE: THUNDERBOLTS (VS. SUICIDE SQUAD)
Some of the most interesting villain stories are the ones where they end up serving a greater purpose; stories where they are more anti-heroes than villains. This is perhaps the reason why people love teams like the Suicide Squad, a super-team of villains, and the Thunderbolts, a super-team of mercenaries, villains and reformed bad-guys.
Technically, Marvel had the idea of repurposing superhero templates first, with the Squadron Sinister, but DC perfected it with the Suicide Squad, consisting of fan-favorite villains. Marvel took that spin on the idea and introduced the Thunderbolts a bit later, and they pale in comparison.
12. BETTER: THE VISION (VS. RED TORNADO)
It’s crazy how specific the similarities between some of these comic book clones are, like with Red Tornado and The Vision. Both are androids, both have red “skin,” both have capes with very high and pointy collars, both were created by villains but turned into good guys and both have made impacts on-screen.
Red Tornado was the first among these red robots to make his comics debut, but The Vision is a major improvement on the original. Vision is not only more well-known (thanks in part to the MCU), but his powers are also way more diverse than just making tornados. Top it off with Vision’s more nuanced comic series by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta, and we’d say he wins this battle of the androids.
11. WORSE: SANDMAN (VS. CLAYFACE)
Shapeshifting villains can prove to be quite a challenge for our favorite superheroes, especially if their powers are on the scale of characters like Clayface and Sandman. Both characters have monstrous, fluid-like forms that make it almost impossible to hit them or do any kind of damage. Both characters are also somewhat under-utilized as members of their heroes’ rogues galleries.
In this case of comic clones, the original wins once again, since Clayface is a much cooler villain overall. While both villains can turn into hulking monsters with their powers, Clayface is the only one who can shapeshift into others, an ability that makes him far more dangerous beyond just strength and a much more versatile threat.
10. BETTER: AQUAMAN (VS. NAMOR)
Alongside the original Human Torch, the first ever Marvel superhero to be published was Namor, the Submariner. Namor has gone on to have a long and impressive career in the Marvel Universe, serving as member of the Invaders, the Avengers, the Defenders and the X-Men. Only two years later, DC would come up with their own Atlantean, Aquaman.
So, which water-dwelling superhero is better? We’re going to have to go with the rip-off on this one, since Aquaman is far more well-known than the Sub-mariner. Plus, we’ll take the orange scales and green tights over a speedo and ankle-wings any day!
9. WORSE: COMMANDER STEEL (VS. CAPTAIN AMERICA)
Our arguments for who wins some of these face-offs have thus far leaned towards who the more well-known character is, and we’re going to continue to use this argument for this entry. Prior to his appearance on Legends of Tomorrow, no one had a clue who the heck Commander Steel was.
Commander Steel is essentially a Captain America clone that came out a whopping 37 years after him. Both characters are American-themed superheroes that came out of WWII and were modified to become super soldiers; Cap was given the super soldier serum and Steel was given mechanical augmentations. But, like we said, Captain America is way more well known and has become far more iconic than Commander Steel, so the original wins this round.
8. BETTER: THANOS (VS. DARKSEID)
Darkseid made his first appearance back in 1971, and only two years later, Thanos showed up in the Marvel Universe. Both characters often serve as the “big bads” of their respective universes. Both are also power-mad, share similar powers and appearances, and are known for seeking out the key to all the power in the universe. For Darkseid, it’s the Anti-Life equation, and for Thanos it’s the infinity stones.
So, which space conquerer is the better bad guy? We’re going to go with Thanos, both because of how awesome he was in Infinity War and because he ended up having a bigger role in his superhero universe, arguably standing as the more iconic villain of the two.
7. WORSE: BLACK CAT (VS. CATWOMAN)
Catwoman made her comics debut in 1940, and 39 years later, Marvel would debut its own cat-themed thief, Felicia Hardy, aka Black Cat. Felicia ripped off Catwoman in a lot of ways, right down to having a love affair with the superhero who fought against her. While Black Cat has evolved into her own character by this point, as with most copy-cat characters (pun definitely intended), there’s still no beating the original cat burglar.
Catwoman has been a far more prevalent character in the Batman mythos and the DC universe as a whole, holding her own comic series while Black Cat has only been featured in mini-series. Furthermore, we think Catwoman’s costumes over the years are far better than Felicia’s strange, fur-covered, low-cut suits.
6. BETTER: ANT-MAN (VS. THE ATOM)
DC seems to have gone through a lot more silver-age reboots of golden-age heroes than Marvel. One such example was The Atom, who got a silver-age reboot in 1961, which still predates Marvel’s own shrinking hero, Ant-Man, who debuted just one year later.
Both characters are brilliant scientists who invented technology capable of changing their size, but only one comes out on top as the better character: Ant-Man. On top of being able to grow as well as shrink, Ant-Man has quite a few things going for him that The Atom does not have, like his ability to speak with and command ants and the fact that he was a founding member of the Avengers.
5. WORSE: MOON KNIGHT (VS. BATMAN)
This is another one that’s no contest, Batman is way better than Marvel’s version of the Dark Knight, Moon Knight. Though the similarities between these characters aren’t immediately evident, when you look closely, it’s pretty obvious that Moon Knight is an alternate take on Batman; in fact, many thought he was nothing more than a clone of the character.
Moon Knight eventually evolved into his own character, but if we’re comparing him to Batman, the latter will always win. It’s more than just popularity — though it’s obvious who wins in that regard — it’s also the fact that Batman was so influential that he spawned so many clones, while Moon Knight has not. Plain and simple, this rip-off does not beat the original.
4. BETTER: ULTRON (VS. BRAINIAC)
Making the decision of who’s a better character between Brainiac and Ultron was a tough one, since both characters are beloved villains with awesome character traits that were hard to compare. But, at the end of the day, we had to go with Ultron because of his popularity, his design and his origin.
Brainiac is a great villain and all, but at the end of the day, he just wanted to collect things, which is kind of a boring thing for a villain to do. Ultron, on the other hand, was created by Hank Pym to help the world, but things went horribly wrong and he became one of Marvel’s greatest villains. Plus, with his adamantium body, Ultron could easily beat Brainiac.
3. WORSE: SENTRY (VS. SUPERMAN)
This was another tough one, since Sentry served as a deconstruction and subversion of classic superheroes, so pitting him against the very hero he was based on, Superman, isn’t really a fair comparison. Sentry as a character is meant to take the idea of Superman and ask the question of what if there was a villainous force inside of him.
While this does make for some great storytelling and some great modern deconstruction of the boy-scout type superhero, we’re going to have to go with the original on this one. It’s just hard to hate Superman! He was the OG of all superheroes and he’s classic, iconic and great in every way.
2. BETTER: DEADPOOL (VS. DEATHSTROKE)
This is another strange entry on the list, since Deadpool is a direct parody of Deathstroke. However, in spoofing the character, Marvel ended up making someone way better, way more popular and way more successful. Just think about how few people know who Deathstroke is and how many people know and love Deadpool.
Deadpool is incredibly close to the character he was based on; his name is Wade Wilson, which is two letters away from Slade Wilson. He has a healing factor like Deathstroke (though Wade’s is much more powerful), he’s a mercenary like Deathstroke and he’s got a love of swords like Deathstroke. But at the end of the day, Deadpool wins this rip-off face-off, no contest.
1. BETTER: X-MEN (VS. DOOM PATROL)
In the current form of the Doom Patrol, the X-Men don’t look too much like them, but when the character first premiered, they were depicted as freaks who, despite being hated by the world, vowed to protect it. Who’s to say if the X-Men were inspired by or ripped off the Doom Patrol, but the similarities are definitely there.
As for which is better, we obviously have to go with the X-Men, who have grown into one of Marvel’s greatest super-teams and stand as the better metaphor for discrimination. The Doom Patrol got their due with Grant Morrison’s legendary, surreal run, but the X-Men still come out on top as the kings.
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