Who ripped off who? Part 2
Welcom to part 2 of "Who ripped off who"? I had a lot of good responses to part 1, as well as some requests to do a part 2. The same thing applies to this article. This is not a Marvel Vs. DC discussion. I repeat, this is NOT a Marvel Vs. DC discussion. The purpose of these articles is to show that while some characters and stories may seem like they were stolen from the other company, its very hard to understand the true intentions of the writers. Were they ripping off another company for a quick money grab? Were they maliciously trying to outdue the competition by showing that they can do their competitor's character even better? Or were they simply inspired by the work of another, and wanted to show that inspiration in their own work? Again, this is something that is next to impossible to know for sure. So lets get to it.
A further look at shared ideas in the comic book industry.
Superman (June 1938) and the Legion of Superheroes (1958) / Gladiator and The Imperial Guard (Oct 1977)
Today we'll start with Superman again. Superman has been mimicked by many characters over the years and Gladiator is no exception. Gladiator is a member of the Strontian alien race. Much like Superman, Gladiator has the abilities of super strength, super speed and reflexes, heat vision, frost breath, super human stamina, and durability. All of these powers are obviously derived from the Man of Steel. The only real difference in their powers is that the level of Gladiator's powers increases and decreases with his confidence level. Much like Superman's weakness to Kryptonite, Gladiator is also vulnerable to a certain rare form of space radiation. If all of these things are not evidence enough, Gladiator's real name is Kallark. An amalgamation of Superman's Krypton name Kal-El and Earth name Clark Kent. Kal-Lark. Get it?
It is also important to mention that Gladiator is the leader of the Imperial Guard. Another team that is full of characters that directly mimic characters in the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Imperial Guard: Mentor = Brainiac 5 / Earthquake = Blok / Fang = Timber Wolf / Nightside = Shadow Lass / Hobgoblin = Chameleon Boy / Oracle = Saturn Girl / Smasher = Ultra Boy / Manta = Lightning Lass / Scintilla = Shrinking Violet / Electron = Cosmic Boy / Titan = Colossal Boy / Astra = Phantom Girl / Pulsa = Wildfire
Deathstroke the Terminator (Dec 1980) / Deadpool (Feb 1991)
This is one of the rare cases where the creator actually fully admits that their creation is a direct parody of someone else's character. Creators Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza came up with the idea for a new character. Liefeld was tasked with drawing a concept. When he showed the concept to Nicieza, Nicieza quickly replied, "This is Deathstroke." Deadpool was so like Deathstroke that Nicieza was afraid they would be sued. Deadpool and Deathstroke both have healing factors, are incredibly skilled assassins, they both use a mix of guns of blades, and their costumes are very similar looking. Both characters were also the villains of teenaged teams as well. Deathstroke primarily targeted the Teen Titans while Deadpool went after The New Mutants. Also their names are a dead give away. Deathstroke is Slade Wilson, and Deadpool is Wade Wilson. Deadpool is a rare case. He was originally created as a direct parody, yet over the years he has taken on a life of his own. Originally, he appeared as only a smart-mouth who talked too much, much in the vein of Spider-Man. However, he eventually discovered that he is just a character in a comic book, and ever since then, he has taken on a completely new persona. One which makes most characters that interact with him think he is completely idiotic and insane.
Darkseid (Nov 1970) / Thanos (Feb 1973)
There is a lot of debate over whether or not Thanos is actually a rip off of Darkseid, so I thought it important to include this. When asked, Jim Starlin, the cretor of Thanos, had this to say:
"Kirby had done the New Gods, which I thought was terrific. He was over at DC at the time. I came up with some things that were inspired by that. You'd think that Thanos was inspired by Darkseid, but that was not the case when I showed up. In my first Thanos drawings, if he looked like anybody, it was Metron. I had all these different gods and things I wanted to do, which became Thanos and the Titans. Roy took one look at the guy in the Metron-like chair and said : "Beef him up! If you're going to steal one of the New Gods, at least rip off Darkseid, the really good one!"
So initially, Thanos may not have necessarily been a direct rip off of Darkseid. The final version of Thanos and the Titans, however, were obviously heavily influenced by Darkseid and the New Gods. It is also important to note that Thanos is obsessed with Death, while Darkseid is all about the Anti-Life Equation, which is really just another way of saying death.
Red Tornado (Aug 1968) / Vision (Oct 1968)
This is another one of those cases where both characters debuted so close together that it is truly hard to imagine that they were stolen ideas...originally anyways. Both characters derived their names from very obscure characters from the Golden Age of Comics. They are both robots that were created by villains. Red Tornado was created by T.O. Morrow while Vision was created by Ultron. Both characters were sent on a mission by these villains to destroy super teams. Vision was sent to destroy the Avengers while Red Tornado was sent to destroy the Justice Society of America. After being sent on these missions, Red Tornado and Vision would end up betraying their creators and joining the very teams they were sent to destroy. Another funny coincidence is the fact that they both have red skin. Regardless of how close together these characters and stories were created, the coincidences just seem too numerous to write off.
However, even if you are one to write this off as coincidence, the truly unwrite-offable occurs later on in their comic careers. Both characters ended up having different beings or "entities" living inside their minds. Vision had Simon "Wonder Man" Williams' brain patterns imprinted on his own, while Red Tornado had a being called the Tornado Champion living within him. Both characters also ended up falling in love with human women, Scarlet Witch and Kathy Sutton.
Suicide Squad (Sept 1959) / Thunderbolts (Feb 1997)
At first the only real similarities between these two is the fact that they are both a team of B-list villains that joined together to fight the forces of evil. The Suicide Squad is a secret government program that took dangerous criminals with no chance of rehabilitation, and sent them suicide missions. The criminals were mostly second raters and agreed to take on these missions because they had nothing else to hope for in life. They were stuck in prison for life, but were offered commuted sentences for taking on missions that would almost certainly kill them. This also helped explain how villains were constantly getting captured by heroes and then being seen running loose again. The revolving door of the criminal justice system if you will. The most notable characters in the Suicide Squad were Rick Flag Jr., Bronze Tiger, Deadshot, and Captain Boomerang. The Thunderbolts were originally the Masters of Evil in disguise, and they were doing good deeds to further Baron Zemo's own motives. It wasn't until later in the Thunderbolts' run that they were taken under the wing of the government and used in much the same way as the Suicide Squad. Presently, the Thunderbolts program takes prisoners that they feel can be rehabilitated, put them on the Thunderbolts team, and give them a chance at redemption. This has actually worked for a number of former villains, namely Songbird, Moonstone, Mach V, and Fixer. Other T-Bolts that have not been rehabilitated by the program include Venom, Bullseye, Crossbones, and Juggernaut. There have many other characters that have had a shot at the T-Bolts' lineup over the years.
Super Hero Registration Acts
The idea of superhuman registration acts has been used quite a few times. Most notable and memorable is the recent Marvel story Civil War. In this story, a tragedy befalls a small town that kills thousands of innocent people. This tragedy was caused by a young, inexperienced team of would-be superheroes. The general public voted for the government to enact and enforce a registration act that forced superhumans to register their identities or be thrown in super jail. This was hardly the first time this kind of thing has been done in comics.
In DC's monumental Kingdom Come storyline, Superman reforms the Justice League after they have been disassembled for years. The children of superpowered heroes and villains alike have now grown up and do not know the meaning of truth and justice. These people are now rampaging across the globe and fighting for the sake of it, destroying city after city in their wake. Superman and his newly reformed Justice League decide to take matters into their own hands, and more or less create a worldwide police state for super powered individuals. These people are given a choice, join the Justice League and fight for justice, or be thrown in a gulag for re-education and reinstitution purposes.
Again, this was not the first time a story like this was done.
In the 80's a prominent storyline in X-Men comics revolved around the Mutant Registration Act. Again, the government tried to force mutants to register their powers with them, or be contained. This was taken to an extreme with the creation of what is now one of the most hated and feared enemies of the X-Men, the Sentinels. The ultimate symbol of hate and prejudice towards mutants the world had ever seen.
And there you have it. More examples of companies rehashing ideas. Were these malicious acts? Were the creators out of ideas? Or are some examples just a sign of the times. A time when the comic community/industry as a whole was much smaller, and ideas were easier to get a hold of? Unless these explanations are ever given, only you can be the judge.
As always, thanks for reading,
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