As they always say, “It’s all been done before”, or to appeal to my Battlestar Galactica brethren, “All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.” But when it comes to the sheer unoriginality of some comics characters, I can’t take it anymore. I just can’t. Obviously this has been a topic in some nerd forums since the inception of the interwebs, but I feel the need to make my most overwhelming grievances in this regard known.
There are so many head-scratchingly unoriginal characters in comics it’s almost unbelievable. I was recently watching an episode of Young Justice and saw another face I had never seen before, and my rip-off meter went deep into the red.
It’s high time we separate the prototypes from the posers, determined by date of publication. Let’s do some chronologically critical comparisons, shall we?
WASP vs BUMBLEBEE
This was the straw that broke the carbon-copy camel’s back I mentioned before. As I watched a recent episode of Young Justice, I couldn’t help but notice a female character, with the aesthetic of a small, stinging insect who can shrink to the size of said insect and blast little yellow energy blasts from her hands.
Um, what? Doesn’t that character exist as a well-known Avenger, regardless of skin color? Well as I check the Almighty Wikipedia, I find that while Wasp first appeared in Tales to Astonish #44 in 1963, Bumblebee didn’t appear until Teen Titans #45 in 1976. Of course the costume is similar, as they are both similarly themed, but DC could maybe go out of their way to carve their own unique bug-woman niche instead of just saying “But ours is black! Not the same!”
Rip-off artist: DC
DEADPOOL(WADE WILSON) vs DEATHSTROKE(SLADE WILSON)
This one is fairly well-known to comics fans, and actually has a happy ending, thanks to Marvel taking steps to not only separate their Liefeildian mutant knock-off(Deadpool) from his muse(Deathstroke), but fashion an entirely original aspect to comics narrative at the same time. While Deathstroke, who is a great villain in his own right, appeared first in The New Teen Titans in 1980, Deadpool didn’t show up for another decade, when world-famous hack/thief Rob Liefeld introduced him as a villain in a New Mutants comic at Marvel. When writer Fabian Nicieza saw the design, he was quoted as saying, “this is Deathstroke from Teen Titans”. No kidding?
Well, thankfully Deadpool was re-imagined later as a fourth-wall-breaking psychotic smart-ass anti-hero with his own successful series of books, and is now one of the most popular characters of all time, in several titles featuring his hilarious banter…with himself. He’s even maybe someday possibly going to eventually get his own solo movie, perhaps? Alas, because Deathstroke came first DC gets the win for this round, but I’d say Marvel earns some major originality points for redeeming the character of Deadpool.
Rip-off Artist: Marvel
AQUAMAN vs NAMOR
I was pretty sure going into this one that Namor came first, knowing that he was the original Marvel superhero, appearing way back in 1939’s Marvel Comics #1. Still, my curiosity got the best of me (as well as a small urge to stick it to DC), and I figure it’s time we call a spade a spade and name the True King of Atlantis. Aquaman first appeared in More Fun Comics #73, just 4 years later than the half-mutant, half-Atlantean Sub-Mariner, and has some very different, and a few comparable, abilities.
I’m not one to bash on Aquaman, as many are wont to do, and one look at his power set will tell you that a battle between these two royal bad-asses would be an epic one indeed. Namor is not one to take lightly either. They both certainly seem to have the whole “sad- bastard King sulking on a giant seashell” thing down to an art. Still, the crown goes to the more arrogant a**hole Atlantean in this match-up, King Namor himself.
Rip-off Artist: DC
X-MEN vs DOOM PATROL
Here’s a highly original concept: A group of misfit teenagers with strange and awesome powers faces supervillains and fights against bigotry and hate, led by a brilliant, compassionate hippie paraplegic. Sounds great! But… it seems there are two of those teams, and we all know in this tournament there can be only one. So who are the First-Born Freaks? It looks like everyone’s favorite Marvel mutants are the losers here, having arrived just three months after The Doom Patrol debuted in June 1963.
This is awkward. I’m curious to know Stan Lee’s reasoning behind the “coincidence”. Or could it be that The X-Men were created, but not published first; who knows? With this close of a finish, we’d have to ask the publishing houses themselves, and I doubt either side would admit to any swiping of details. By the way, the X-Men’s greatest adversaries are The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, whereas The Doom Patrol regularly battle The Brotherhood of Evil. Of course anyone with taste can agree on the better property being the X-Men, which boasts a long history of topping monthly sales charts and a string of successful films. So once again, Marvel gets points for taking their stolen goods and polishing them up real nice, but to DC go the spoils this round.
Rip-off Artist: Marvel
CHARLTON CHARACTERS & WATCHMEN
This is more of an exercise in comics history trivia, so some of you are likely aware of this in-house swipe, in which DC allowed writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons to create intentionally-similar heroes to the Charlton characters. When DC Comics bought most of Charlton’s heroes as the latter company was in the red, DC at first planned to let Moore use them for his would-be Watchmen, but later changed their minds and apparently didn’t seem to care much about the similarities when he went on to write the best-seller.
Captain Atom/Dr. Manhattan, Blue Beetle/Nite Owl, The Question/Rorshach, Nightshade/Silk Specter, Shield/The Comedian, and Ozymadias/Thunderbolt are all very clever in both their subtle shared and contradictory qualities, to be sure. Watchmen is of course a much-lauded graphic novel, having been named best of all time by many, as well as inspiring a movie and new prequel comics series. Yet, the fact remains, that DC replicated itself here. It has even been said that many of the Charlton characters were somewhat inspired by various other heroes.
Yes, all of this has happened before, and it will happen again soon; because there’s so damn many of these examples that I will need to write at least one more part to this thing. So look for me to rip myself off in Part 2.