They say there are no original ideas out there, and we can believe that. Storytelling themes are universal and we understand when a character or scene gets "borrowed" here and there.
But it's hard not to feel betrayed when you find out that some of the stories around which your entire childhood revolved were, for the most part, copied and pasted in with a cavalier attitude of, "the little bastards will never know the difference!"
We're talking about...
Mutated freaks gathered by their wheelchair bound mentor in order to protect a world that fears and hates them. You think we are talking about the X-Men? No we are not. Well, we will be in a second, and technically we are, but not in this paragraph, except for the parts where we do.
They are a Rip-Off of:
The Doom Patrol, which debuted in comics three months before everybody's favorite, more marketable mutants.
Unlike the X-Men, the Doom Patrollers were once normal people who suffered an accident that disfigured them but also gave them superpowers. Shunned by the world for just being plain ugly, the freaks were gathered by Doctor Caulder, a paraplegic, who thought that maybe the world wouldn't dislike them so much if they used their powers to save the normal people's asses from giant robots once in a while.
If this sounds somewhat familiar to you, it's because the same thing as X-Men with the only difference that the smart guy in the wheelchair was bald in one and X-Men uses mutants as an allegory for minorities instead of people with elephantiasis or whatever the heck Doom Patrol was going for.
Even the tag line is the same! At least make an effort, guys!
Possibly, the most unnecessary thing borrowed by X-Men was the name of the Doom Patrol's enemies: The Brotherhood of Evil. In Doom Patrol the name made sense; because they were a group of evil assholes, which got together to do asshole things. There was never any confusion about what the group was about.
On the other hand Magneto stole the name, added the word mutant at the end of it and then whined endlessly about how humans persecuted and hated him. Maybe people hated you, Magneto, because your group's name was The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and you went around the world trying to wipe out humanity?
How successful would the American Paraplegia Society be if they called themselves the Brotherhood of Child Molesting Guys on Wheelchairs? Magneto's weak PR skills aren't the only reason the original Brotherhood looks awesome by comparison ...
A brain in a case and an armed gorilla? How is Magneto more famous?
"Hold on a minute!" you may be shouting from your cubicle. "Not only is he one of the most famous and recognizable icons in the world, he is also the first superhero ever created! So how can he be a rip off of anything if he was the first, you idiot?"
Well, that's where you are wrong, hypothetical Cracked reader who is talking to us and for some reason insulting us even though you are figment of our imagination; Superman may be the first superhero, but not the first character with those superpowers.
He is a Rip-Off of:
Philip Wylie's wrote a pulp novel called Gladiator in 1930, starring Hugo Danner, a man whose father invents a secret formula that can create superpowers. Instead of selling it and making millions, he just injects it into his son, because, hey, why not? Hugo gains super strength, bullet proof skin and the ability to jump over the tallest building in a single bound. Jumping, not flying--so it's sort of different, right? Well, actually, in Superman's early years he couldn't fly either, just jump really high.
All he was missing was the laser/telescopic eyes and the million retarded powers Superman pulled out of his ass in the 50s. And it was published eight years before Superman appeared.
But superpowers are kind of standard, right? Super strength? Hell, Hercules had that! It doesn't mean it's a rip-off!
But the resemblance doesn't end there. Both Superman and Hugo Danner grew up in a small farming town. Supes in Kansas and Danner in Colorado. Both pretended to be meek and weak to prevent people from finding out about their superpowers. And both had a special place where they went to be alone: Superman had his fortress of solitude in the Arctic, and Donner had his own place in northern Canada. Of course, his didn't have the total emo name, which really only proves that he was less of a huge tool.
And to boot, the first image of Superman the world saw, the cover of Action Comics #1, recreates a scene of the Gladiator novel where Hugo loses his shit, lifts up a car and scares the crap out of everyone.
"And fuck you for cutting me... I mean Clark Kent off in the intersection."
Oh sure, Gladiator doesn't have five movies, several TV shows, a crapload of cartoons, a 70-year-old still going comic book and millions of dollars from merchandise. But he sure tapped way more ass than Supes.
No, we're not talking about the fact that The Lion King was Disney's take on Hamlet (interestingly, Shakespeare originally intended to have his plays performed by animals but had to reconsider when his lions escaped and caused the London Massacre of 1600).
But Disney wasn't happy to just rely on the bard, and massively ripped off an old Japanese cartoon just to wipe away any inadvertent hint of originality.
It is a Rip-Off of:
Kimba, the small albino lion cub in the picture, is the creation of legendary Japanese cartoonist, Osamu Tezuka, creator of other famous characters like Astro Boy. And this is were you go "Kimba? But the Disney lion is called Simba. OH! Wait, they are lions and their names sound alike; that's all?" Oh no, that's not all, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Or should we say theftberg?(Ed: Since you asked, no, you should not.)
Even though Disney denies it, it has slipped more than once that The Lion King was initially a remake of Kimba, including this early sketch with Simba colored white that was included in one of the DVD versions:
Maybe the color blind won't notice.
At some point Disney decided not to inform whoever holds the right for Kimba about this remake, recolored the lion cub and went to town. The Lion King also borrows scenes and characters like the shaman monkey, Simba's bird friend and the evil comedy relief hyenas.
The main bad guy in Kimba was Kimba's aunt, while Disney's version gave her a sex change operation and she became Simba's uncle. And some of the most famous scenes from the movie were practically Xeroxed from Kimba, including the one where Simba speaks with the ghost of his father who appeared in the clouds.
Here's a little experiment. Turn the tables, and try to create a cartoon series about a high-pitch-voiced mouse called "Mikey" and his friend "Ronald Duck." Start selling merchandise for these characters, and see how long it takes you to hear from Disney's lawyers.