Just because you've created one masterpiece doesn't mean everything you touch is going to be gold (we're looking at you, seasons 2,3 and 4 of Heroes). For further proof, just take a look at the real and grossly ill-conceived follow-ups to some of these beloved classics.
Joe Simon and Jack Kirby were true visionaries: They created Captain America in late 1940, a full year before the U.S. got involved in World War II, and they had him punching Hitler in the face as early as March 1941. When Marvel Comics put out the first issue of Captain America, the character became an overnight sensation. Simon and Kirby were immediately flooded by fan mail and even death threats from Nazi sympathizers.
So when Marvel relaunched the character in 1953 without Simon or Kirby's involvement, they called bullshit. Similar to the creators of Superman, they felt they had been swindled and decided to do something about it. Unlike Superman's creators, they didn't even try to come up with a new character - they simply did a Captain America rip-off at another company. This time Simon and Kirby owned the copyright, so by their own admission, they "were determined to make the public forget about Captain America." Here's what they came up with:
Fighting American's origin story reads a lot like an extended sketch for The Colbert Report: a brave newscaster volunteers for a government experiment after his war hero brother is murdered by communists. The story plots were literally inspired by Senator McCarthy's anti-communist agenda:
Remember, kids: If you don't feed Freedom at least twice a day it could die, and we're not buying you a new one.
Communists weren't just criminals for Fighting American, they barely classified as human. In one issue, Simon and Kirby had the hero trapped between commies and actual demons, but you could hardly tell the difference between both sides.
Fighting American greets everyone by hoisting them over his head.
Simon and Kirby had previously found success by making Nazi-bashing comics, so they figured they could do the same thing with the Reds. The problem was that around this same time, Senator McCarthy's dubious methods were starting to raise some eyebrows in the American public. One Jack Kirby biography states that "public opinion veered so violently against McCarthy, Jack and Joe had to rush to change the direction of Fighting American's next issue."
So, from one issue to the next, the comic went from a dead-serious tale of Communist-bashing patriotism and political intrigue to a wacky parody of the exact same type of rhetoric, using the old "it was a joke all along!" excuse. Some sections seemed taken straight out of Mad Magazine:
Borscht jokes never get old.
During this period, Fighting American's villains became more culturally diverse. Now he also battled the monstrous Japanese...
...resulting in what might very well be the most xenophobic comic ever. Another troubling aspect of the series was the main character's problematic tendency to be depicted in bedroom scenes with his young sidekick.
Sales remained low and the comic was canceled after seven issues, but the character's undignified story continued decades later, when he was bought by a company paradoxically called Awesome Comics.
Who'd want to buy the rights to an obscure character that was the clear product of self-plagiarism? Another plagiarist, of course. In the 90s, Marvel Comics sued a former artist for infringing Captain America's copyright by "creating" a thinly veiled rip-off called Agent: America. As a way to justify the resemblance, the artist bought the rights to Fighting American and fused him with the other guy. The court fell for it, and Awesome Comics continued inflicting the character upon modern audiences, officially establishing the most pathetic reasons behind a character revival ever.
After the release of the PC game Quake--itself a follow up to the industry-changing Doom--game designer John Romero was on top of the world. In 1996, Romero left the company he had helped found, id Software, to set up a new one called ION Storm, located on the lavish penthouse floor of a Dallas skyscraper. The man was already living like a rock star when his publisher paid him a $13 million advance for his highly anticipated next game.
Like Samson, he lost his power if he cut his hair.
When Time Magazine did a profile on Romero, he described the new game like it was the greatest advance to gaming since the invention of hands. He explained how the game's advanced AI technology would allow them to create believable supporting characters that would "boost emotional involvement and, eventually, help turn mere games into immersive dramas." He envisioned a future where instead of watching TV, audiences would "tune into" ION's website to catch the latest installment of a game called ...
The hype surrounding Daikatana was unlike anything else in the history of ever. Ever. New gaming websites were being created for the sole purpose of keeping up with the latest info on Romero's upcoming masterpiece. And then, amidst the enormous expectation of the crescent online community, ION published this ad:
"Suck It Down" was a slogan that Gatorade also briefly considered.
Now, where we come from, if you promise someone you're gonna turn them into your bitch, you should buy a few lotions, put out some candles and keep that Isaac Hayes record spinning until the needle catches fire. John Romero did not do any of that. John Romero brought some Doritos and a Billy Ocean cassette.
This marks the first Billy Ocean reference in Cracked history.
The ad wasn't just douchey, it also proved to be a disastrous mistake that seriously damaged the company. It was the product of ION's arrogance: They were so sure they'd have the game ready by Christmas that they bought a shitload of ad space in advance, so when the time came around and Daikatana still wasn't anywhere near ready, they had to do SOMETHING with it, right? They couldn't just print an ad with Romero and his partner Tom Hall looking stupid and- actually, that would have been preferable.
We'll never know, because Daikatana finally came out in 2000, three years after its announced release date. And, in a shocking twist no one could have anticipated, it sucked. The highly advanced AI technology Romero had praised? It turned out to involve enemies running towards the player and getting trapped helplessly behind random objects. Other bad guys walked around completely ignoring you, even if you attacked them repeatedly.
But the suckiest part of the game was the part that was supposed to make us all wet our pants in amazement: the infamous sidekick system.
Also known as the "Jar Jar" effect.
The player was forced to collaborate with two annoying computer controlled characters, losing the game if they were killed or left behind. Watch this video where a player tries to get his sidekicks to pick up a necessary item, which causes them to chase each other in circles:
The thing is, Daikatana would have been bad even if they'd met their release date. But by getting delayed until 2000, it would wind up coming out after a little game called Half Life completely redefined the genre. It'd be like if you went to a concert where Elvis was the opening act, and the next act that took the stage did The Aristocrats.
When pulp writer Johnston McCulley published a story called The Curse of Capistrano in 1919 and included the character Zorro, he had no idea he'd be writing about the masked swordsman until he dropped dead in 1958. But in the mid 1920s McCulley wanted to break out from Zorro and focus on a new creation, a modern day Robin Hood he called ...
The cover would seem to suggest that The Crimson Clown was the codename for some sort of voyeuristic pervert. The truth was even more disturbing: He was an actual clown.
What's scarier than a clown pointing a gun at you? A clown pointing a gun at you while drunk.
A clown who fights crime. Or is a criminal, we're not sure. We're going to level with you here: We're way out of our depth on this one. This shit is just too bizarre for us, so we'll let the back cover of a recent re-edition explain what it's about:
"[The Crimson Clown]'s back with more insane adventures involving his red clown outfit, his handy syringe full of a knockout potion and his penchant for stealing from the rich and giving half to charity."
Wait, why only half? Read on:
"The other half he keeps for himself to pay for clown outfits and syringes."
We'd like to think that anyone who spends large amounts of money on clown outfits and syringes MUST be on some kind of government watch list ...
"Take a close look at this picture. I am going to rape you."
But sadly that's not so, because the Crimson Clown always managed to keep his secret identity of millionaire playboy Delton Prouse hidden from his nemesis, Police Detective Donler. Most stories involved the Clown knocking himself out with his own sleeping drug to make it look like he was just another victim, and apparently Detective Donler didn't think it was too strange that the same millionaire playboy was getting mugged and tied up all over town. Perhaps he noticed the 30 needle marks in his arm and figured the guy was just a junkie (which would actually explain a lot).
"See you in your nightmares."
The Crimson Clown's saga reached its bizarre climax in 1931. McCulley retired the character the same year, and wouldn't write another story featuring him until 1944. Thankfully, mid-40s audiences with their swing music, women's shoulder pads and concentration camps proved to be far too sophisticated for the Crimson Clown, so the revival only lasted for one story. McCulley mostly stuck to Zorro from then on... as he probably should have done from the beginning.