If you're worried that pop culture is starting to run out of ideas and is endlessly recycling bullshit, let us put your mind at ease: It ran out of ideas a long, long time ago. And when it comes to ripping off characters, we're not just talking about broad archetypes here; we're talking about companies swiping entire designs and backstories, often down to the smallest detail. And why not? It's not exactly hard to get away with it, and it's not like the fans care. Before today, did you even know that ...
7The Main Characters From Street Fighter Were Copied From The Karate Idiot
Dial your memory way back to the early '90s, when the most popular home console fighting game of all time was Street Fighter II, in which masters of every fighting style, from kung fu to kickboxing to sumo wrestling to ... yoga, for some reason, come together to pummel the shit out of each other in a contest that violates every possible rule in every one of those sports at the same time.
The hero of the game is Ryu, the karate expert who isn't Ken and is best known for that classic karate ability of blowing blue fireballs out of one's hands. Sagat is the Muay Thai expert from Thailand -- you know, the guy who shouts "Tiger uppercut!" Let's face it, you still have that sound effect in your head. Despite what you might think, there actually was a first Street Fighter. It was an arcade game released in 1987 which introduced both the hero Ryu and primary antagonist Sagat ... both of whom stole their appearance from a popular '70s manga called Karate Baka Ichidai -- roughly translated, "The Karate Idiot," which sounds like the alternate title for Beverly Hills Ninja.
Now, we've mentioned before that the Japanese gaming scene in the 1980s kind of played fast and loose with this sort of thing -- the Street Fighter II character "M. Bison" was originally supposed to be the boxer who looks a lot like Mike Tyson until they swapped the names around to avoid a lawsuit. Well, in this case, the hero of Karate Baka Ichidai was a character named Yoshiji Soeno, a karate expert with black hair and a white robe ...
Discotek Media, Capcom
Ryu, on the right.
... who, to be fair, was himself based on a real guy named Mas Oyama. His nemesis was Reiba, a tall, bald Muay Thai expert with an eye patch.
Discotek Media, Capcom
"They're nothing alike! Our guy's eye patch is totally on the other eye!"
There's no need to bother arguing coincidence here. The character designer for Street Fighter, 22-year-old Keiji Inafune, was a fan of the comic who apparently confused the concepts of "homage" and "straight-up plagiarism." And here's why this matters: If they'd done things the right way and purchased the rights to the characters, gamers everywhere could be playing Karate Idiot V right now.
6Marvel Comics' Thanos Is Editorially-Approved Plagiarism
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Even if everything you know about Marvel Comics comes from the Avengers franchise, you've still heard the name "Thanos" thrown about. He's the big purple alien with some kind of horrible skin condition who keeps trying to collect all the Chaos Emeralds so he can rule the universe. We think we've got that right.
"Earth, wind, water, heart? Wait, no. Triceratops, Pterodactyl, Sabretooth tiger? Come on, work."
Of course, fans of comics who don't adhere religiously to brand loyalty might notice that Thanos looks strikingly similar to DC Comics villain Darkseid. And by "similar," we mean "virtually identical, except for a skin color a few notches away on the color wheel."
Also, Darkseid skips abs day.
This is not an accident. Fans long suspected that Thanos was a direct copy of Darkseid, down to the fact that both are rebellious members of a council of otherwise benign alien gods, and both seek to ultimately control or eliminate all life in the universe. But Thanos creator Jim Starlin denies this charge, instead blaming his editor, Roy Thomas -- a man whose job is usually to prevent plagiarism, not encourage it.
According to Starlin, he was inspired by DC's "New Gods" series, which introduced Darkseid, but he didn't set out to totally copy it. He merely borrowed bits and pieces while designing Thanos as an otherwise-original character who looked nothing remotely like Darkseid.
Upon seeing Starlin's concept art, Thomas thought the idea was great, except for one thing: They should go ahead and change everything about the character until he looked exactly like Darkseid, with enough minor differences that they could plausibly dodge a lawsuit.
Roy Thomas to DC legal.
It wouldn't be the first time, after all. Marvel and DC rip each other off all the time, and maybe this was revenge for ...