9 Iconic Superheroes Who Were Based On Real People

Superheroes are larger than life, so it's no surprise they're often based on celebrities. Sometimes it's a marketing ploy for an entertainer. Sometimes an actor writes a comic starring himself as the main character to impress producers. Sometimes you invent a hero named Mightyman and draw him to resemble your dad so that he might finally say he loves you even though your stoic New England family isn't much for such expressions.

We're not talking about those folks. We're talking straight-up sneaky likeness infringement.

#9. The Avengers

When I was a kid in the '90s, mourning nameless S.H.I.E.L.D. agents gunned down by Hydra, I didn't think anybody else cared about Marvel's secret agency. Nick Fury's spy career had simmered down to that of a plot device. He only showed up to send the X-Men into space, point Punisher at targets, and treat Quasar like a respectable character who didn't have a mullet.

How wrong I was! These days, S.H.I.E.L.D. has its own TV show and a character's death will be mourned more than my real one.

ABC
Double if she's played enough superheroes to populate her own comic universe.

What happened? A little thing called The Ultimate Universe. Marvel retold their characters' stories from scratch: no decades of continuity weighing them down like Iron Man armor on Captain America.

Marvel
And therefore no need to admit this happened.

The new version of The Avengers was Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's The Ultimates. And it kicked your ass in your ass's balls. S.H.I.E.L.D. was now in charge of The Avengers. Hulk was a terrifying threat. Captain America could rout a battalion single-handedly. Hawkeye went from the most laughable member to the only one you could rely on. It was the blueprint for everything that makes the movies so damn good.

The Basis:

Millar and Hitch fantasy-cast their book with some top stars of the day. Like this Brad Pitt-ish Captain America ...

Marvel
Why, he looks downright pitt-uitary!

Heck, there's even a scene where The Ultimates fantasy-cast The Ultimates:

Marvel
You know you lack heart when Ant-Man feels comfortable shitting on you ...

And Nick Fury? Well, this was 2002, and the only celebrities who admitted they read comics were Freddie Prinze Jr. and Samuel L. Jackson.

Marvel
Prinze didn't get to play a superhero in the book, but he did go on a date
with Hulk's main squeeze, Betty.

You got that? Jackson isn't just the only man badass enough to play Nick Fury; Fury is remodeled on how badass Jackson is. Marvel's just lucky the actor was pleased by the nod and wanted to play the part in the inevitable movie instead of suing them.

Prinze's present-day whereabouts are unknown.

#8. The Killer And The Fox

Remember 2008's Wanted, in which Lara Croft taught Professor X how to bend bullet trajectories by hitting him with a car? There was also an assassins guild that took its orders from The Textile Mill Of Fate.


Morgan Freeman also does this in real life.

The movie was very loosely based on a 2003 comic about an introverted nerd who discovers he has superpowers. In the comic version, he uses them to murder, rape, and steal without opposition. Described as "Watchmen for supervillains," the result was much closer to "Spider-Man for men's rights activists."

Mark Millar/JG Jones
Assuming such a man would ever listen to what a woman has to teach him.

The Basis:

Millar was fantasy-casting up a storm in this period, when Eminem still epitomized angry white suburbia. Around the same time, Halle Berry was tapped to play Catwoman, so the Scottish author and artist J.G. Jones slotted her as The Fox, a Catwoman analogue.

The Killer inherited his powers from his dad, who looks like a hybrid of Tommy Lee Jones and Charles Bronson.

Mark Millar/JG Jones
But with a much lower body count than the real-life Jones.

When the film got momentum, Eminem declined to play the lead, and Millar's fellow Glaswegian James McAvoy got the role. Slim Shady would have to wait a couple of years for his authorized comic debut in a team-up with the Punisher. Meanwhile, I am still waiting for DC to make good on the contest I won to appear in 1995's Guy Gardner: Warrior.

#7. Constantine

John Constantine is a warlock and star of DC's Vertigo li- wait, I don't have to explain this one, right? He had a show on NBC and his own Keanu Reeves movie: two honors seldom bestowed on the British working-class.

DC
Nor on characters who impregnate gangsters with their dead sons' Antichrists.

Constantine's superpower is he always wins. I know you think that's Batman, but if the two ever fought, Batman would wear anti-magical armor while Constantine just tricks him into sacrificing Robin to the devil.

DC
He never cheats; he just games the rules to their breaking point.

He debuted in Swamp Thing as an antagonistic ally, then spent 25 years as Vertigo's flagship character in Hellblazer. Because he was a Brit in the '80s, he was also in a short-lived punk band called Mucous Membrane. All of Britain was in a punk band then, including Margaret Thatcher, who drummed for an oi trio called The Margaret Thatcher Yeast Infection.

The Basis:

Believe it or not, Sting was the face of British cool before he was the face of VH1.

Artists Stephen Bissette and John Totleben didn't have many requests of writer Alan Moore in their collaboration on Swamp Thing, but one of them was to depict a character who looked just like Sting. Thankfully, Dune wouldn't come out for another nine months or so after Constantine was created, so we weren't treated to a violent psychopath in a leather diaper.

Universal Pictures
Which is odd, because that's a good description of most superheroes.

What had come out was Quadrophenia, The Who's go-nowhere rock opera about life as a Mod, starring one Gordon Sumner Belfrey Doubletoff Stingington III, better known as Sting.

The Who Films
It was basically The Harder They Come of Mod culture.

Look at that, with the skinny tie and everything.

#6. Spiral

Marvel
She needs five arms just to count the powers she has.

I'm not even going to try to explain Spiral's origin to you, as it requires a PowerPoint presentation that plays in reverse, pauses in the middle, and resumes on a different computer in a building across town.

Marvel
That said, it's really worth reading.

Just know that she's a great fighter and has whatever superpowers the X-Men writers want to give her this week. Mostly teleportation and spell-casting. Before she got her powers she was a stuntwoman called "Ricochet" Rita. And Rita was a dead ringer for her own creator ...

The Basis:

Did beloved comic writer Ann Nocenti know that Art Adams was drawing Longshot's girlfriend, Rita, in her likeness? Because, if so, this is officially the worthiest Mary Sue story ever published.

Marvel
Good start, but needs more arms.

Nocenti's far from the only writer to appear in her own creation. Grant Morrison does it every other week, and Stan Lee wrote Spider-Man's editor, J. Jonah Jameson, as a cantankerous parody of himself. The Godfather of Marvel also suffered a portrayal at DC when Jack Kirby grudgingly devised Funky Flashman, a silver-tongued, leisure-suited opportunist.

But since neither of those guys has superpowers, let's look at the hero Flashman antagonizes ...

#5. Mister Miracle

Scott Free is the god of escape. He can slip out of any trap except the one of your heart, girl. He's had practice; as a child he was hostage-swapped by his dad to a prison planet ruled by Lord Darkseid Space-Hitler Thanos.

DC
Darkseid is so intimidating, not even his shadow will follow him.

The Basis:

Mister Miracle may be the universe's greatest escape artist, but he's only an imitation of real-life escapologist, magician, boxer, and comic artist Jim Steranko. Steranko is a guy so impressive that the king of comics had to make his superhero a god just to keep him believable, and yet Miracle only has a quarter of Steranko's talents. Steranko's even a better superhero, like that time he bitch-slapped Batman's "creator" Bob Kane and dedicated it to writer Bill Finger.

Collider.com
He looks even slicker today, if you can believe it.

Interestingly, Steranko's art and writing gave Nick Fury enough oomph to make S.H.I.E.L.D. an ongoing thing, so Sam Jackson can probably thank him for that too. He is still active and appearing at comic conventions, but you don't have enough money to pay him to escape death-defying traps.

DC
Mister Miracle's just giving it away, though.

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Brendan McGinley

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