6 Famous Characters You Didn't Know Were Shameless Rip-Offs
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...
Note: When we ran this article (and others like it) five years ago, we had one goal: expose Batman, Superman, the X-Men and Green Lantern as the blatant rip-offs they are, and scuttle the popularity of superheroes once and for all. We figured that if you knew that these characters weren't 100% original, you'd stop going to their movies, stop buying their merchandise, and move on to other stories -- but our plan failed! All you did was laugh at the jokes and use the trivia to get laid, and both Batman and Superman have made a hundred bajillion dollars at the box office since.
Curses! We'll get you next time, super-jerks! Oh, and enjoy this Cracked Classic. -Cracked
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.
The Lion King
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?
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.
Although the G.I. Joe action figures have existed since the 60s, it wasn't until 1982 that they gained personalities, an actual story and their very own nemesis; becoming the G.I. Joe we know and love. And we're not talking about the 1996 "extreme" version which we prefer to ignore and hate.
The enemy was of course Cobra, a snake themed terrorist organization with a soft spot in their dark hearts for secret fortresses, giant lasers and parachutes (safety first!).
They are a Rip-Off of:
Oh, and also:
Cobra is what you get when two other snake themed terrorist groups, DC Comics's Kobra and Marvel's Hydra, get drunk one night and have awkward sex in the back of Kobra's dad's Honda Civic. And since both Kobra and Hydra were created by the same person, the legendary Jack Kirby, that's incest and it's wrong! Kirby had a Honda Civic? Yes, don't question us!
Hydra was created in 1965, as an enemy organization of Nick Fury's S.H.I.E.L.D. while Kobra was created in 1976, and even were the stars of their own comic. And let it never be said that the comics industry doesn't like to recycle good ideas, or at least snake-themed terrorist organizations.
When HASBRO decided to revive the G.I. Joe action figures, they contacted Marvel to publish a comic about the new version. Marvel then dug through the trash and rescued a rejected pitch for a new comic. It was about a group of elite S.H.I.E.L.D. soldiers and Nick Fury's son fighting against Hydra. They just changed "Hydra" to "Cobra" and "Nick Fury Jr." to "Duke" and the rest is 80s icon history. Considering this is the comic version of going to a restaurant and having the chef pull out a burger out of the garbage can, it worked pretty well.
Anything else besides all of them being snake themed ultra high-tech criminal organizations? Oh yes! Hydra and Cobra like to hire dominatrix girls and put them in charge of the troops. That way if the troops don't do their job the commander has to "punish" their naughty asses... Hmmm... maybe that's why these guys never win.
And here is another odd one. Lord Kobra, from DC's Kobra, had a brother, who was one of the good guys. Because they were twins, they could feel what happened to the other, which probably made masturbation creepy beyond belief. Twin brother who could feel what the other was feeling? Doesn't that sound a lot like Cobra's very own Tomax and Xamot?
We have to agree with Kobra here, Twinsy, you are just being an ass.
Wait... Tomax? Xamot?
Have you guys noticed they are the same spelled backwards? WHOAAA! It only took us 20 years.
The Green Lantern
Green Lantern is the only superhero who can make a giant cue the shape of a dong to play pool with planets, and yet get his ass kicked by Sesame Street's Big Bird because he's allergic to the color yellow.
He is a Rip-Off of:
The classic space opera series Lensman started in 1937, and since then, just like Thomas Jefferson before it, fought injustice and left enough bastard children around to populate a small city.
Every sci-fi series with some sort of space police owes something to Lensman, from the Jedi Knights of Star Wars to Buzz Lightyear. If it has space policemen then it's ripping off Lensman or ripping off something that ripped it off first. The apple that fell closest to the tree was the Green Lantern Corps.
The first Green Lantern was created just one year after the first Lensman story was published, but back then Green Lantern was just one guy who found a magic ring and he wasn't weak against yellow but to wood, making the banana tree the only natural predator of all Green Lanterns. Or maybe, also, really racist cartoons of Asian people with baseball bats.
In 1950, the original Green Lantern had been out of print for quite a few years and DC comics thought it was time to bring back the name. Now this time he was part of a group of space policemen, which are like regular policemen but they stop black people in fancy cars in space. Now, unlike the Jedi Knights who were happy to just copy the general idea of space policemen and a few things here and there, the Green Lanterns Corps went overboard.
The Lensmen were created by the most advanced alien race in the universe, the Arisians. The Green Lanterns were created by the Oans. The Lensmen are chosen for being the epitome of bravery and honesty, just like the Green Lanterns (how they even measure that is never explained, probably have them fill out a questionnaire). Finally, both organizations give their member a special, unique weapon that can be used by nobody else but the person to whom it was given. In Lensmen's case a lens that gives them telepathic powers, and in Green Lantern's case the ring that can't protect you from banana peels.
The creators of Green Lantern deny even knowing about Lensman, which is odd coming from sci-fi writers talking about a sci-fi series that was well known in its time. It would be like "Star Wars? Nope, doesn't ring a bell..." coming from your local nerd. As a bit of a nod and wink, a Green Lantern was created as a homage to the Lensman series (Arisia, named after the planet where the Arisians from Lensman come from).
Also, although it doesn't count as a rip-off, according to comic historians the Oans, the blue midget aliens who go around giving out Green Lantern rings, are based on David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel. And we are including the picture because we love the side by side comparisons pictures thing.
That's just weird.
Oh, shit. We went there.
He is a Rip-Off of:
El Zorro! Yes, the guy with the sword.
Zorro, created by Johnston McCulley, debuted in 1919 in the pulp magazine All Story Weekly. And while some of the things that make Batman Batman were inspired by other sources (his rogues gallery was inspired by the army of fugly mutants Dick Tracy has been putting in jail since 1931) a big bunch of them were copied from Zorro.
Zorro was first at being a millionaire playboy-slash-dark costumed evil face puncher. Zorro had a secret cave under his mansion where he kept his horse and Zorro stuff, not unlike a certain caped crusader. The big difference being that Zorro didn't call it the Zorrocave or the Zorrohorse.
Zorro was also the first hero with a butler, his trusty servant Bernardo. But Alfred is probably more useful since Bernardo was deaf and mute. With Alfred you just have to yell "Hey, go make me a hotdog." With Bernard you have to mimic putting a sausage in your mouth, rub your tummy and then hope he doesn't think you want him to fellate you.
And last, Zorro also hid his secret costumed persona by pretending to be a complete foppish rich douche long before Bruce Wayne. Although, to be fair, the Scarlet Pimpernel invented this one in 1903, but nobody counts him since he committed the crime of having a superhero name that was lame despite having the word "pimp" in it.
The connections are so obvious DC comics doesn't bother to deny them. In fact, the movie lil' Bruce Wayne goes to see with his parents the night they're shot is The Mark of Zorro.
A clever nod to the original masked vigilante? Maybe. Or maybe in an effort to keep their secret safe, Batman's creators were trying to send a message to children: if you go see anything with Zorro in it, your family will be killed.
To see rip-offs of our rip-offs, check out 9 Foreign Rip-Offs Cooler Than The Hollywood Originals. Or find out about some powers that science is ripping off from comic books, in 5 Superpowers Science Will Give Us in Our Lifetime.
And check out the sites that "inspire originality" in us every day in our Top Picks Section.