5 Villains That Were Thinly-Veiled Versions of Real People
For those of you who've ever dreamed of turning your childhood enemies into objects of ridicule and hatred, with a side of jackass to boot, this list is for you. These iconic fictional characters were based on real-life people, and their creators couldn't give the least bit of a damn who knew it.
Never in the history of children's literature has a character generated as much hate as Harry Potter kind-of villain Severus Snape. Except maybe that selfish blockhead in The Giving Tree.
More like the guilting tree.
For the three or four of you who are unfamiliar with Professor Snape, we'll give you a quick and dirty lowdown. Imagine the teacher who always had it out for you, the one who was quickest to point out how stupid you were and slowest to see the faults of others. Now put that teacher in a greasy black wig and a long black dress and give him the power to do black magic.
Hans Gruber has scaled down his act to only terrorizing teenagers.
The Real-Life Inspiration
There's a reason we asked you to imagine a specific teacher. Because that's exactly what J.K. Rowling did when she created the second-greatest villain of the Harry Potter series. And the teacher she pictured was her own secondary school chemistry master, John Nettleship.
In retrospect, Nettleship described himself as "a short-tempered chemistry teacher with long hair ... gloomy, malodorous laboratory" who enjoyed picking on students, particularly bright students like Rowling. Which was why it was kind of weird that it took reporters straight up asking him if he was Snape before he figured it out. Even his wife knew the connection, but, tellingly, was too scared to bring it up.
It looks like somebody has been hitting the butterbeer hard.
The bad news is that sadly, Mr. Nettleship passed away from cancer in March 2011. The good news is that he lived long enough to know that in the end Severus Snape was (HONKIN' BIG SPOILER ALERT) the hero of the whole damn series.
The Soup Nazi
Here are some tips for anyone who has made nostalgia for the '90s their defining characteristic: unhook one strap of your multicolored overalls, Rollerblade everywhere and don't make a pot of soup without hilariously shouting "No soup for you!" to all in hearing distance. They'll laugh soooo hard because it's a really funny thing to do.
"Oh, my sides! If they weren't shriveled from hunger they'd be splitting!"
You'll probably remember that "No soup for you!" was the catchphrase of a character on Seinfeld called the Soup Nazi. This was the guy who sold life-changingly good soup, but forced customers to adhere to a strict set of arbitrary rules in order to get their food. Questioning or looking askance at the rules resulted in a tongue lashing and a refusal of service. Visiting the Soup Nazi was like going to a prostitute, but having to cluck like a chicken for the opportunity to pay for sex. And then ending up grateful to get two indignities for the price of one.
"I'm going to need to see you do the Truffle Shuffle before I get in this car, big boy."
The Real-Life Inspiration
Seinfeld's Soup Nazi was based on Al Yeganeh, an actual soup kitchen vendor in New York City. Just like in the episode, his soups were known for their excellent quality, but Yeganeh was also famous for the unusual way he treated his customers, which was, how do you say ... like shit. Instead of calling him a Nazi, local patrons called him a terrorist, presumably because they knew Yeganeh was born in Iran, not Germany. Yeganeh was so pissed by the Seinfeld episode that he forbid the use of the "N word" in his restaurants. Even the slightest reference to Seinfeld would piss him off, as you can tell by the following video.
So when some cast members and writers from Seinfeld ballsily visited the restaurant after the episode aired, the Soup N-word claimed that the show had ruined his life. Naturally, Jerry Seinfeld gave a sarcastic and insincere apology to Yeganeh, at which point Yeganeh yelled "No soup for you!" and kicked Seinfeld out of the restaurant, presumably because he missed the memo on how not to become a cartoon of yourself.
Unless you've been living under a pop-culture-blocking rock for the last 22 years, you know Moe. He's the owner of Moe's Tavern on The Simpsons, the lovable galoot with the gruff voice and the longest-suffering victim of a running gag since the British decided to start pronouncing the word "schedule" like "shedule." Bart Simpson would call the bar and ask to speak with a hilariously named patron, like Amanda Huggenkiss or Maya Buttreeks. Imagine getting calls like that for 22 years. You'd end up looking like a jaundiced gorilla, too.
He looks bad for a gorilla, but pretty good for an Internet comedy writer.
The Real-Life Inspiration
The real Moe was ex-boxer Louis "Red" Deutsch, who owned a bar in Jersey City and wound up becoming famous for screaming at phone pranksters. Here's a picture of him in the early 1950s. He's the genial-looking grandpa who looks like he wouldn't hurt a fly:
Fist-bumping Rocky Marciano, who would knock you out without even trying.
But when Matt Groening created the character of Moe Szyslak, it wasn't Red's face he had in mind, it was his voice. Specifically, recordings of Red unleashing an unholy tirade of insults, profanities and creative death threats at prank callers.
What a glorious legacy.
Before there was such a thing as 4chan, there were Jim Davidson and John Elmo, two punks in the '70s with nothing better to do than call up local bar owners and ask for ridiculously named guests like Ben Dover and Cole Kutz. Most of the bartenders caught on and hung up; others occasionally called out the names, realized their folly, then hung up and moved on with their lives.
Perhaps due to 20 too many knocks to the old noggin, or perhaps due to his own refusal to believe anyone would have the gall to mess with a 6-foot-tall former heavyweight boxer, Red fell for the pranks every time. But that wasn't the interesting part. The interesting part was what happened on the occasions when Red figured out he was getting played the chump. He unleashed insults so hilarious that the pranksters ended up recording them for the entertainment of others, especially since Red had an unusually raspy voice that was amusing in its own right.
The recordings were so funny, in fact, that friends made copies and spread them throughout the country. Before you knew it, Red Deutsch went viral. Groening himself admitted he was a fan of the Tube Bar prank calls. Watch this recreation using real audio to see why:
And in case you didn't make it through that, or the others, here's a little snippet:
"Why you yellow rat bastard, you motherfucker, cocksucker. Your mother's been sucking my prick for many years .... Why don't you come over and meet me face to face, you motherfucker .... I'll meet you wherever you want ... you sonovabitch, I'll cut your belly open."
That one became an actual line in The Simpsons.
"You know your mother sucked my prick the other day. Now you can come down and suck my tube."
"I'll come over you without my friends to your place! I'll meet you wherever you want, you yellow sonovabitch. And you know somethin? I happen to know who you are, and wait till I catch up with you, I'll put the "Z"s on both cheeks for your life, you'll remember me for the rest of your life."
Damn, we wish he still owned a bar so we could call him.
Funky Flashman is probably the biggest douchebag the comic book world has ever seen, and that's counting Mister Fantastic. For those of you unfamiliar with the guy, he first appeared in 1972 as a swarmy pseudobusinessman living off the inheritance of a dead associate. He's got no powers, no talent and no integrity, and his origin story is about as cool as a bowl full of mashed potatoes. It doesn't help that Funky looks like a cross between Sonny Bono, a Geico Caveman and a foot.
It's official: There's no cartoon character named "Funky" we wouldn't punch in the balls.
One of Flashman's ballsiest moves was to open up a store in Metropolis called the Super Store, where he made millions off the likenesses of superheroes such as Superman and Batman. Not that Bruce "Richie Rich" Wayne would care, but Funky made the money without the superheroes' permission, since Flashman's belief was that superheroes were public figures and there was no reason for him to pay for any royalties and licenses. Remember all this, because it's going to be important later.
The Real-Life Inspiration
The nasty, money-hungry con man Funky Flashman was Jack Kirby's exaggerated caricature of his former collaborator and boss Stan Lee.
If we're honest, it's not a huge stretch of the imagination.
Back in the early 1960s, Lee was a writer/editor for Marvel Comics and Kirby was an artist/plotter. The two had worked together before and seemed to make a good team. One fan even called them the Lennon/McCartney of comics, which would work if Paul McCartney ended up a down and out freelancer working for his millionaire boss John Lennon.
"More popular than Jesus" jokes notwithstanding.
Kirby and Lee's story started in the 1940s, when Kirby was already proven as the co-creator of Captain America, and Lee was just the kid filling the inkwells. Over the years, though, it was outgoing, business-savvy Lee who moved up the ladder while Kirby kicked around from studio to studio, going wherever the money and the work was. His reputation was solid but his finances were not, which was why he reunited with his old ink filler in the 1960s.
Once Kirby and Lee were together, all kinds of comic book magic happened. Between 1958 and 1970 the pair worked on The Fantastic Four, Thor, The Uncanny X-Men, The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man, just to name a few. And it wasn't like he was just the guy drawing the pictures. Lee himself admitted that he often just handed over a single sheet of paper with plot points and Kirby and another collaborator, Steve Ditko, did the rest. That's like Stephen King turning over the words "telekinesis," "batshit mother," "unexpected period" and "buckets of pig blood" over to an assistant and getting 100 percent of the credit for Carrie.
"Stone-man, invisible person, irritating dipshit, someone ON FIRE, Excelsior!"
Yet it was Lee, not Kirby or anyone else, who was promoted as the creator of all those characters, while Kirby was scrounging around as a freelancer. By the time Jack took off for DC Comics in 1970, he not only had had his fill of Lee, but he also had a pretty good idea of how to get back at him.
"Who TP'ed my house?"
The funny part is that collaborators say the resemblance didn't start off intentionally. There was another Marvel employee Kirby tried to parody, but as the character got drawn, more and more of Lee's characteristics ended up on the paper. Before you knew it the ugliest, skeeziest version of Stan Lee possible, a guy we here at Cracked happen to love, was in print.
No one here can translate that line. We're forced by his beard to assume it was some sort of sex crime.
Charles Foster Kane
If you've never seen Citizen Kane -- the film critics frequently name as the greatest ever made -- basically Charles Foster Kane, played by Orson Welles, is a man with humble origins whose money and fame turned him into a bitter old man, isolated from the rest of the world in his huge castle. Basically like Mr. Burns -- only without Smithers. Scratch that, he had a Smithers, too.
Mr. Bernstein was probably more about undying loyalty than about homoerotic subtext.
The Real-Life Inspiration
From day one everybody and their mother knew this movie was about a real guy: publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst. The only person who pretended otherwise was Welles himself, and even then the similarities between the real Hearst and the fake one were too glaring to take his claim seriously. It'd be like making a movie about a billionaire New Yorker with a huge yellow comb-over who shouts "YOU'RE FIRED!" and trying to convince people you'd never even heard of Donald Trump.
"Not William Randolph Hearst the newspaper magnate ... William Randolph Hearst the homeless guy on 34th Street."
For anyone not in possession of an intimate knowledge of the early-20th-century publisher coupled with a blow-by-blow recollection of the movie, here are a few of the gaping similarities:
- Both were born to families who made their wealth in mining.
- Both accumulated mansions, antiques, art and ladies.
- Both failed at their bids for political office, although Hearst did make it into the House of Representatives twice. Most of the time he lost, though.
- Both had a showgirl for a mistress, and both used their publications to sing her praises.
"See Marion Davies in her new starring role, I Am William Randolph Hearst and I'm a Lucky Bastard!"
And that, apparently, was where Welles messed up. His decision to portray Hearst's mistress as a worthless alcoholic rather than the talented and beloved figure she was at the time was what turned yet another satirical portrayal of a public figure into an all-out shitstorm.
There's no joke here. We just really love staring at pictures of Marion Davies.
Hearst was old, rich and powerful, and for a while there, he won. He bullied theaters by banning the ones that screened the film from advertising in his newspapers. Citizen Kane performed poorly at the box office, and the film was literally booed at every time it was mentioned at the Academy Awards in 1942. Like that time your drunk aunt and your sister's boyfriend took off for a three-hour drive in her pickup, Citizen Kane became the movie that everyone quietly swept under the carpet and never mentioned again.
Although your aunt nevertheless maintains the opinion that he was the greatest shag of all time.
At least, for about 15 years, which was how long it took for the world to realize they had been bamboozled by a media smear campaign. Today, it's just the opposite -- you can get skinned alive for trash-talking Citizen Kane.
But, here's the real twist of the story. In real life Hearst wasn't the reclusive, eccentric loner Charles Foster Kane was. He started charities, loved parties, loved life and apparently stuck by his lady friend until the day he died. You know who did become a reclusive, eccentric loner, right?
Welles, in trying to write the nastiest ending to Kane's/Hearst's life possible, wound up predicting his own fate. We're not sure if that's irony, or if on some level Welles knew things were going to end badly. How far did Welles fall from Kane? His final performance was as the voice of Unicron in the 1986 animated Transformers movie.
Still, between "Rosebud," and "You cannot destroy my destinyyyy," we know what we'd have as our final words.
And stop by LinkSTORM because it's Friday and there's no reason to do any work today.
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