Remember the stories you made up with your toys when you were a kid? Probably not, because chances are they were pretty dumb. There's just no way Voltron could fistfight the Ninja Turtles like that -- they're not even on the same scale! The narrative falls apart, you stupid, stupid child. You should take note of how these folks did it; they not only laid the groundwork for some good stories as children, but went on to turn them into massively successful franchises to boot ...
Pretty much every major trend in superhero comics of the past 30 years can be traced back to one 1985 comic: Crisis On Infinite Earths. Killing off multiple major characters (who inevitably come back)? Check. Pushing the reset button on an entire company's continuity, as Marvel is about to do this year? Check. Cramming multiple superheroes into the same story arc? Check, check, and check so hard the poor cover artist's wrists probably exploded.
In short, Crisis was a fanboy's wet dream.
That fanboy is not hypothetical. His name was Marv Wolfman. He felt frustrated by the amount of superheroes in his superhero comics. Specifically, that there weren't more of them. Books like Justice League of America featured seven DC Comics characters which, for the time, was so many underpants in one place that it technically violated the comics code. But Wolfman wasn't satisfied, so he made up a story where all the DC heroes fought a character called "the Librarian," who spied on superheroes from a satellite and sold their information to the highest bidder. So he not only predicted the future of comics, but also invented the NSA.
The TSA was an older DC invention.
When Wolfman broke into the comics industry and proposed these ideas, they weren't well-received at first. However, by 1985 DC was looking for a special way to celebrate their 50th anniversary and Wolfman (who had become a hot writer) had just the thing. He changed the Librarian's name to the Monitor and made him a good guy, but other than that it was the same guy: He still lived in a satellite, still served as an excuse to get all the superheroes together, and still had voyeuristic tendencies.
"I have seen all your penises."
The Winter Soldier was the villain from the second movie who nailed Captain America with a metal fist to the face, and followed up with a groin kick to the emotions. Halfway through the film, it turns out that (spoiler!) the Winter Soldier is actually Captain America's sidekick Bucky, who seemingly died during World War II. Turns out he was actually caught by the Nazis, brainwashed, and put in suspended animation to be used as their finest assassin. Apparently, the Nazis treated their hitmen like we treat our Chinese food: You enjoy a little bit and put it back in the freezer for a few years.
None of this would have been possible if it wasn't for one little kid's obsession with this guy:
No, not Robin. Pay attention.
That's the original version of Bucky from the 1940s, back when child endangerment was the most popular part of superhero comics. When Captain America was brought back decades later, however, teenage sidekicks were considered deeply uncool, and Bucky was unceremoniously written off by explaining that an airplane exploded on his face. That's how few fucks Marvel gave about the character: Not only did they kill him off-panel, but they actually allowed him to stay dead.
They shot the burned corpse in the head, just in case.
That wasn't enough for 9-year-old fan Ed Brubaker, though. Bucky was his favorite character, and he spent years looking for the issue where he died. When Brubaker found out that issue didn't actually exist and Bucky had essentially been killed off in a footnote, he made a solemn promise: "If I ever write Captain America, I'm undoing this mistake."
Cut to about 30 years later. Brubaker made a name for himself writing gritty crime comics, but was finally offered a job as a Captain America writer. Guess what the first thing he did was.
Well, second thing, after he changed his underpants.
In the ultimate act of revenge, Brubaker then went off to (possible future Marvel movie spoilers) kill Captain America and have Bucky take over his role. Somewhere out there, there's another '70s kid waiting to do the same thing with Scrappy Doo.
For decades, the concept behind Superboy delivered everything it promised: Superman, only as a boy. Comic book writers are allergic to simplicity, though, so in the '90s the character was rebooted as a human clone genetically modified to mimic Superman's powers and appearance. The comics kept his complete origin a mystery, but a young fan named Geoff Johns had an ... interesting suggestion: Superboy was (basically) Superman's son with Lex Luthor.
Two years later, Johns would get the birds and the bees talk.
The editors laughed off the idea, but as you might have gathered from this article, fanboys are nothing if not persistent. Fresh out of college, Johns scored an internship with director Richard Donner, who happened to be working on a Warner Bros. movie, which happens to be the parent company of DC Comics. While some DC people were visiting the movie set, Johns talked their ears off and eventually convinced them to give him some writing gigs. After six years of writing for DC, Johns finally landed a comic featuring Superboy and was able to do this:
The Gillette product placement paid a full year's salary.
The shocking revelation that Superboy was actually Luthor's clone was even incorporated into the Young Justice cartoon -- of course, the fact that Johns is now a high-level DC executive consulting on all movies and TV shows might have had something to do with that. But maybe we shouldn't be so surprised that a future pro wrote a fan letter to a comic, since they've been doing that for decades -- like this enthusiastic 15-year-old Fantastic Four reader here:
The issue is from 1963, but he only finished the letter last year.
Before My Little Pony became the fodder for a (sometimes frightening) Internet subculture, it was a half-forgotten '80s franchise aimed exclusively at little girls with large allowances. The original cartoon was basically a series of musical numbers strung together by plots so dumb, they made The Smurfs look like The Wire -- hell, a 6-year-old kid could have come up with something better than those. In fact, she did.
Of course, that's 24 in pony years.
Lauren Faust wasn't satisfied with the story lines farted out by the marketing teams behind her favorite toys and decided to improve upon them. Starting at age 6, she didn't just collect My Little Pony toys but actually redesigned and made up new stories for them. She came up with new personalities for the ponies (90 percent of which sounded exactly the same on the cartoon) and imagined fantasy locations based on those crappy little playsets.
Faust would grow up to be an animator working on shows like The Powerpuff Girls. When she was approached by Hasbro to create a new My Little Pony cartoon, they showed her one of the recent direct-to-DVD movies to give her a sense of what they were doing with the franchise (in essence, just beating the holy nostalgia out of the '80s version). Faust ignored all that and instead based the series on the stories, locations, and characters she made up as a kid. She got paid to animate her childhood playtime.
If she'd had a darker childhood, we'd have a rather different cartoon.
If Hasbro had taken the same approach with our Transformers story lines, Optimus Prime would be renamed "Truckman Badpuncher," and all the films would end with the bad guys falling into a giant toilet.
Top Cow Productions
Wanted is a movie about a secret legion of super-assassins, wherein Professor X breaks a keyboard over Star-Lord's face and the broken keys fly off to spell "FUCK YOU."
Other stuff probably happens too, but who cares?
Believe it or not, they actually toned down the craziness from the original material: The Wanted comic book by Mark Millar is set in a world where the bad guys teamed up and killed all the superheroes, and now they secretly rule the world. It's a pretty insane premise ... that Millar believed was totally true when he was a kid.
When he was 5, Millar went up to his adult brother to ask him why you don't see men in underpants flying around anymore. Instead of going "awww" and then carefully explaining the total lack of magic in the world, Millar's brother told him that Superman wasn't around because he was fucking dead and the supervillains won. But one day, if he was good, Superman would come back and take him as a partner.
This is how 90 percent of religions began.
After years of believing he was living in a world where Lex Luthor and the Joker secretly ran Walmart, Millar eventually realized this wasn't true -- perhaps when he started getting paid to make up stories about those same characters. The "villains rule the world" idea stuck in his mind, though. At first he pitched it to DC Comics, and when they turned it down, he followed the old tradition of changing all the names and publishing it as something "new."
Wanted's success opened the door for Millar to create other comics / film pitches like Kick-Ass, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and Superman: Red Son -- which he also invented as a kid. Young Millar once read a Superman comic wherein the rocket carrying baby Superman arrived in the year 1976, and the Russian and the American navies had to race to get to it first. The U.S. frogmen Rocky IV'ed the shit out of the Ruskies, and everything was bald eagles eating apple pie from then on out.
Otherwise, he'd have been screwed. They didn't even have phone booths and newspapers in the USSR.
Millar just couldn't get the scene with the Russians out of his mind. What if they'd gotten to Superman first and raised him as a communist? He mulled this idea over for years until he was finally ready to submit it to DC Comics ... at age 13. It was rejected. But Millar kept trying, until DC finally accepted the story and published it in 2003 to great success. Now if you'll excuse us, we have to go mine our old junior high trapper keepers for million-dollar story ideas. Stay tuned for the adventures of the Stussy logo versus a pair of flaming tits.
For more kids who will make you feel bad about yourself, check out 8 Child Prodigies So Amazing They'll Ruin Your Day and The 5 Most Diabolical Crimes Planned And Executed By Kids.
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