6 WTF Origin Stories Behind Famous Pop-Culture Names
Benedict Cumberbatch aside, it's very difficult to make it in the world of entertainment with a stupid name. Some writers literally spend years trying to come up with the perfect title for their creation -- one that will perfectly communicate the profound ideas they're trying to express. There are entire workshops focused solely on the complex art of naming shit.
Or, you can do what the following people did and just blindly stumble into something iconic.
Marvel Has So Many Ridiculous Names Because Of Stan Lee's Terrible Memory
The greatest mystery in the Marvel Universe isn't where mutants came from or how come there are no regulations against radiation-themed accidents -- it's why the hell do so many people have ridiculous names that sound like they came out of a nursery rhyme. You know -- Pepper Potts, Happy Hogan, Bucky Barnes ...
They all: A) start with the same letter and B) often sound fake as shit. Peter Parker, Matt Murdock, Bruce Banner, Stephen Strange, Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Scott Summers, Warren Worthington, Otto Octavius ... and so on. We're not even counting Rocket Raccoon and Drax The Destroyer.
Tony Stark's alcoholism came from his feelings of being left out.
So, what's the deal? Some kind of secret comic book company code? An old wager Marvel made with DC to see how long they could get away with this silliness before anyone noticed? Nope: The reason is that Stan Lee has a shitty memory -- so shitty that he couldn't remember what his own characters were called. In his own words: " ... if I could give somebody a name, where the last name and the first name begin with the same letter [...] then if I could remember one name, it gave me a clue what the other one was."
To confirm that he's telling the truth and prove that not even the alliterative names were enough to counteract Lee's substandard memory, the Hulk's birth name was changed to "Robert Bruce Banner" in the comics because his own creator kept mistakenly calling him Bob.
There was also that 10-issue storyline where Lee thought he was writing Batman.
In fairness to the Stan-ster, at the time, he had a crap-load of characters to keep track of, with more and more coming practically each week in order to satisfy the frenzied spandex-costumed vigilante cravings of their fan base. People just couldn't get enough Stan Lee back then, and he had to cope with it however he could.
Street Fighter II's M. Bison Got His Name To Prevent A Lawsuit From Mike Tyson
M. Bison, the brawling dictator from Street Fighter II and its infinite spin-offs, has one of the most enigmatic names of any video game boss ever. Does the "M." stand for Mister? Master? Major? The topic has probably caused more fights than the game itself. As it turns out, the letter stands for "Mike" ... because it came directly from this guy:
That's right: They ripped off the final boss from Punch-Out!!.
See, in the original Japanese version of the game, Bison's name was Vega -- a name you may remember as belonging to the Spanish claw-wielding cage fighter who bounced around the screen like a hyperactive cross between Wolverine and the Phantom Of The Opera. In Japan, that guy was called Balrog, and the boxer character we know as Balrog was called M. Bison. We'll remind you now that "Balrog" looks like this:
The bottom is what he looks like looking for a bathroom stall.
Starting to make sense? The character was meant to be a parody of boxing superstar Mike Tyson, by which we mean: It was him, only with two letters changed around. As long as Street Fighter II existed only in Japan, no one gave a crap about the legality of this "homage" ... but, when they decided to release the game in the West, its creators at Capcom began to worry about being sued (or worse, murdered). Instead of editing in a new name for the character, they realized it would be easier to just change a few numbers in the code of the game, thus switching the titles around like this:
This explains why in some versions, Guile is called "Insert Coin."
Bugs Bunny Got His Name Thanks To A Misplaced Apostrophe
Most of us probably learned Bugs Bunny's name before we even found out our parents aren't actually called "Mom" and "Dad." And yet, when you think about it, "Bugs" is sort of a weird moniker for the character -- he's a rabbit after all, not several insects. Ever wondered how the wildly creative minds at Warner Bros. came up with such a name? Easy: They misread an artist's label.
This is before he lost a lot of weight from his dangerously unhealthy carrot-only diet.
When the Looney Tunes crew decided to add a rabbit to their toon menagerie, animator Ben "Bugs" Hardaway told one of the artists to draw up a sketch of the proposed creature. However, the rabbit didn't have a name yet, and artists are paid to draw, dammit, not think up words. So, once the drawing was done, the artist simply labeled it as "Bugs' Bunny," since Hardaway's nickname was Bugs (people in the '40s didn't take workplace bullying as seriously as we do today).
Although they were refreshing open-minded about cross-dressing, apparently.
A year later, someone at Warner Bros. realized they should probably start calling the character something other than "that rabbit" at some point. Producer Leon Schlesinger looked at the old sketch, saw the words "Bugs Bunny," and picked that name -- which legendary animator Tex Avery hated, by the way. Avery, the guy who turned that adorable critter from the original drawing into the slick sociopath we all love, thought they should call him "Jack E. Rabbit" (which is dangerously close to sounding like instructions for bestiality). In retrospect, though, Avery was pretty lucky he didn't end up stuck with "Hey Ben Here's Your Fucking Sketch Now Where's My Five Bucks You Bastard Bunny."
Reservoir Dogs Got Its Title From Tarantino's Inability To Pronounce A Foreign Film's Name
Quentin Tarantino's movie titles are, for the most part, pretty straightforward. A movie about a woman who wants to kill Bill? Kill Bill. A tribute to grindhouse films? Grindhouse. Eight people being hateful? The Hateful Eight.
The original title was Everyone Says [N-word].
But then, there's Reservoir Dogs. There are no dogs in the movie, and none of the locations is a reservoir (we know because there's only like two) -- so, what the hell? Where did Tarantino get that title? Well, there are conflicting versions of the story, but they all agree on one thing: Much like Lt. Aldo Raine, Tarantino sucks at pronouncing French words.
Before making movies, Tarantino got his start in the entertainment industry by working as a video store clerk, and he was apparently that guy -- the one who disapproves of your movie choice and will let you know so through the tone of his voice. According to an article by Salman Rushdie of all people, Tarantino hated certain artsy-fartsy foreign films so much that he made no effort to pronounce their names correctly. The film Au Revoir Les Enfants was particularly challenging, so Tarantino eventually just started calling it "reservoir dogs." How he got "dogs" out of that, we're not sure.
"Ah, Lord Fuckula In The Booty-delic Manor. Nice choice."
Tarantino's mom tells a different story, though. According to her, it was her son's girlfriend who suggested seeing that same foreign movie, to which Tarantino replied, "I don't want to see no Reservoir Dogs." The point is, Tarantino liked his botched attempt to speak French so much that he used it on his own film -- ironically earning the scorn a new generation of video store clerks who had to learn how to pronounce "reservoir."
At least one of them went on to work in Facebook.
Monkey Island's Main Character Got His Name From A Computer File
Monkey Island is the classic PC game series that allowed you to battle undead pirate-ghouls in the Caribbean 13 years before Johnny Depp and Co. got their manicured fingers on the idea. A key factor of the franchise's success is its everyman pirate protagonist, Guybrush Threepwood -- a name that instantly communicates the comedic tone of the games as soon as you read it.
If it wasn't for the name, you would probably think this is a gritty drama.
However, for the longest time, Guybrush was simply a collection of pixels without a name, because no one could come up with one. As such, his creators at LucasArts got into the habit of referring to him as ... "the guy." As in, "the guy walks there" or "the guy picks something up" or "the guy crosses the chasm via a rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle" (the puzzles in this series can be a little obtuse from time to time). The point is, everyone started calling him Guy.
"Starring Guy Videogameprotagonist."
That probably would have been his final name if an artist hadn't created a "brush" file for the character, using a program called Deluxe Paint ... which resulted in the filename "guybrush.bbm." The others liked that even better than "Guy" (perhaps because it better masked their laziness), so they started calling their protagonist Guybrush, and, 25 years later, they still are. It's unclear who suggested removing the "dot bbm" part, but whoever it was clearly earned their paycheck.
The Land Of Oz Got Its Name From A File Cabinet
The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz is that simple tale about flying monkeys, heartless men made of metal, witches that melt to death when exposed to water, and ... OK, it's actually pretty insane. Given the sheer brain-bursting absurdity of the plot, you can be forgiven for assuming that the story behind its name involves writer L. Frank Baum ingesting copious amounts of industrial moonshine. In reality, the reason why Baum picked the title "Oz" for his magical land of singing little people and incredibly expensive and impractical footwear is far more mundane. Before you ask: No, it has nothing to do with Australia.
Aka, the place God created when he ingested copious amounts of industrial moonshine.
To find this name, one of the most imaginative minds of the 20th century used the tried-and-tested method of just taking whatever shit happened to be around -- in this case, a filing cabinet. According to Baum himself, while he was trying to think of a name for his story, he looked around his room and saw a nearby cabinet with three drawers: The first was labeled A-G, the second H-N, and the third O-Z. Baum just went with the last one, before presumably deciding his brain had done enough work for the day and going to bed at 2 p.m. Looking back on it, we should all be grateful the drawers weren't more spacious -- "We're off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of AZ" doesn't have the same ring to it.
Incidentally, the cabinet also said "Manufactured by Dorothy S. Wizard, Lion Brickroad Industries."
Baum's wife later disputed this story, going as far as to say that "no one or anything suggested the word." It's pretty clear that she was just embarrassed by the fact that her family's legacy will forever be bound to the furniture that happened to be on the room that day, but her husband didn't seem to mind that. L. Frank Baum don't give a fuck.
You can tell B.T. Doran the tale of how you got your name here.
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Sometimes fame really is just about getting lucky. Like Johnny Depp's career getting a jump-start simply because he was standing around a set. Or Hulk Hogan discovering a wrestling manager was at one of his gigs back in his bass playing days. See that and more in 7 Celebrity Careers That Launched By Accident and 7 Celebrities With Weird-Ass Pre-Fame Lives.
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