The Hulk And 4 Other Famous (& Blatantly Stolen) Characters

They say that good artists borrow, and great artists steal. But that's only true if you define "greatness" as immense financial success and worldwide recognition. Oh, you do? In that case, a career as an idea hyena might be just the thing for you. Hey, it's worked before ...

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5
Barbie Was A German Porn Star

Kais Tolmats/iStock

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Barbie dolls have always tried to project an image of wholesomeness and innocence, even if they usually fail and instead project an image of "cocaine-eyed plastic surgery addict."

The Original Character:

Barbie is a rip-off of a German doll named Lilli ... who was originally the star of a sexy comic strip.

Bild-Zeitung
"You can brush my hair, Undress me everywhere ..."

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Debuting in 1952, "Bild Lilli" wasn't exactly pornographic -- more about sex jokes and innuendo -- but it was still a big hit with adults. So big, in fact, that the editor created a Lilli doll and marketed it to male readers ...

U.S. Air Force
Haha, you guys play with dolls!

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In 1956, Ruth Handler, the creator of Barbie, visited Switzerland. Her daughter came across a Lilli doll and fell in love with it, not understanding the creepy sexual undertones. Handler pitched the idea for Barbie to Mattel, who bought the rights to Lilli in 1964. The company then rebranded her, turning Lilli into an all-American, family-friendly Barbie, even though she started out as a shameless German pervert. Sort of the opposite of David Hasselhoff's career track.

4
Mayor McCheese Stole The Life Of H.R. Pufnstuf

McDonald's

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McDonald's used to be all about their motley crew of food monsters: Ronald, the Hamburglar, Grimace -- they all lived in McDonaldland, a magical place where everything from trees to rocks was living/talking/edible, which was less horrifying than it sounds, in practice. The land was ruled with a meaty fist by Mayor McCheese, who dressed like the Joker, and had dead cow flesh for a head, yet still never managed to out-creep Ronald.

McDonald's
"Want to know how I got these buns?"

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The Original Character:

The entire McDonaldland concept was phased out in the '70s, when Sid and Marty Krofft sued McDonald's, claiming that McCheese was actually a rip-off of H.R. Pufnstuf -- a character from a children's TV series of the same name.

NBC
Who was clearly designed after the Kroffts puffed a lot of stuff.

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Just like McCheese, Pufnstuf was also a mayor -- complete with sash and tragically oversized head, as all mayors possess -- who ruled over a fantasy land where everything was alive, and all of the toilets were suicidal. According to the lawsuit, the Needham, Harper & Steers ad agency had wanted to license the cast of H.R Pufnstuf for McDonald's commercials. When this didn't work out, they decided to make their own mascots, and when that started interfering with their day drinking, they just stole the Pufnstuf designs, changed them slightly, and rode off on fancy dancing horses made entirely of money.

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The lawsuit bounced around the courts for a few years, but eventually the Kroffts won, and McDonald's had to pay them a million dollars. Then, over the next few years, they slowly purged the McDonaldland gang from the history books in the most brutal regime change this side of Game Of Thrones.

3
Ben From Ben 10 Is A Ripoff Of A Terrible 1960s Comic Book

Cartoon Network

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Ben 10 tells the story of Ben Tennyson (got lucky with that name, huh, buddy?) who stumbles across an alien watch that allows him to change into 10 different superpowered aliens. It's all pretty standard little kid power fantasy stuff, and only disturbing if you think about the implications. So don't!

The Original Character:

Ben 10 lifted its entire premise from the 1966 DC Comics series Dial H For Hero. About the only thing they didn't steal was the main character's terrible catchphrase, "Sockamagee," which was stupid even by 1966 comic book standards.

The comic revolved around Robby Reed, a boy who stumbles upon an alien device that allows him to change into superpowered forms. However, in his case, they were all B-list superheroes like "King Kandy" (literally just a guy wearing striped long-johns and a goddamn birthday cake for a hat), "Giant Boy," and the testicle-headed "Future Man."

DC Comics
His future involved blue balls and dying alone.

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Robby's thingamabob resembled a rotary phone instead of a watch, but other than that, all the same shtick: For example, Ben's Omnitrix watch often malfunctions, and turns Ben into random aliens -- presumably to keep the episodes from being three minutes long. The same thing was achieved in Dial H For Hero, by making the phone-superpowers random in the first place. So every time he used it, Robby just closed his eyes and prayed it didn't speed-dial "snail dicks for eyes guy."

DC Comics
The face of a pervy teen that's going to keep re-dialing until he turns into a hot chick he can self-ogle.

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2
The Incredible Hulk Is Solomon Grundy

Marvel Studios

The Incredible Hulk is one of Marvel's most recognizable characters, which is quite an achievement for someone whose most notable attributes are anger management issues and ruining pants. Marvel's first draft of the character, The Incontinent Road Rager, just didn't get the job done.

Marvel Comics
"USE BLINKER WHEN SWITCH LANE!"

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The Original Character:

The Hulk's "monster bodybuilder" look, the stunted talking, the gray skin (the Hulk's original appearance) -- they all came from DC supervillain Solomon Grundy.

DC Comics
Solomon Grundy. Born on a Monday. Ripped off on a Tuesday.

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Just like the Hulk, Grundy was a violent, super-strong child, sort of like Lennie from Of Mice And Men with a skin disorder. Grundy was originally a murder victim named Cyrus Gold, dumped in Gotham City's ominous-sounding Slaughter Swamp -- but oh, don't worry about the name; it's really more of a marsh. Grundy was then resurrected and turned into an unkillable zombie thing, which made it more or less ethically "cool" when the original Green Lantern left him stranded on the Moon.

DC Comics
#ZombieLivesMatter

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What's really weird: Marvel even stole that idea, when Iron Man and Doctor Strange sent Hulk to a different planet. To be fair, though, it did give us this kick-ass image:

Marvel Comics
All is forgiven.

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1
Hulk Hogan Was The Younger Version Of Superstar Billy Graham

World Wrestling Entertainment

Arguably the WWE's biggest star, Hulk Hogan was one of the greatest icons of the 1980s that wasn't a Ninja Turtle or a robot. And while it may feel weird to call an actual human a "character," come on -- he's totally a character.

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The Original Character:

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Let's talk about "Superstar" Billy Graham. Originally a professional body builder, Billy Graham went into pro wrestling in 1970, and developed the "Superstar" character for the American Wrestling Association, before finally debuting in WWE (then WWWF) in 1975. Graham's charisma and impressive physique made him one of wrestling's first "cool bad guys." Unfortunately, the federation's then-owner Vince McMahon Sr. thought Bob Backlund, a wrestler who made Wonder Bread look controversial, made a far better villain.

World Wrestling Entertainment
"No cussing in the ring!"

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It wasn't until McMahon Sr. died, and his son took over, that the WWE would get its larger-than-life champion. Unfortunately for Billy Graham, it wasn't him. He'd been replaced by a younger version of himself, this one named Hulk Hogan, who just happened to look and act exactly like Superstar did -- from the handlebar mustache down to the superfluous bandanas.

via Obsessed With Wrestling, World Wrestling Entertainment
He even copied his bald spot!

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Graham's career never recovered. He retired in 1988 due to hip injuries, and is understandably a bit bitter about how things turned out. And no wonder: At least when the Beatles replaced Pete Best, they didn't make Ringo wear his old clothes.

When not obsessing over pointless pop culture trivia, Henrik Magnusson also enjoys harassing the Internet with his comics. You can also go bug him on Twitter or Tumblr.

For more beloved pop culture born out of low down dirty thieving, check out 5 Insanely Successful Video Games That Were Total Ripoffs and 7 Classic Movies You Didn't Know Were Ripoffs.

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