Marvel And DC Superheroes Created For WTF Reasons
Some of the greatest superheroes in pop culture were specifically created to act as beacons of hope and righteousness for mankind, while others are more like, "Damn, we've got five pages to fill ... how about Aquaman or some crap?" The following characters have been showing up for decades, yet they owe their existence to completely dumb stuff like ...
Shang Chi (From The Upcoming MCU Movie) Was Marvel's Somewhat Racist Attempt To Rip Off A TV Show
Marvel is hoping that next year's Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings does for Asian superheroes what Black Panther did for black ones -- that is, increase representation while making the studio a shitload of money. But, ironically, Shang Chi himself probably wouldn't exist if it wasn't for a bunch of racist-ass decisions. For starters, Warner Bros.' decision to cut Bruce Lee out of his own TV series idea and replace him with a white guy, which is how we got the show Kung Fu.
Some people at Marvel loved Kung Fu and wanted to turn it into a comic, but there was a little problem: Marvel editor Roy Thomas considered trying to license the show anyway, but he thought DC would go "Thanks for the free idea, chump" and do it themselves. So, Marvel ended up creating a new kung fu-related series, but Thomas insisted on including an established Asian character as a commercial draw. That character was Fu Manchu, a.k.a. the source of every evil Asian villain stereotype ever. Fittingly, he was created when a racist Ouija board spelled out C-H-I-N-A-M-A-N in 1912.
But Fu Manchu wasn't just the enemy of Marvel's new hero, Shang Chi. He was his dad.
Bear in mind that the primitive cave people living in 1970s America already knew that Fu Manchu stories were ... problematic. Artist Jim Starlin says he was partway through the first issue when he got around to reading the Fu Manchu books and was "horrified by what had gotten connected with." He called them "the most racist thing you ever wanted to read" and just "terrible." Marvel got some letters from readers disheartened that a "yellow peril" stereotype would show up in a Marvel comic, but they went "FU" and continued using him.
This came back to bite them in the ass once they lost Fu Manchu's license and had to start calling him by nicknames or having him go through plastic surgery to continue using the character. The MCU movie will get around this by replacing him with a completely different Asian caricature: the (real, non-Ben Kingsley) Mandarin.
She-Hulk Was Only Created To Secure A Trademark
She-Hulk is Bruce Banner's equally green and strong cousin who doesn't turn into a rampaging brute, suggesting that maybe Bruce just likes breaking stuff. Marvel has announced that she'll soon star in her own show on Disney Plus ... about 40 years too late, since she was only created in anticipation of her being on TV. The comics were a mere technicality.
You see, while the Incredible Hulk show with Lou Ferrigno was all the rage in the late '70s, Marvel realized there was a chance the network might create a gender swapped spin-off, like The Bionic Woman or Mrs. Columbo. So, the higher ups asked Stan Lee, who wasn't even writing comics at that point, to come up with a female version of the Hulk just to make sure they'd own the rights. Lee has talked at length about the personal hardships or social issues that led him to create characters like the X-Men or the Fantastic Four, but for She-Hulk? "Some business people really felt we needed a female Hulk to protect our rights to the name ... Hulk was doing well and we're greedy!" That's a direct quote.
And while she'd go on to become a complex and beloved character, Stan was clearly phoning it in on this one. He "threw together the first issue virtually overnight," which probably explains why she's called She-Hulk and not The Mind-Boggling Punch-Woman or something. Marvel would only get around to giving her a distinct personality later on -- she was pretty much just Hulk with boobs at this point.
The exact same thing happened with Spider-Woman: Marvel realized someone else might use the name first so, in Lee's words, they "just batted one quickly" and boom, another fan-favorite character was born. It's a miracle they didn't do She-Captain America, Iron Woman, She-Professor X, and so on ... which means someone else still could. Hmmm.
The Teen Titans' Wonder Girl Is The Result Of Distracted Writers
Titans viewers should be familiar with Donna Troy/Wonder Girl, Wonder Woman's protege who is also a brunette, wears a similar costume, and also has a lasso. It's like if Robin was just a child dressed in a smaller Batman suit.
Well, that's because Wonder Girl was never intended to be a separate character -- she was explicitly introduced as Wonder Woman's younger self, just like Superboy was only Superman before he had to start using deodorant. The confusion started when DC did a bunch of "impossible tales" in which Wonder Woman teams up with her baby self, her teen self, and her mom, thanks to comic book time travel, of course.
But, after a while, the writers stopped mentioning that Wonder Girl and Wonder Woman were the same person in every issue. They also stopped bothering to label these tales as "impossible stories" or give any explanation for the time travel. So, when another writer was putting together a new comic starring 100% teenage sidekicks, Teen Titans, he figured Wonder Girl must be Wonder Woman's little sister or whatever and threw her in there.
It took until Teen Titans #7 for the editor to go "Wait, uh, who is this?" and admit to the screw-up in the letters column. But, rather than giving an explanation for this new character they'd inadvertently created, he just asked readers to come up with one themselves. She only got an official origin four years after her first appearance.
Something similar happened with Elongated Man, a central character in CW's The Flash (at least until the actor playing him got James Gunn'd by old tweets). Elongated Man made his debut in The Flash #112, but according to one of the artists in that issue, he was only created because the editor didn't realize DC already owned the original stretchy superhero, Plastic Man. At the very least they could have named him Plastic Man II, because who the hell says "elongated"?
DC Had To Create Its Own Robin Rip-Off Because Of ... Nabisco Cookies?
In the '80s, DC published a series of "very special" New Teen Titans issues designed to teach kids that drugs are evil and your life will turn into a living nightmare if you so much as look at a doobie. These featured all the classic characters from the comic, like Cyborg, Raven, and of the leader of the gang, Batman's famous sidekick: The Protector.
Wait, who the hell is The Protector? Basically, he's Robin after some white-out and hasty corrections. According to artist George Perez, he'd already drawn the first of these anti-drug issues, which was sponsored by Keebler, when they realized they couldn't use Robin in it because he was licensed to rival cookie company Nabisco. In order to avoid the wrath of the Nabisco gnomes (or whatever their mascots are), the comic's editor covered up every drawing of Robin with correction fluid and drew a new costume over it. There were also minor changes in the dialogue, but the comic never explains where this guy came from, why he's acting like the boss, or what he did with Robin's corpse.
The anti-drug campaign also included a cartoon ad made by Hanna-Barbera, and you can clearly see this poser in it:
Even though The Protector was only supposed to show up in those PSAs, years later DC went through the trouble of giving him and origin story that revealed he was a normal kid who dressed up as a superhero to convince his cousin to stop getting high. This means the Titans were just humoring him in his previous appearances, and putting him in mortal danger for no reason.
After a handful of tongue-in-cheek cameo appearances, DC brought back The Protector in 2019 only to reveal that he was now a drug addict, and then immediately killed him off. And that's why you don't bring regular kids on crime-fighting adventures, people.
Marvel Had To Replace The Human Torch With A Stupid Robot Because Of A Non-Existent Movie
In 1978, NBC was all set to make a deal with Marvel to air a new cartoon based on the Fantastic Four, but they ran into a hitch: they could only have three. Universal Studios had already paid for the rights to the Human Torch, and only the Human Torch, seemingly just to mess with anyone trying to adapt this comic. Universal also refused to allow NBC to use the Torch in the cartoon, because they were definitely going to get started on their Fantastic One movie any day now. (Note: 42 years later, it's starting to look unlikely.)
NBC decided to go forward with the cartoon anyway, possibly just to spite Universal. And since it says "Four" in the title and most cartoon-watching kids can count at least that far, Marvel had to come up with a replacement for the Torch. Unfortunately, instead of replacing him with "the Living Flame," or some other superhero, or anything remotely cool, they went with the most annoying possible option: a wise-cracking robot called H.E.R.B.I.E. who looks like the kind of appliance you'd find in a Japanese bathroom.
Everyone at Marvel despised that flying metal turd. The first artist commissioned to design H.E.R.B.I.E. didn't work out because his hatred for the character was palpable in his sketches, so Stan Lee passed on the unpleasant task to his old pal Jack Kirby. Perhaps not coincidentally, it was the last thing Kirby ever drew for Marvel. They also forced H.E.R.B.I.E. on the current writer of the Fantastic Four comic, Marv Wolfman, who called it a "stupid walking garbage can." He didn't really hide his feelings in the comic, either.
By the way, Wolfman is among those who believe that NBC didn't want to use the Human Torch anyway because they were afraid kids at home would set themselves on fire. Ironically, the animation studio that produced the show burned down a year later, and the fire department suspected arson. In the end, H.E.R.B.I.E. turned out to be way more likely to make people want to self-immolate than the Torch.
Follow Maxwell Yezpitelok's heroic effort to read and comment every '90s Superman comic at Superman86to99.tumblr.com.
Top Photo: Marvel Comics