5 Times Marvel And DC Ripped Each Other Off (By Accident)
Superhero comics are full of shameless ripoffs, and if you don't believe us, feel free to check out any of the seven billion articles we've written on the subject (or their ripoffs in lesser websites). But, sometimes, rival comics companies publish strikingly similar stories so close together that mere creative thievery isn't a feasible explanation, unless psychic powers are involved. Like the time(s) when ...
Batman And Captain America Had The Same Evil Sidekick/Death/Resurrection Plot, At The Same Time
Batman and Captain America dying and coming back to life around the same time isn't terribly shocking, because come on, these are superheroes. They probably slip in the shower and break their necks every morning, then get resurrected before breakfast. What takes the Bat/Cap synchronicity to the next level are the little details their storylines have in common, from time-traveling bullets to supposedly dead teenage sidekicks returning as jerk-ass, trigger happy anti-heroes. And it's all totally accidental.
It started in January and February 2005, when Batman and Captain America introduced the Red Hood and the Winter Soldier, two mysterious masked killers who go after each comic's best known villain and leave him in a pool of his own blood.
In two shocking plot twists, both killers turn out to be adult versions of the hero's long-dead sidekick: the Red Hood was Jason "The Suckiest Robin" Todd (killed by an SNL inspired phone-in campaign in 1988) and the Winter Soldier was Bucky "This Is Why You Don't Bring Teenage Sidekicks to WWII" Barnes (killed in a flashback in 1964).
Winter Soldier debuted a month earlier, but Red Hood unmasked (un-hooded?) himself first. Another coincidence: both writers claimed they'd had this idea since they were kids. Captain America writer Ed Brubaker had wanted to bring back Bucky since he found out the character's death was a filthy retcon at age 9, while Batman's Judd Winick said he was one of the 5,271 fans who phoned DC to try to save Jason Todd's life in '88. Winick later admitted he made up that story for an interview, but it's possible he was just fed up with internet commenters accusing him of writing fan service for his own teenage self.
After Batman and Cap's "deaths" in 2007/2008, both disgraced sidekicks tried to fill their mentor's tights, but with a twist: 100% more guns. Bucky became the new Captain America but Jason didn't last long in the Batman role, being a dangerous nutjob and all.
And then it got weird. It turned out that the heroes weren't really dead, just lost in time as part of elaborate, years-long plotlines involving sci-fi guns with time traveling capabilities. Both of them Bogus Journey'd through different time periods before their superhero pals found them via a "HEY COME SAVE ME, YOU JACKASSES" message hidden in the past.
Cap's death/resurrection saga ended several months before Batman's, but Batman writer Grant Morrison had been planting seeds and foreshadowing his storyline, including the time travel stuff, for years. In other words, the only way he could have ripped off Cap's story would be if he had a time machine himself. (It's worth noting that Morrison says he's met timeless beings from a higher dimension, so we can't totally rule out that possibility.)
The Avengers And The Justice League Had A (Totally Accidental) Hidden Crossover
Marvel and DC characters meeting up and fighting each other used to be a yearly occurrence, until legal issues and an unfortunate Superman dick joke ruined everything. These days, the two companies are unlikely to let a crossover between, say, the Avengers and the Justice League of America happen. Not intentionally, anyway. Sometimes, the characters themselves have other plans.
In a July 2014 issue of New Avengers, a group of Marvel characters travel to another reality that's about to be destroyed and fight a group of preeeeetty familiar-looking heroes: there's the "sun god" with the red cape and the triangle on his chest, the one who runs very fast and has a red costume with yellow thunderbolts on it, the brooding vigilante with no powers whose real name is Wayne, and so on. It's not very subtle.
The fight continues until the September 2014 issue, and it ... doesn't go very well for the special guest stars. The scene where "Sun God" gets wasted by the "vampiric" elder gods that manifest in his reality might ring a bell if you've read DC's The Dark Knight Returns.
A month later, in October 2014, DC finally released the first issue of their long-delayed Multiversity series, which writer Grant Morrison (there's that guy again) had been teasing and working on since at least 2009. In it, a group of DC characters travel to another reality that's about to be destroyed and fight The Retaliators: a thunder god, a super soldier with a shield, a guy who wears a fancy armor ... well, you get the idea.
Again, the fight ends with a primordial evil (which also looks like a mass of black tentacles) showing up in The Retaliators' reality and everything going to hell. There are other visual similarities between both stories, like the multi-colored cube with extra-dimensional capabilities ...
... or the part where the Hulk character smashes the Superman character into the ground (with the small difference that in one version, Hulk is wearing diapers and Superman is a rabbit).
Some comics sites wondered if Morrison and New Avengers writer Jonathan Hickman planned this all along as a teaser for a larger crossover, but nope. Morrison humbly explained that stuff like this is simply due to mainstream comics "catching up" to his genius ideas. We'd buy that, except that this has been happening for a long time ...
DC And Marvel Unknowingly Create Near-Identical Characters, Weeks Apart
People of culture (Cracked readers) already know that the first issue of X-Men came out three months after the first issue of Doom Patrol, another comic about a group of superpowered freaks led by a man in a wheelchair who fight a group of villains called The Brotherhood of Evil [Mutants]. But here's the thing: producing, printing, and distributing a comic takes more than three months. Stan Lee could have probably squeezed out one of his famous two-paragraph scripts in one afternoon after reading the first Doom Patrol comic, but there's no way the Marvel staff would have had enough time to pencil, ink, color, letter, lay out, and proofread it in time. The "ripoff" theory would make more sense if the X-Men were drawn as stick figures, but they're not.
Doom Patrol writer Arnold Blake once accused a DC/Marvel double agent of giving away his idea to Stan, but he later walked back his accusations of corporate espionage. Something like that happened with Marvel's Man-Thing, who sounds like a porn parody version of DC's more famous Swamp Thing, but actually predates him by two months. Both are scientists who fell into a swamp with some sort of formula and came out transformed into a living lump of vegetation.
But there is a realistic explanation for this one: the writers for both comics were roommates, so it's very likely that the one working for DC caught a glimpse of his friend's Man-Thing at some point, maybe while he was coming out of the shower.
Less explainable is the case of Marvel's Vision and DC's Red Tornado, whose first appearances were also separated by only two months -- though the first one was a two-part story, so more like ONE month. They both: 1) are sentient androids, 2) created by a supervillain but rebel against him by the end, 3) use the name of an unrelated 1940s hero from the same company, and 4) became a long-running member of the super team they were supposed to destroy. They even had a strikingly similar fashion sense:
The characters were so blatantly similar that fans assumed the writers had to be in cahoots, but Vision's co-creator Roy Thomas insists that there was "no collusion" (and he barely ever talked to his DC counterpart anyway). The biggest difference between the two super-androids is that Vision soon romanced the Avengers' Scarlet Witch while Red Tornado has yet to hook up with the Justice League's resident magic user, Zatanna. But we're pushing for you, buddy.
The First Joint Marvel/DC Project Ever Was ... The Wizard Of Oz, And Happened By Coincidence
Ask the average nerd what the first official Marvel/DC crossover was and they'll say Superman Vs. The Amazing Spider-Man from 1976. Ask a pedantic nerd, however, and they'll say, "Um, actually, it was MGM's Marvelous Wizard Of Oz." And they'd be right, dammit.
In 1974, both Marvel and DC independently said to themselves, "You know what would sell like gangbusters? A comic version of a 35-year-old musical." This seems like a pretty random decision for two publishers to make at the same time, but it makes more sense when you consider that The Wizard of Oz, despite being a pretty popular movie, was only aired in the US once a year. Before home media was a thing, fans had to wait for the yearly showings to look for dead dwarfs in the background and stuff. The only way they could get their Oz fix before that was through "black market audio cassettes" of the movie's dialogue (which even the official comic's writer ended up relying on).
So, both companies started working on their adaptations: DC secured the rights to the movie from MGM, while Marvel set about adapting the original book, because it was in the public domain and they're cheap. Stan Lee found out about DC's version while visiting a toy fair where a line of Wizard of Oz toys was announced. Despite using every opportunity to take shots at DC on the comics themselves and on TV interviews, Lee approached his nemeses about joining forces on this one ... and they said "sure," although they left it to Marvel to do all the heavy lifting.
Seeing that their first joint project didn't spontaneously combust or open a wormhole that destroyed the universe, DC and Marvel followed it up with the first Superman/Spider-Man crossover, and thankfully not an adaptation of Singing in the Rain or something.
Marvel's Acclaimed 2015 Crossover Event And DC's Sucky One Have The Same Plot
Superhero crossover events are the finest display of the sort of nutty, imaginative ideas that are only possible in comics. Marvel's Secret Wars (2015), for instance, is about a mega-powerful villain creating a patchwork world made out of cities from various destroyed realities and imposing his will on its superpowered inhabitants. DC's Convergence (also 2015), on the other hand, is about a mega-powerful villain creating a patchwork world made out of cities from various destroyed realities and imposing his will on its superpowered inhabi-- huh.
Another significant similarity between these two events is that both served as excuses to bring back classic series from Marvel and DC's past for some sweet, sweet nostalgia ...
... only to force those beloved heroes of yesteryear to fight each other to the death.
Both events were announced as nine-issue series starting with a #0 (though Marvel's later expanded to ten) and both were supplemented by a wallet-destroying amount of tie-in comics which hijacked the company's entire output for months (40 for DC, 48 for Marvel).
So who ripped off who? Looks like ... no one? DC's version looks like the cheap imitation here because, well, it's pretty lame and by-the-numbers, but the first issue came out a month before Marvel's. Also, rumor site Bleeding Cool had the whole scoop about the series a year earlier, proving that this isn't something DC pulled out of their asses at the last minute. Meanwhile, Marvel's Secret Wars was the culmination of years of plotlines by Avengers writer and very smart person Jonathan Hickman. It would take a PhD in advanced Hickman studies to detail all the ways in which he foreshadowed the themes in Secret Wars from as early as 2013, but this fascinating Twitter thread has some examples:
The only explanation here is that Marvel and DC's universes are parallel realities predestined to mirror each other, and the writers and editors are puppets who merely think they're holding the strings. That, or they've done so many crossovers over the years that they literally ran out of ideas and this was the last possible one.
Top Image: Marvel Comics