55 Strange Origins Of Famous Characters
Most people's origins follow a standard template: The vast majority of the time, it starts with a woman and a man having sex. But when you shift your attention to fictional people, things get a lot more varied and interesting. Many of your favorite characters started out in ways nothing like you'd imagine ...
1. Cigarette Smoking Man
The big villain in The X-Files (otherwise known as Cancer Man) appeared in the very opening shot of the pilot. Seems like clever foreshadowing. But he was just there as an extra. That's why he's called "cigarette-smoking man" -- that's the sort of descriptive title given to so many nameless characters played by extras.
2. Boba Fett
Did you know Boba Fett appeared in The Star Wars Holiday Special before The Empire Strikes Back? Cool, that's some basic Star Wars trivia. Now, did you know he actually first appeared at a county fair parade?
Watch Star Wars, and you'd assume Han shoots Greedo over some kind of money dispute. You'd be wrong. Greedo's backstory says he and Han were caught in a love triangle.
4. Scrooge McDuck
Fittingly, Scrooge McDuck was created as a parody of Ebenezer Scrooge for a Disney Christmas Carol pastiche. More surprisingly, Scrooge made his money by murdering everyone in an African village then converting the land to a rubber plantation.
Popeye wasn't originally the star of his comic. The comic was called Thimble Theater, and it was about Olive Oyl and her brother Castor. 10 years into the run, they traveled to an island, which meant the debut of a sailor character.
Ernest, star of nine kids' movies (Ernest Goes To Camp, Ernest Goes To Jail, etc.), was created by an ad agency to promote a Kentucky amusement park.
8. Miss Piggy
We don't know why Miss Piggy needs a back story, but she has one. Frank Oz decided her father died when she was young, so her mother neglected her, and mother and daughter remained not on speaking terms for the rest of their lives.
9. Kermit the Frog
Kermit started out as a killer. In his earliest form, he popped up in ads for Wilkins Instant Coffee, where he shoots everyone who doesn't like the brand.
Gonzo started out as a villain. He appeared as a henchman trapped in a cigar box in the Christmas special The Great Santa Claus Switch.
11. Marion Ravenwood
If you do the math, Indiana Jones and Marion first got together when she was 17, which is the sort of thing that's frowned upon. But that's better than the affair as originally conceived. The idea was that he was 25 and she was 12 or 11. "She came on to him," Spielberg proposed.
12. Mr. Magoo
Mr. Magoo was originally supposed to be paranoid about communism, his nearsightedness part of a political allegory. But the joke of a guy who can't see outlived the premise.
13. Winnie The Pooh
14. Snake Eyes
G.I. Joe's Snake Eyes wears a costume that's completely black. That was just so they could make the toy using unpainted black plastic, saving money.
15. Super Saiyans
Know what else saves ink? Drawing characters blond when you're doing a manga and dark hair means a whole lot of coloring by hand.
16. The Wild Things
The adorable monsters in Where The Wild Things Are are based on Maurice Sendak's heavy-drinking aunts and uncles, who terrified him as a kid.
17. Frasier Crane
You surely know that Frasier started on Cheers before getting his own massively successful show, but you have to watch those first episodes to see how minor a character he was supposed to be, a brief romantic rival to Sam. Kelsey Grammar says the writers only kept him around because he annoyed Shelley Long so much.
18. Peter Pan
Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie's brother died as a child. Barrie pretended to be the dead boy, dressing in his clothes, and he took some comfort in knowing the dead child would never grow up.
19. Trent DeMarco
You might not recognize this minor character from the 2009 Friday the 13th remake. But we want you to know that he earlier appeared in 2007's Transformers. Same character, same actor, so that's a shared universe right there.
Despite the name, the comic Blondie very much centers on Dagwood Bumstead, head of the household. But for years, the strip really was about Blondie, who was a single lady, a "flapper girl."
Elmo appeared in a bunch of Sesame Street segments as a generic puppet, given whatever random voice a performer thought of. He became Elmo because the current operator took the puppet off and literally threw it at eventual Elmo performer Kevin Clash, saying, "I hate this damn puppet! I'm suffering with it."
For years, Big Bird would talk to Snuffy, who'd always leave right before anyone else came, leaving everyone else thinking Big Bird was just imagining him. Finally, the show decided adults should see Snuffy. So child viewers would think they'd be believed if they ever have to report being molested.
24. The Cabbage Patch Kids
The Cabbage Patch Kids, so the official story goes, came from when creator Xavier Roberts had a dream about following a bee to a secret land. That's BS. He actually stole the characters from a doll maker named Martha Nelson Thomas.
25. Jason Bourne
Sure, you know Jason Bourne was in books before his movie series. But did you know about his four-hour TV movie? It wasn't very good.
We first saw Frozen's Olaf thanks to a trailer, one with very little to do with the movie. It's about a snowman who loses his nose and fights with a deer ... a snowman ripped off from an indie cartoon. Following a lawsuit, Disney agreed to pay the cartoonist a settlement.
28. Omar Little
Omar was supposed to be quickly killed off in The Wire. He didn't fit in the story -- he was a larger-than-life gangster in an otherwise very grounded story. But the writers agreed to keep him on
out of fear because Michael K. Williams was that good.
29. President Bartlet
The West Wing was not supposed to be about the president. It was supposed to be about his staff, with the president hardly ever onscreen. Then they hired Martin Sheen to make a couple quick appearances as the rarely seen leader and realized their old idea for the show was dumb.
Minecraft's creepers are quite ... well, creepy, for characters made of blocks. They came about because creator Notch was trying to make pigs, but he entered the dimensions wrong.
The Walking Dead the show took its time giving any kind of back story to Michonne. In the comics, she got the katana from a local psycho teen, and the first zombie she put on a leash was her boyfriend.
Shredder was based on ... an actual shredder. Or, a grater, anyway. He's designed after a cheese grater.
33. Guybrush Threepwood
The hero of the Monkey Island series got his name from a programming quirk. The designers just called him "guy," and then they made a brush file of him, named guybrush.bbm. "Guybrush" stuck.
34. The Alien
Winston in Ghostbusters was written as an Eddie Murphy part -- which makes sense, considering the other Saturday Night Live characters in the cast.
Charlotte from Charlotte's Web was based on an actual spider. E.B. White owned a barn, saw a spider drop some eggs before vanishing, then scooped up the eggs and took them into his home to hatch.
37. Little Man
The Wayans Brothers' Little Man had an origin more specific than "Marlon Wayans wants a character." They took the idea of a man posing as a baby from a Bugs Bunny cartoon called Baby Buggy Bunny.
38. Bugs Bunny
Bugs Bunny was designed by Ben "Bugs" Hardaway. Bugs drew the bunny and labeled it Bugs' Bunny, but the apostrophe got lost at some point, and the description became the character's name.
39. The Silver Surfer
To make this character, artists at Marvel didn't start with the perfect name "Silver Surfer" and work backward from there. He was to be a herald for Galactus, as he ended up being, and the surfboard? Said Jack Kirby, "I'm tired of drawing spaceships."
40. The Incredible Hulk
The Incredible Hulk is named Bruce Banner most of the time. Unless you watched the TV series, where he was named David (David Banner became Bruce's father in some of the movies). Why David, not Bruce? The showrunner thought "Bruce" sounded too gay.
41. Jack Frost
Toad in The Wind in the Willows is based on Kenneth Grahame's son Alastair. Sounds nice enough, except that Toad is such a terrible person. Alastair was a spoiled child who later changed his name to that of a man who tried to murder Grahame.
43. The Gimp
The Gimp's unexplained nature in Pulp Fiction is part of the movie's appeal. But he does have a backstory, unfortunately. He's a kidnapping victim who Maynard took years to break down mentally.
44. Beetle Bailey
Lifelong army private Beetle Bailey wasn't originally in the army at all. At first, his comic was about a kid getting into shenanigans at college. The character accidentally signed up for the army in what was supposed to be a brief storyline, but he wound up there permanently.
45. Wonder Girl
Wonder Girl on Teen Titans is a sidekick to Wonder Woman, much like Robin is a sidekick to Batman. She only exists because the writer behind the show had heard of Wonder Girl but hadn't read the existing comics ... in which she's not a separate character at all but Wonder Woman herself, time-traveling.
46. Jimmy Olsen
Jimmy Olsen first appeared on the Superman radio show, not in the comics. Why? Because on the radio, Superman needed someone to talk to. On the page, he got by fine using just thought bubbles.
47. Lex Luthor
Lex Luthor wasn't supposed to be bald. He's only bald because an illustrator mixed him up with a different character -- a bald henchman.
48. Harley Quinn
Joker himself debuted in the very first Batman comic book ... a story that ended with him stabbed in the heart. That would have been the end of the one-shot character, but an editor insisted on resurrecting him.
Long before Pennyworth, Batman's butler Alfred has his own story as a detective. A terrible detective. He was introduced as the series comic relief, a dimwitted wannabe detective that Batman had to keep saving.
In the comics, Bane was sent to prison as a baby. Not born in prison -- he was sent as a baby, in his father's place. Later, a shark ate his beloved teddy bear (when he was an adult).
52. Yogi Bear
Yogi Bear wears a tie, despite not wearing underpants. He has it to save animators from having to create any kind of realistic neck movement whenever he turns his head.
53. Edward Cullen
Edward on the page was never very different from the one in the movies, but we've got to tell you about the version we almost got. The movie studio originally wanted to make him an action hero who faced off against a Korean FBI agent.
54. The Dementors
The Dementors in Harry Potter come from the depression J.K. Rowling experienced following her divorce. And the deaths of Harry's parents, as well as those of every other mentor character he has, come from the death of her mother.
55. Chuck E. Cheese