When comic book writers create superheroes, they can draw inspiration from all kinds of sources. They can be based on real people – perhaps someone the writers know personally or a famous person they admire – and they can be based on other fictional characters, but sometimes they are quite clearly blatant rip-offs of other comic book characters.
Marvel and DC may be bitter rivals, but that hasn’t stopped them from taking inspiration from each other on numerous occasions when it comes to character creation – in some cases, it’s to the extent that you could even say they stole from each other.
Whether it’s a character’s name, their appearance, or their general concept or schtick, a number of Marvel and DC characters were obviously copied – and we’re going to run through a few of them now. Here are ten superheroes you didn’t know were stolen.
In most of these cases, the stolen characters are either nowhere near as popular as the characters they were based on, or, at best, they have merely equalled the popularity of their templates. However, in Wolverine’s case, he has surpassed the character he was based on by a large margin. That character was Timber Wolf – a DC character who first appeared in 1964, ten years before Wolverine – and the similarities between the pair are staggering. For starters, they look almost identical, but the fact that they were both experimented on and both have similar powers confirms that Wolverine was stolen by Marvel. Both characters have superhuman reflexes, enhanced senses, a regenerative healing factor, claws and super strength, and both are prone to violent outbursts. Who knew the most famous X-Man was ripped-off from DC?!
Hawkeye is the first character on this list to prove that character stealing is a two-way thing between Marvel and DC. Having first appeared in 1964, he arrived a massive 23 years after Green Arrow and is blatantly modelled on his DC counterpart. They’re both ordinary humans fighting alongside gods and metahumans, they both lost their parents at a young age, Green Arrow has a close relationship with Black Canary and Hawkeye is close to Black Widow and, of course, there’s the most obvious similarity in that they’re both incredibly skilled with a bow and arrow.
Cyborg AKA Victor Stone is a DC character and a prominent member of the Justice League and Teen Titans. He first appeared in 1980 and was quite obviously copied from a Marvel concept that first hit comic books in 1974. That Marvel concept is Deathlok – the name of several characters who had died and been reanimated using cybernetic technology, which is exactly what happened with Stone. Although the Deathlok title has been bestowed on a number of characters, what they all have in common with Stone is a constant struggle to retain their humanity and a difficulty in coming to terms with being part-machine.
DC’s Swamp Thing is probably the most obvious rip-off of a Marvel character – that character being Man-Thing. Their names are obviously similar, they look the same as each other and their powers and back-stories are almost identical. It should come as no surprise, then, that Swamp Thing’s creator, Len Wein, was living with Man-Thing’s co-creator, Gerry Conway, at the time of the latter’s creation. Man-Thing first appeared on panel in May of 1971 and then, two months later in July, Swamp Thing emerged. Wein had clearly and shamelessly stolen the idea from his housemate.
When it comes to underwater superheroes, there’s nobody more well-known than DC’s Aquaman. Although he’s often unfairly the butt of jokes, he’s also an undeniably iconic character and a founding member of the Justice League of America – but he was actually a stolen idea, inspired by Marvel’s Namor the Sub-Mariner. The two character’s personalities couldn’t be more different, but their origins are near-identical. They’re both Atlantean royalty and were both born when sea-dwelling princesses liaised with human men. And with Namor first appearing in 1939 – a full two years before Aquaman – it’s obvious that it was Marvel’s idea being stolen.
After starring in a fantastic 2016 movie, Deadpool is the man of the moment in the superhero world – but Marvel’s Merc with a Mouth was actually quite clearly ripped-off from a DC character. Deathstroke AKA Slade Wilson first appeared in 1980, while Deadpool – whose real name, Wade Wilson, is very similar to his DC counterpart’s – didn’t appear until eleven years later. Both characters are morally ambiguous anti-heroes and mercenaries, both gained their healing abilities through experiments, they both have severe disfigurements that prompt them to wear extremely similar-looking costumes, and both regularly use guns, explosives and bladed weapons – although Deadpool is undoubtedly a hell of a lot crazier than Deathstroke!